When lower back pain prevents a good night’s sleep, it can affect one’s mood, performance, and overall health. The following tips can help you sleep better and improve your overall quality of life.
Lower back pain is frustrating, scary, and debilitating. It can prevent us from doing things we love, such as playing with our kids, staying active, and even putting in a full day of work. But when the pain in our lower back stops us from getting a good night sleep, that’s when things get serious. Without sleep, our body can’t rest, heal, or recover. This leads to poor performance, mood swings, and illness. It also makes our body vulnerable and puts us at risk for further injury.
Before we get into some tips for how to get a good night’s sleep with low back pain, let’s clear the air about some common misconceptions about lower back pain in general.
Lower Back Pain While Sleeping Isn’t Normal
It’s so common for people to suffer from pain in their lower back that many have come to believe lower back pain is normal. But just because something is common doesn’t mean that it’s normal. If you’ve realized that your lower back hurts when you do routine tasks such as taking a drive, going for a walk or sitting at a computer, take time to consider why this may be happening. You could have issues that go beyond sore muscles, such as a degenerative or acute problem in the discs in your spine.
You Can Have Relief From Lower Back Pain
Be aware that anytime you feel pain; your body is trying to communicate that something is wrong. Pain is a symptom of a larger problem, so listen carefully when you get the warning sign. Pay attention and recognize when your back feels good or when it’s agitated to avoid making the lower back pain worse.
The eight tips we include here will be far more effective if they are combined with at-home self-care during the day. If your lower back pain becomes chronic or if you see it start to affect the quality of your life, schedule an appointment with a professional who can help, such as a massage therapist or a chiropractor.
8 Important Lower Back Pain Sleeping Tips
You can reduce your lower back pain while sleeping if you pay attention to giving your back the support it needs not only during your sleep but also as you get in and out of bed.
Getting in and out of bed
Most people don’t realize how often they twist when they’re getting in and out of bed and how much damage it can cause. Notice when you approach the bed how natural it is to keep your hips pointed forward as you twist your upper body to remove pillows and pull down the covers. It’s a perfectly normal movement, but if we lack mobility in our lower back, that twist could make lower back pain flare up.
Start by sitting down
The proper way to get in and out of bed is from a seated position. Sit down on the bed facing out. Think of how you would sit to take off your shoes. From the seated position, put your hand on the bed at your side and lower your body down, letting your arm absorb some of your body weight. As you lower your body, lift your legs to raise them to the bed. The goal is to keep your lower back and hips from twisting too much.
The strength of your arms also helps when you get out of bed. When you’re ready to exit the bed, begin by propping yourself on your elbows. Then begin to raise your upper body without twisting your spine. Once you’re sitting upright, bring your legs to the side of the bed and return to the seated position at the edge of the bed before you stand up.
Tighten your core
Most of the time, your body will naturally tighten the core to protect the lower back from more pain. But you can assist this process by deliberately keeping a tight core as you lower your body and raise your legs as you get in and out of bed.
When you’re laying down
The right mattress
People always want to know the best mattress to buy. When it comes to hardness/softness, there isn’t one right answer for everyone. Instead, consider the structure of a mattress. If you can see a sag in the middle or at the pressure points where you sleep, you’ll know you’re not giving your lower back the support it needs. If your mattress dips, you will surely experience acute lower back pain while sleeping. Please note: feather or memory foam toppers may increase the “coziness” factor of your bedding, but they cannot solve the problem of a mattress that has lost the integrity of its structure.
Use a neck pillow
There are hundreds of options for pillows, and you may think the pillow you choose won’t make a difference. After all, you’re experiencing lower back pain while sleeping, not neck pain. But the truth is, it’s all connected! So if the muscles and spine in the neck area are not being supported correctly, then the pain in your lower back will be even worse as you sleep. The right pillow will have an indentation where the head can rest comfortably. It will also have a shelf of support on the neck so the neck can retain a healthy curve while you sleep. Be careful! Some pillows have too large of a neck shelf. This can force your neck to strain as you sleep. Others have a shelf with little support and so will collapse. A pillow that is fitted correctly to the shape of your neck will make a big difference. Test which pillow is right for you by calling a local chiropractor to see which options he or she recommends.
Consider body pillows
Beyond an ergonomic neck pillow, other support aids are available to help ease the discomfort of lower back pain while sleeping. Some of these are molded for between the knees; others keep the lower back raised while sleeping. What’s important to remember is the purpose of these comfort aids is to keep the spine as straight and supported as possible. Which one you decide on will be determined by your preference and comfort.
The angle matters
You may think that it doesn’t make a difference if you lay on your back, side or stomach, but if you have lower back pain while sleeping, the angle of your body does matter! You see, when we lay on our stomach, the force of gravity pulls on our spine, and it increases the likelihood that we’ll experience pain as we relax into a deep sleep. Sleeping on the stomach also forces the neck to twist incorrectly. This will increase our pain because it forces the spine to hold an unnatural position for some hours while we sleep. Sleeping on our side could be a decent alternative if we have the right support in our neck and hips. Without them, the hips tend to roll forward when we lay on our side, and this can cause terrible pain in the lower back while we’re sleeping. The best position, then, is to sleep on your back with a corrective and supportive pillow. This is nearly always the best option for those who want to know how to get the best night’s sleep with lower back pain.
Relax your muscles
This last tip isn’t about what you should while you’re sleeping, but rather how to prepare for the best sleep. Lower back pain indicates a problem in the spine and discs. When there is a “structural” problem in our spine and disc, the muscles and tendons that surround the troubled spot will tighten to protect it from moving and being injured even further. When our muscles tighten, they hurt, which will cause us to lose sleep. So one way to improve the quality of your sleep when you suffer from lower back pain is to “treat” those tight muscles before you go to bed. You can do this in a number of ways, including a warm bath, a topical analgesic such as Biofreeze or a product that contains arnica, or even the use of ice packs. The purpose is to help those tight, overworked muscles relax so you can get the rest you need.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, nearly 80% of adults will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. Those are alarming statistics. Should you find yourself in that group of people, remember the importance of self-care during the daytime and in the evening. If you find you’re having trouble getting to sleep because of lower back pain, remember there are many ways to reduce the amount you suffer. Bookmark this page, so lower back pain doesn’t keep you from getting the sleep you deserve.