When To See A Healthcare Provider
Nighttime back pain that wakes you up from sleep or prevents you from sleeping is a sign that it’s time to discuss the issue with your healthcare provider. Along with lower back pain, you can also experience muscle stiffness and a limited range of motion, especially if the cause is a strain or sprain.
It’s also helpful to know how pain is commonly categorized:
- Acute pain is short-term pain lasting a few days or a few weeks. Its typically connected to an injury or specific event.
- Chronic pain is longer-term pain lasting for several months or more. In many cases, it isn’t initiated by an injury.
While each individual’s situation and pain threshold will be different, there are some common guidelines that’ll help you decide when your nighttime lower back pain merits a trip to the healthcare provider.
Contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible if your pain:
- Began with a specific injury
- Continues or gets worse for more than a few days
- Feels severe or radiates to other parts of the body, like your legs
- Is accompanied by signs of infection, such as redness, warmth, swelling, or fever
- Is accompanied by weakness, numbness, or tingling in your lower body
Checking with your primary care healthcare provider or other first-line healthcare professional is a good start. They will be able to treat or refer you to another specialist if needed.
Heat And Cold Therapy Can Help Relieve Muscle Tension And Pain
Applying heat and/or cold therapy to the lower back can alleviate muscle tension that is commonly present with a lumbar herniated disc. Heat helps loosen the muscle tightness that causes spasms, increases blood flow, and improves elasticity of connective tissue.1 Cold decreases the local tissue temperature which produces an analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect, thus reducing pain.2
- Apply heat to your back in the morning or prior to stretching/exercise to decrease muscle tension.
- Other means of heat delivery include adhesive heat wrap , warm bath, and/or shower at the end of the day.
Try several options and see what works best for you. The type of heat and how you use it is often a matter of personal preference.
Sleeping With Sciatica: Sleeping Positions And Tips
Your sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body. It starts on your spinal cord, runs through your hips and buttocks, and continues down the back of each of your legs.
Sciatica is an impact on your sciatic nerve. It is most commonly caused by a herniated disc in the lower back. The characteristic symptom of sciatica is sharp pain along the nerve. The pain can vary from mild to unbearable and typically affects one side.
With sciatica, it can be difficult to sleep well. Lying in certain positions can put pressure on your irritated nerve and cause symptoms to flare up. However, some positions cause less pain.
Learn the best ways to sleep with sciatica.
Sciatica and other causes of lower back pain can have a devastating effect on the quality of your sleep. Studies have shown that up to 55 percent of people with chronic back pain struggle with insomnia.
Finding the best position for sciatica relief can be a matter of trial and error. But as a general rule, its a good idea to stick to positions that maintain the natural alignment of your spine.
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How Sleep Position Affects Your Spine
When you think of poor posture leading to orthopedic issues like lower back pain or neck pain, standing posture or sitting position probably come to mind. But theres a third type of posture you may be forgetting, and it affects your health just as much as standing and sitting its your sleeping position.
Your bodys posture during sleep can have a negative effect on your spinal column and other body parts, too
Minus a few tosses and turns in the night, the posture we hold during sleep is sustained for several hours at a time. If something in the body is crooked, twisted, pinned under another body part, or held at a strange angle, it can stay that way for far, far longer than it would when youre awake.
As you probably know from experience, the result of an awkward sleeping posture can be painful the next day, ranging from the pins and needles of an ‘asleep’ limb to the torture of a middle-of-the-night leg cramp.
And then theres your spine your back and neck.
Myofascial Release And/or Massage May Help Reduce Pain
While myofascial pain may not be the original source of lumbar pain, it may be a secondary source of pain originating from a lumbar herniated disc as well as other structures.2 This can be worsened by poor posture and inactivity. Myofascial release is a form of manual therapy that has been shown to improve low back pain. While postural training and myofascial release can be initiated in physical therapy, there are methods that can be done at home in the meantime.
- Use a lacrosse ball or massage cane to put pressure on tender/trigger points in the lumbar area.
- Once a tender/trigger point is identified, maintain constant pressure for 1 to 2 minutes to allow for release of the muscle.
- Repeat these steps for multiple trigger points in the lumbar area.
- This technique may initially worsen pain as pressure is being placed onto inflamed muscles. It is highly recommended to use cold therapy after myofascial release to reduce pain.
