Around 80 percent of individuals in the United States is going to suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. Typically, that pain is in the lower back and there is no known cause.
Around 2-10 percent of those who have low back pain develop chronic back pain. Pain is considered to be chronic when it affects daily life for at least three months.
Common Causes of Low Back Pain
A few of the most common causes of pain in the lower back are as follows:
- Injury/overuse- this category includes strains and/or sprains of the soft tissues such as ligaments and/or muscles, compression fractures, fractures, or general injuries to the small joints between the vertebrae.
- Pressure on the nerve roots- this category results from spinal stenosis or herniated discs.
- Osteoarthritis- This is a condition that occurs in older individuals and affects the small joints of the spine by making them sore and stiff, creating pressure on the nerve roots. Osteoarthritis in other joints can cause a change in the way you walk, causing back pain.
There are some less common spinal conditions that also contribute to or cause low back pain including:
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Bacterial infection
- Spinal tumors
No matter what is causing your lower back pain, you just want to get some relief. While it’s true that the best way to treat the pain is to figure out what is causing it, there are some things you can do to get some relief so that you can get some sleep.
Tips for Sleeping with Low Back Pain
If you suffer from pain in your lower back, you already know that it doesn’t just vanish when it’s time to go to bed at night.
Back pain and sleep problems have a vicious cycle- each contributes to the other. If you’re in pain, you’re likely to have difficulty sleeping.
When you have difficulty sleeping, your pain is nearly always intensified. However, there are some things that you can do to make sure that you get a good night’s sleep- even when you’re dealing with your back pain.
Support Your Back
If you tend to wake up with low back pain or you sleep much better on a hotel mattress, you should probably consider getting a new mattress.
In fact, the Better Sleep Council actually says that you should consider replacing your mattress every five to seven years. You most likely need a change in order to get the optimal amount of support and comfort. One study revealed that nearly 63 percent of people had significant improvements in their back pain after replacing their mattress.
If you can afford to get a new mattress, you shouldn’t be afraid to “test drive” a few of the different ones. Go to a mattress store, take off your shoes, and lie down in your favorite resting position.
Spend a few minutes lying there, making sure the mattress will support you well enough to keep your spine in the right position.
Typically, a medium-firm to firm mattress is the best option. It will give you the support you need while still being soft enough to facilitate sound sleep.
If, on the other hand, your budget doesn’t have room for a new mattress in it right now, there are some other things you can do:
- Add some plywood support between the mattress and the base, or have your mattress moved to the floor as a temporary solution.
- Place a pillow under your knees if you sleep on your back and between your knees if you sleep on your side.
- To keep the natural curve in your back while sleeping, roll up a towel and wrap it around your waist, and tie it in the front to hold it in place.
- Carefully and Safely Get In and Out of Bed
When getting in and out of your bed, don’t jerk yourself up from a lying position. When you’re getting into bed, you should sit on the side of the bed.
Support yourself with your hands, bend your knees, and lie on your side. Then, roll yourself into your sleeping position.
When getting out of bed, roll on your side, bend both knees, and carefully push up with your hands and swing your legs over the side of the bed. Try to avoid bending forward at the waist, which can cause strain on your back.
Try Medication to Treat Back Pain
If necessary, you can take medication to relieve the pain and help you to sleep better.
There are various medications you can take, including NSAIDs, pain killers, anti-depressants, muscle relaxers, and even topical medications.
If you chronically have problems sleeping, you can consider taking a sleep aid temporarily. If you decide to use a sleep aid, consider using a natural one such as melatonin or valerian root.
More Tips to Sleep with Low Back Pain
Following are a few more tips to help you get a good night’s sleep when dealing with low back pain:
- While it’s true that rest may help improve the pain, you should never stay in bed more than a day or so after an injury- this can actually cause it to be much worse.
- If your pain is significant enough that you must lie down to get some relief, make sure that you get up and move as much as possible every so often. Moving around will help to relieve pain and stiffness, which can help you to sleep better at night.
- Try to limit the amount of alcohol and caffeine you drink- especially in the evenings. Consider cutting off caffeine in the early afternoon and limit your alcoholic beverages at dinner or after.
- Eating a big meal just before bed can disrupt your sleep and cause problems with digestion. Make sure that there are a few hours between the time you eat and the time you go to bed.
- Consider using relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, progressive relaxation, and others.
Finally, if your back pain is worse at night and no matter how hard you try, you simply can’t get to sleep- discuss the problem with your physician. There could be a serious underlying medical problem.