Monthly Archives: November 2016

Better Sleep With Lower Back Pain

Those who have experienced lower back pain in their lifetime know how hard it can be to sleep with it. Whether the pain prevents them from falling asleep or wakes them up in the middle of the night, there’s no doubt that lower back pain makes it harder to sleep. According to a recent study, 32% of people suffering from lower back pain also experienced sleep disturbances.

Luckily, there are measures you can take to ensure a good night’s rest. The following methods are merely suggestions. Everyone is a little different, meaning what works for one person may not work for another. Don’t be afraid to try a multitude of different methods to help you sleep better until you find one that works for you.

Sleeping Position

One of the easiest ways to relieve lower back pain is to change your sleeping position. Whether you attempt sleeping on your side instead of your stomach, or simply switch out your pillow, each little change you make could possibly impact your sleep.

The following are suggestions for specific causes of lower back pain. Remember, these are only suggestions – experiment until you find the right fit for you.

  • Herniated Disc – People suffering from a herniated disc should tweak their sleeping position based on which disc is herniated.
    • Paracentral Disc – Try lying on your stomach to relieve pain.
    • Foraminal Disc – Sleeping on your side in the fetal position may relieve pain.
  • Degenerative Disc Disease – Sleeping on your stomach may relieve the pressure on your discs.
  • Isthmic Spondylolisthesis – People often find relief while sleeping in a reclined position. You may consider purchasing an adjustable bed.

Cold Therapy

Applying ice or a cold gel pack 15-20 minutes before bed may help to relieve lower back pain by reducing inflammation and slowing your nerve impulses. Alternatively, you can perform a nightly ice massage.

The easiest way to perform an ice massage is to freeze water in a paper cup. Once completely hardened, peel off the top inch of the paper. Apply the ice in a circular motion at the area of pain. Make sure to limit your ice massage to five minutes to avoid getting an ice burn.

Consistent Sleep Schedule

It is incredibly important to not let your pain interfere with your sleep schedule. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is integral to your overall health.

We recommend establishing a nightly routine, beginning with a bedtime that allows for about eight hours of sleep. Then, about 30-60 minutes prior to that bedtime, perform the same relaxing activities such as listening to calming music or taking a hot bath. In time, these activities will signal to your brain that it is time to go to sleep.

As you can see, there are plenty of measures you can take to relieve your lower back pain and allow for a full night’s sleep. If you have tried the suggestions above and haven’t found relief, we recommend reaching out to your physician.

Say Good Night to Nighttime Neck Pain

Neck pain is fairly common during sleep. Luckily, there are ways to minimize that pain, or eliminate it altogether. The kind of pillow you use, along with what position you sleep in, are likely causes of neck pain.

In general, pillows should support the natural curve of your neck, maintaining the position of your neck when standing with good posture. If your pillow is not the correct height, it may strain your neck muscles and, if it is too tall, it can even obstruct your breathing.

Back Sleepers

People who sleep on their back should opt for a thin, rounded pillow to support the curve of their neck. There is no single height that works best for every person who sleeps on their back, but there is an easy way to test it. To test a pillow, lie down, mimic your sleeping position, and have a friend take a picture of your neck position.

Sleeping on your back is generally the best sleeping position for your spinal health because it allows the spine to maintain its natural curves. That being said, only 13% of people sleep on their back.

Side Sleepers

Sleeping on your side is by far the most common sleeping position. A whopping 69% of people sleep on their side in a range of different positions.

Side sleepers should look for a thicker pillow than back sleepers. The pillow should keep both the neck and head positioned in the middle of the shoulders. Your height and your shoulder-width will factor into how thick of a pillow you need. A good rule of thumb is that the pillow should be 4-6 inches thick, depending on personal factors and the pillow’s density.

Stomach Sleepers

We have bad news for everyone who sleeps on their stomach: it’s the worst position for your spine. Only 7% of people sleep on their stomach, but those that do are putting strain on their neck muscles nightly.

If you cannot fall asleep in any other position, opt for an ultra-thin pillow or no pillow at all. Any unnecessary thickness will position your neck at a weird angle and result in more strain on your muscles.

Pillows aren’t the only factor in nighttime neck pain. In fact, a study found that those who suffer from sleeping problems such as difficulty falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, waking up early in the morning, and non-restorative sleep are much likelier to experience neck pain at night. A possible explanation is that sleep disturbances interrupt the muscle relaxation and healing that occurs during sleep.

If you are experiencing neck pain at night and none of the advice above helps, please contact your physician to get to the root of the issue.

Uncovering The Truth: Five Myths About Back Pain

There is no shortage of myths circulating about back and neck pain. Unless you are a healthcare professional, it can be hard to distinguish the truth from all of the myths. Below, we’ve compiled some of the most popular myths we think you should be aware of, but keep in mind it is by no means an exhaustive list.

The best way to treat pain is by resting.

Believe it or not, resting can actually worsen pain. Inactivity often leads to muscle stiffness, which in turn can lead to an unhealthy cycle of pain and inactivity. While short rests can help with acute pain, we generally advise against more than a couple days of bedrest.

The spine is fragile and can easily be injured.

Your spine is not fragile. It is an impressively designed anatomical structure and the muscles, tendons, and ligaments surrounding it provide strength, flexibility, and support.

That being said, the spine isn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, indestructible. Unhealthy habits such as poor posture, improper lifting techniques, smoking, poor nutrition, and lack of sleep can wreak havoc on the spine. To maintain a healthy spine, stretching, strengthening, and aerobic activities should all be part of your lifestyle.

If the doctor couldn’t find the source of pain, it must be all in your head.

Even if no anatomical cause is found, your pain is real. If the doctor cannot find the source of pain, it is important to not give up in trying to locate it. It is especially important to actively treat chronic pain, which is pain lasting more than three months.

If the pain is particularly bad, it is probably ongoing spinal damage.

With chronic pain, the level and extent of pain you’re experiencing does not directly correlate with the damage. In fact, a disc with a small amount of degeneration is sometimes more painful than one that is severely degenerated.

Short-lived acute pain serves a purpose, to provide a protective reflex. If you burn your hand on a hot surface, your protective response is to remove your hand from said surface. Chronic pain doesn’t serve a purpose.

Back pain worsens with age.

Many people think that if they experience a lot of back pain in their twenties, it will only worsen with age. This notion is completely untrue. Actually, back pain is more common with younger people, especially those aged 30-50. As long as you find a way to manage the pain and maintain your ability to function, the pain will likely subside over time.

Were you under the impression that any of the myths listed above were true? If you ever have a question regarding back and neck pain, it is important to reach out to your physician. One of our highly qualified doctors would be happy to help you with any back or neck pain you may be experiencing.