Read more about Myofascial Release Therapy
While the pain from most lumbar herniated discs typically resolve in 6 weeks, you will want to manage it in the meantime and take control of your pain management. These tips may not work for everyone, and it may take time before finding what works best to help relieve your lumbar herniated disc pain.
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Upgrade Your Mattress And Pillows
If your mattress and pillows are old and sagging, theyre likely causing or worsening your lower back pain. We recommend memory foam, latex, or hybrid mattresses for lower back pain because they relieve pressure points and support your spine. Choose a mattress firmness suited for your sleeping position and size for optimal pain relief.
Firm mattresses work best for stomach sleepers and larger individuals because they dont sink very far. Back and combination sleepers typically prefer medium to medium-firm mattresses for their adequate blend of cushioning and support. If youre a side sleeper or lightweight, a medium to medium-soft mattress cradles your wider body parts without causing you to sink or develop pressure points.
If youre not in the market for a new mattress, use a mattress topper. Toppers are available in both soft and firm comfort levels to suit any sleeping position. Search for at least a 2 to 4-inch topper made of latex or memory foam.
With any sleeping position, use a pillow to fill the space between your head and the mattress and keep your head in line with your spine. Too thin or thick of a pillow overextends your neck and leaves it stiff and sore. Opt for memory foam or latex pillows because they closely conform to your head and neck, relieve tension, and provide excellent support.
The Best Sleep Positions For Back Pain Relief
If you suffer from back pain, you know that it can affect many parts of your life, including how well you sleep. Back pain that interferes with sleep can be caused by many conditions, including:
- Traumatic injury
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , one in three adults dont get enough sleep at night, regardless of whether they have back pain. The National Sleep Foundation has a National Sleep Awareness Week each year to bring attention to the importance of sleep for overall health. If one of the above spinal conditions is negatively affecting how much sleep you get, then you need to make sure your alignment is good while youre lying down. Try out some of these sleep positions for back pain to find relief.
Sleeping On Your Back
Sleeping on your back is generally considered to be the best position to sleep in if you are experiencing pain. Lying on your back evenly distributes your weight and reduces stress on pressure points. To make this position even more comfortable for your back, you can do try the following:
- Sleep on your back with a pillow under your knees. This position will keep the curve in your lower spine even while lying on your back.
- Lie flat on your back
- Put a pillow underneath your knees to keep them in a neutral position
- If needed, you can use a second small pillow under your lower back for additional support
Sleeping On Your Side
Sleeping On Your Stomach
Talk To a Spinal Specialist
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Good Sleeping Positions For Back Pain
- Lying on the side but, with a pillow in between the knees, why? The pillow will keep the hips, pelvis, and spine in better alignment and in turn, alleviate pressure off the knee. Pay good attention to position of head and neck alignment in this position too.
KEY POINT only flex hips and knees slightly, as this position will ensure there is less pressure on the back.
- Sleeping on the back the key here is a small pillow under the knee which can reduce either knee or hip pain by decreasing the stress on the joint and in turn, the pressure on the back.
Pillow Recommendation for Neck Pain and Neck Alignment The Easy Sleeper by Sleepeasy. This pillow will maintain the natural position of the neck as the head rests. I recommend this pillow to all my clients and I use it myself!
At Back To Health Wellness Our clients focus heavily on improving their neck and back position in order to manage the stresses placed on the body through the working environment and everyday life. This is done through flexibility stretches and strengthening exercises.
Book with us to learn more about how to manage back pain and improve posture permanently.
Treating Lower Back Pain: How Much Bed Rest Is Too Much
Back pain is one of the most common reasons why people visit a health care provider. The good news is that the pain often goes away on its own, and people usually recover in a week or two. Many people want to stay in bed when their back hurts. For many years, getting bed rest was the normal advice. But current studies recommend no bed rest at all and stress that staying in bed longer than 48 hours not only wont help but it may, in fact, actually delay your recovery. Heres why:
Staying in bed wont help you get better faster.If youre in terrible pain, lying down for a day to help ease the distress may seem like a good idea, but moderating your activities and staying active in a limited way is a more effective way to control your symptoms. Research suggests that if you can find comfortable positions and keep moving, you may not need bed rest at all.Research shows that:
- Lying down longer than a day or two day isnt helpful for relieving back pain.
- People can recover more quickly without any bed rest.
- The sooner you start moving, even a little bit, or return to activities such as walking, the faster you are likely to improve.
