Monthly Archives: February 2017

Six Tips For Sleeping With Chronic Pain

The majority of people suffering from chronic pain have trouble either falling asleep or staying asleep. It makes sense; chronic pain makes it difficult to get comfortable and who can regularly fall asleep when they’re experiencing discomfort?

The trouble is that poor sleep can actually worsen your chronic pain, which in turn makes it harder to sleep. This is one example of a dangerous pain cycle. To prevent this from happening to you, we’ve compiled some tips below that have worked for our patients in the past.

Remember, not every tip will work for you so it’s important to refrain from becoming frustrated as you find the best way to lull yourself to sleep every night.

Only go to bed when you’re tired.

We know that having a regular sleep schedule is important to maintaining your health, but going to bed just to toss and turn doesn’t help anyone. If you do turn in before you’re tired, you may end up lying awake stressing about why you can’t fall asleep.

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Instead, only go to bed when you’re tired. If you’re already in bed and haven’t been able to fall asleep for 20-30 minutes, get up and do something. Maybe pick up where you left off in the book by your nightstand. Chances are, within a half hour you’ll falling asleep over the pages.

Consider changing your sleeping environment.

Are your mattress and pillow the optimum choices for your sleeping position? If not, you might want to consider splurging on a new one.

You may also want to consider turning down the temperature in your bedroom. Cooler sleeping conditions can often lead to deeper, more restorative sleep.

Watch what you consume before you go to sleep.

Try to avoid caffeine and other stimulants like alcohol and nicotine after dinner. Instead, opt for some chamomile tea to help you relax.

Get your exercise.

How many times have we told you to fit regular exercise into your routine? At this point, it would be nearly impossible to track, which should let you know just how important exercise is to your health!

Not only does regular exercise promote your body’s healing process and help relieve pain but, you guessed it, it tires you out which helps you to fall asleep at night.

Jot down your worries before bed.

If you’re the type of person who seems to worry about anything and everything the moment your head hits the pillow, you may want to consider writing down your worries before bed. Doing so should help to take those worries off your mind, leaving them in your notebook to be fretted over in the morning.

Go to your happy place.

Visualizing something peaceful often helps people fall asleep. Did your family have a serene cabin in the woods you spent every summer at? Let your mind wander there before bed and you may find yourself snoring before you can open the front door.
If the sleeping tips above don’t help you fall asleep, it’s important for you to contact your physician and let them know about your sleeping problems. Most likely, they will have an idea on how to further manage your pain to make falling asleep easier.

Healthy Weight, Healthier Spine

Did you know that on average, an obese person in the US spends $1,429 more annually on medical bills? This may be in part due to the fact that obesity puts you at a much higher risk for heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes, among other things.

Being overweight or obese also increases your risk of developing back pain, joint pain, and muscle strains. Your risk of developing low back pain is heightened even more if you carry extra weight around your midsection as that weight pulls your pelvis forward, straining your low back. Sounds painful, doesn’t it?

Carrying around extra weight can also put unwanted pressure on other spinal structures, like your discs. Overweight and obese people are more likely to experience sciatica or low back pain due to a herniated disc or pinched nerve.

The complications of weighing in above a healthy weight are pretty bleak, but there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon. A lot of the conditions listed above can be mitigated by weight loss. In fact, losing weight can even help prevent some of these conditions altogether.

For example, losing weight drastically lowers your risk of developing osteoarthritis. This is because the added weight strains your joints more, leaving you more susceptible to developing osteoarthritis. Once the weight is lost, the stress on your joints is relieved.

The two main components of weight loss are diet and exercise. It’s important to aim for good nutrition and a balanced diet. Each person’s dietary needs vary, so it may be a good idea to consult a nutritionist when you first begin watching what you eat.

As for exercise, if you’re already suffering from back pain, it may be hard to motivate yourself to exercise regularly. What you probably don’t know is that exercise actually stimulates healing in the spine.

Physical exercise causes the discs in your spine to swell with water and then squeeze it out, exchanging nutrients between the discs and the rest of your spine. When you don’t exercise regularly, your spinal discs are deprived of the nutrients they need to function properly.

In addition to maintaining a healthy spine, regular exercise also boosts your mood, helps you sleep better at night, and helps ward off those dangerous health conditions we mentioned above, to only name a few of the benefits.

 
Of course, before you implement a new exercise program, it’s important to consult your physician. As always, feel free to reach out to us with any spine-specific questions you may have.

How To Safely Shovel Snow

Injuries sustained while shoveling snow are a common but preventable winter problem. Would you believe us if we told you that as many as 11,000 people visit a hospital every year for injuries that occurred while shoveling snow? The most common injuries experienced include back problems, broken bones, head injuries, and heart problems.

Luckily, as we mentioned above, these injuries are largely preventable. Below are some tips we’ve compiled to help you through this winter injury-free!

Choose the right shovel.

When purchasing a shovel, look for one with a curved handle or one that is adjustable in length, to help minimize the amount of bending you will be doing. Also, try to choose one that is small and lightweight. You’re already going to be scooping up heavy snow, why add more weight to lift on top of that?

Warm up before heading out to shovel.

Yes, we mean warm up like you would before heading to the gym. Cold, tight muscles are much more prone to injury. So, 5-10 minutes before you head out, perform the following activities:

  • Get your blood pumping with a brisk walk.
  • Stretch your lower back muscles and hamstrings.
  • Loosen up your arms and shoulders with a 30-60 second body hug.

Use proper lifting techniques.

Whenever possible, push the snow to the side instead of lifting it. When you do have to lift it, follow these lifting tips:

  • Always face the direction you are lifting.
  • Bend at your hips and lift with your legs, not your back.
  • Keep your loads light and know your limits.
  • Avoid twisting your back. Instead, pivot your entire body.
  • In deep snow, remove several inches off of the top at a time.

Pace yourself.

When possible, remove the snow over a period of hours or days. If that’s not possible, make sure to take frequent breaks to avoid overexerting yourself.

If you’re nervous about sustaining an injury, it’s important to remember there are alternatives to shoveling snow. Using a snow blower whenever possible can significantly reduce your risk of injury. You can also ask a friend or family member to do it for you, or hire a service.

 
If you do decide to shovel snow yourself, following the tips above will help set yourself up for a pain-free winter. If you do begin to experience back pain, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.