How to Sleep with Lower Back Pain – Review the Latest Research

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Lower backs are an interwoven set of structures. It comprises the five vertebrae comprising the lower back, each cushioned by shock-absorbing discs and fixed by ligaments and muscles that support it.

The lower back supports most of our body's weight and is essential to various exercises. Due to its complex nature and how heavily we rely upon it, it should be no surprise that it's the most frequent source of discomfort. Around 8 in 10 people experience back pain at one point in their lives, and pain in their lower back is among the main reasons patients see a physician.

Understanding the connection between sleep, lower back discomfort, and insomnia can provide fresh ways of finding relief. A good night's sleep can reduce or ease back pain, and knowing the best way to rest with back issues can aid in coping with back pain and help in recovering and healing.

Types of Lower Back Pain

Back pain can be moderate to intense, temporary, or lasting for a long time. If it is serious, it could cause pain and discomfort that affect every aspect of everyday life, including sleeping.

Two kinds of lower back pain can be classified as chronic and acute.

  • Acute lower back pain can be brief and lasts several days to weeks. It's often linked to a specific event or injury. If back pain is not severe, it has no lasting influence on mobility.
  • Chronic lower back pain can last three months or more. In many instances, there is no apparent connection to the injury that caused it.

Back pain that is initially described as acute can turn into chronic. The research suggests that approximately 20% of patients suffering from chronic low back pain are not resolved and then become chronic.

How Are Sleep and Lower Back Pain Related?

Researchers have long observed the connection between lower back pain and sleep issues. The evidence suggests a dual-way connection that could reinforce each other.

Pain can pose a significant barrier to sleeping. Lower back pain can make it difficult to feel at a level of comfort that allows you to sleep or cause the need to wake up at night if pain increases.

However, those who suffer from sleep issues are more likely to begin suffering from pain or discomfort that gets worse. The medical community isn't quite sure why, but there are many possible reasons. Sleep deprivation could hinder the healing process, alter mood and enhance pain sensitivity, or alter the chemical balance in the brain involved in the way we feel pain.

How Do Sleeping Positions Affect Lower Back Pain?

Another connection with sleep-related lower back problems can be attributed to the effect of sleeping position on spinal alignment. Although posture is often related to standing and sitting, it's equally important for lying in bed.

Sleeping positions that twist, constrict, or stress the lumbar spine may result in stiffness and pain. The pain can be more severe in the morning but can be present throughout the day.

The Best Sleeping Positions for Lower Back Pain

The ideal position to sleep in to relieve lower back discomfort is to lie on your back with a partially bent knee. By keeping your knees bent, you help stabilize the body and decrease the pressure on the lower back and lumbar spine. Many find it beneficial to place a small cushion between their knees to ensure that they are comfortable in this position.

Many stomach and back sleepers have difficulty shifting their sleeping positions. However, they can take steps to lessen the strain on their backs:

  • Back sleepers can place an extra cushion between their legs, knees, or lower back to help support the spine's natural curvature. This can help reduce pressure in the lumbar region.
  • Stomach sleepers should choose just a small pillow under their heads and add cushions to their abdomen and hips. This will prevent the lower back from settling into a U-shape, which pulls the spine out of its proper alignment.

A few people suffering from back pain may benefit from an adjustable bed, which lets them easily elevate the lower or upper portion of the mattress. This is done in a manner that reduces strain in their lower back.

Can Your Mattress Cause Lower Back Pain?

The mattress is essential in preventing or lessening lower back discomfort since it is the primary method of supporting the body when sleeping.

Proper spinal alignment requires a mattress that is in good shape and not too sagging. Studies suggest an average-firm mattress for lower back pain. However, the ideal firmness may be determined by a person's weight, body type, sleeping position, and preferences for comfort.

How to Sleep Better With Lower Back Pain

Sleeping well is crucial to healing lower back pain, but getting a good night's sleep may seem daunting if your back hurts. Although there isn't a sure method to improve your sleep, however, a few practical tips will help:

  • Find a comfortable sleeping position. Ideally, you should rest on your back. However, whatever the place you sleep, make sure that your spine is properly aligned. If necessary, you can use additional pillows to support your body.
  • Be aware of caffeine and alcohol. While alcohol may assist in sleeping, it could alter sleeping quality. As a stimulant, caffeine can make it challenging to get to sleep and stay asleep.
  • Explore relaxation techniques. Finding ways to relax can help you get into the right mindset to sleep with less focus on discomfort.
  • Reduce the possibility of sleep disturbances. If you accidentally wake up late at night, it could be painful and make it difficult to go back to sleep. This is why you should make sure to block out any noise and light from your bedroom or keep them out using a sleeping mask or earplugs. Make sure that your bedroom is set to a cozy temperature all night.

Focusing on good sleep habits will improve your sleeping habits and allow you to rest better during and after instances of lower back pain.

When Should You See a Doctor About Lower Back Pain

Back pain is commonplace and can resolve quickly. However, it's crucial to speak to a physician if:

  • The pain started with an injury specific to that particular area
  • The pain continues to get worse or lasts longer than a couple of days
  • Pain can be crippling.
  • The pain is felt in the legs or other parts of the body.
  • The feeling of weakness or numbness throughout your legs and lower back
  • There are indicators of infection, such as redness, swelling, warmth, or fever.
  • If you have a family background of cancer
  • Other health issues, such as the loss of weight or urinary issues

A physician can examine your symptoms and help you determine the proper next steps for diagnosis, testing, and treatment.

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