Who needs bed rest?Almost no one! The only people who might require time in bed are those with unstable spinal fractures awaiting surgery.
When should I see a health care provider?You should see your health care provider right away if:
- Heat or ice
Check with your health care provider before starting an exercise program.
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The Surface Youre Lying On Is At Fault
A lot of the time, we get lower back pain when lying in bed or on our couch, because they are worn out and provide no real support! You should also find out the best sleeping positions for lower back pain.
Depending on the age of your couch or mattress, its very possible you could just be lying on springs, which is going to cause pain and discomfort.
So start by ruling that out. If you dont believe that to be the case, it is very likely one of the conditions well list below.
Try It Before You Buy It When Looking At New Mattresses
Even if youve found what you think is the best mattress for lower back pain relief, you may want to spend on a few nights on it before swiping your credit card. This is especially true if youre making the switch to a significantly softer or harder mattress. If you can, ask to do a trial run on the new mattress. If thats not a possibility, EverydayHealth.com has a few recommendations. From their expert, Santhosh Thomas, DO:
He suggests spending a night in a hotel that offers options for guests to purchase pillows and mattresses so that you can try before you buy. Or, see if your mattress store lets you try out a bed overnight or even longer. If that is not an option, perhaps sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag may mimic a firm surface, and sleeping on a couch may mimic a softer surface.’
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Do Use Hot Or Cold Therapy Before Bed
Use hot or cold elements on your back can help sooth your pain before bed. This could include ice or a cold gel pack wrapped in cloth applied to your back, taking a warm shower or hot bath, or using a heating pad or hot water bottle on the affected area for 15-20 minutes before bed.
Hot or cold therapy can help reduce inflammation caused by lower back pain and promote relief before you go to sleep. Generally, heat is better for longer chronic back pain while ice is better in the first 72 hours.
What Can I Do If I Have Acute Low Back Pain
The following advice will benefit a majority of people with back pain. If any of the following guidelines causes an increase of pain or spreading of pain to the legs, do not continue the activity and seek the advice of a physician or physical therapist.
The key to recovering from acute low back pain is maintaining the normal curve of the spine . Supporting the hollow of your back will help decrease your recovery time.
Follow these guidelines for 10 to 20 days after you experience acute low back pain:
- Sit as little as possible, and only for short periods of time .
- Sit with a back support at the curve of your back.
- Keep your hips and knees at a right angle. Your legs should not be crossed and your feet should be flat on the floor.
Here’s how to find a good sitting position when you’re not using a back support or lumbar roll:
Correct sitting position without lumbar support.
Correct sitting position with lumbar support.
- Use a back support at the curve of your back. Your knees should be at the same level or higher than your hips.
- Move the seat close to the steering wheel to support the curve of your back. The seat should be close enough to allow your knees to bend and your feet to reach the pedals.
Stooping, squatting, and kneeling
Sleeping and lying down
Other helpful tips
If you sleep on your back, put pillows under your knees and a small pillow under the small of your back.
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Consider Spinal Cord Stimulation
Spinal cord stimulation works similarly to TENS unit therapy. The device emits a small electrical current to override painful nerve signals.
A spinal cord stimulator, however, is a semi-permanent device. Its implanted within the area of the spine that is leading to pain. It can provide more targeted, effective pain relief. It also allows patients to control those pain-correcting signals through a hand-held control device.
On Your Side With A Pillow Between Your Knees
Sleeping on your side is one of the most common sleep positions, but it comes with a risk of your spine sagging in one direction while you sleep. Thats why Dr. Womack recommends adding a pillow between your knees to help straighten things out. It props up the top leg, which makes the pelvis more neutral, he says.
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How Can I Stop My Lower Back From Hurting When I Lay Down
If you arent exactly sure why your lower back is hurting when you lay down, but you know you want it to stop, there are some quick things you can do to lower your pain level.
Start by applying a heat pad to the area this will increase blood flow and promote healing, plus it just feels good!
If necessary, take some sort of over the counter anti inflammatory such as advil, ibuprofen, etc. Dont rely on these for constant relief, but you can use these on your worst days as a crutch here and there.
Try to keep yourself moving, even if its just taking a walk around your house or backyard. Motion is lotion for the spine, and rest is only good protocol immediately following an injury. Often times, you can remedy much of the stiffness associated with the aforementioned back issues by just getting your body moving again.