How to Sleep with Lower Back Pain
Your lower back is a complex combination of interwoven structures. You’ve got five vertebrae made of bone in your lumbar spine. In between are shock-absorbing discs, which are all then held in place by several ligaments.
The muscles surrounding your lower back provide support, and tendons connect your muscles to your spine. Also, nerves run through your spine to deliver signals to and from your brain and throughout your body.
Whether you stand, sit, walk, run, or lay down, your lower back is critical to both your comfort and mobility. Add all that to the fact your lower back supports most of your body’s weight, and there’s no wonder why pain is so common. Eighty percent of people have back pain at some point in their lives, and it’s a leading cause of doctor visits and disability.
So, whether you’ve had back pain for a few days, or many years, you’ve probably noticed how easily it can interrupt your sleep. Then it becomes a vicious cycle. You hurt, so you can’t sleep. And the less sleep you have, the more you feel the pain.
Understanding how to sleep with lower back pain can help you find some relief. Quality sleep often reduces back pain, and good sleep contributes to faster, more complete recovery and healing.
Primary Types of Lower Back Pain
The primary types of lower back pain are acute and chronic.
- Acute pain is short-term, lasting a few days to a few weeks. You may specifically remember the moment you “hurt your back” or “your back went out.” You may have been in a car accident or had a fall, lifted something too heavy, or spent too much time bending over in the garden. Whatever the event that caused the injury, with a few physiotherapy appointments at Concept of Movement Physiotherapy, your acute back pain fades away.
- Chronic lower back pain is the pain that lingers for three months or more. About 20% of acute cases turn chronic, but many times there is no clear link to an injury in chronic lower back pain.
The Connections Between Sleep and Lower Back Pain
The connections between sleep and lower back pain can be never-ending. The less sleep you get, the more pain you are in. The more pain you’re in, the less sleep you get. And so on…
As the two issues reinforce each other, it’s critical to break the cycle. Making yourself comfortable enough to fall and stay asleep is a key element in supporting healing. Sleep deprivation impairs healing, affects mood, which heightens pain sensitivity, and disrupts brain chemicals that control how we experience pain.
Sleeping Positions Affect Lower Back Pain
Sleeping positions change your spinal alignment, like your posture when you are sitting or standing. When you sleep in a position that puts pressure on your back, you can end up stiff and in more pain in the morning. It may work itself out some during the day, but you may still be in pain when you head to bed again the next night.
The Best Sleeping Position
There is one best sleeping position for lower back pain. Sleeping on your side with a small pillow between slightly bent knees has proven to be the best. Bent knees balance your body and reduce the pressure on your lower back.
If you are a back or front sleeper, this information may be hard to follow once you do get to sleep.
- Back Sleepers – Put a pillow, cushion, or a rolled-up towel under your legs, knees, or lower back. As you lay flat, be aware of where you need additional support for your spine’s natural curve.
- Front Sleepers – Opt for a very thin (or no) pillow for under your head with a thicker, more supportive pillow under your abdomen and hips. This prevents your lower back from sinking and pulling your spine out of alignment.
An adjustable bed that can raise the upper or lower parts of the mattress also decreases tension and lower back pain.
Quality sleep is critical to recovering, but a good night’s sleep may seem like an unattainable dream when your back hurts. These tips can help you get some rest between visits to Concept of Movement. Physiotherapy sessions speed healing and reduce the pain and inflammation in your back.
Tips for Better Sleep with a Sore Back
- Find a sleeping position that works for you. Be open to new positions, especially as you first lay down to fall asleep. Ideally, sleep on your side with a slim pillow between your slightly bent knees. But if you can’t, make sure your spine is well-aligned using extra pillows where you need more support.
- Watch your alcohol and caffeine intake. Alcohol may help you to fall asleep, but it interferes with sleep quality. Caffeine in coffee, soft drinks, tea and chocolate is a stimulant that can make it harder to fall and stay asleep.
- Use relaxation methods. A hot bath or shower, soothing audio, meditation, and bedtime rituals help you wind down, making it easier to get to sleep.
- Reduce sleep disruptions. If you are in pain, it’s harder to get back to sleep when you wake up at night. So, eliminate noise and light and other disruptions from your bedroom. A sleep mask or earplugs can make a huge difference, too!
Sleep and rest are vital components of healing. Your physiotherapist at Concept of Movement Physiotherapy will help reduce the pain and inflammation in your lower back to make it easier to sleep. Outline your sleep problems and ask your PT what more you can do to aid your ability to get some sleep while you heal.
The pain sleep cycle makes your pain and your sleep worse over time if you don’t intervene. Use these tips and see your physiotherapist on the recommended schedule to get your body and your sleep back on track. Don’t go another night without the best possible rest! Contact Concept of Movement today!