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Sleeping with back pain can often be difficult, whether that’s getting to sleep, staying asleep or just generally feeling uncomfortable. When sleep is our only downtime during the day, it can be exasperating when you just can’t seem to get any good quality sleep. Today we’re going to be talking through with you some sleeping positions that you may find helpful in falling asleep, as well as some general advice as to what to do before bed so that you’re primed for good sleep!

Why Moving Less Can Irritate Back Pain

The main challenge that is present when you have back pain is lack of movement and its subsequent effect on inflammation. Our lymphatic drainage in the body is assisted by movement, allowing for inflammation and waste product from injuries to be flushed through the body. As you sleep and are still, this drainage cannot effectively work so if you have an injury, inflammation will build overnight and pool in the spine. This can explain why back pain often feels worse in the morning. This is the reason why in older people, inactivity can cause swelling in the ankles. In fact, even in people without back injuries, the lower back can become puffy in the morning, as there’s not adequate drainage overnight. So if you have an injury, this time of inactivity will be quite irritating for your spine. 

Before Bed Routine For Back Pain

We’ll start with what you can do before bed to help. Often it is a habit that we get into to relax before bed in front of the TV, on your laptop or on your phone to wind down. However, this adds further periods of inactivity to your night. Instead of going to bed with a couple of hours of inactivity already in the bank, try to walk around for 30 minutes before going to bed. This can be as simple as pottering about the house or you can also do the stretches that we recommend on our free membership area, if you’re not signed up already, visit www.backinshapeapp.com. These stretches can help with relieving pressure on the spine from tense muscles. You can also try popping some ice on your back for 5 minutes before bed as well, to get a handle on any inflammation. If you do tend to sit on your phone or laptop, or watch TV before bed, you can also try blue light glasses. If you already have a pair of prescription glasses that you wear, you can get the blue light filter applied at your opticians. Blue light from devices can stop your production of melatonin in the evenings, the hormone in our body that prepares us to fall asleep and help us feel sleepy. Wearing blue light glasses can help filter this out, so that your body can effectively produce this hormone normally.

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When To Take Painkillers For Back Pain

If you’re not sure on when to take painkillers for your back pain, then before bed would probably be the best time. We generally wouldn’t recommend taking painkillers throughout the day if you’re using them in order to carry on with daily tasks that might be making the problem worse. If you are doing this, you are likely making your back pain worse by powering through when your body is trying to give you a signal that something isn’t right. At night, because we’re immobile, we’re not likely to be doing anything that’s going to be irritating your spine, so if painkillers will help with your quality of sleep then this would be a worthwhile time to take a dose.

Best Sleeping Position for Neck Pain

In terms of sleeping positions, we’re going to recommend a few to help with your lower back and your neck. For neck and shoulder pain specifically, avoiding sleeping on your front is going to be important. It can be really difficult to get your neck in a good position by sleeping on your front, as it’s likely to be cranked off to one side or propped upwards on a pillow. It’s important for both neck and back pain that your spine stays in a neutral position as much as possible when you’re asleep.

In order to sleep in a neutral position with neck and shoulder pain, there are several tricks that don’t require having a fancy pillow. If you are in the market for a pillow, investing in a tempur one that has a smooth curve for your neck and allows the head to be neutral, this is one of the best ones to get, however it’s something you may not find comfortable at first. If you’re used to sleeping in a different position, you may not find it comfortable but it’s going to be better for your neck. If you don’t want to buy a new pillow or can’t afford one, you don’t need to go out and buy one. Simply taking your old pillow and rolling it slightly at one end can replicate the thicker inner portion of the pillow. Roll it up to fill the gap between your shoulder and neck if you’re a side sleeper, or so that it allows your head to rest back if you sleep on your back.

Best Sleeping Position For Back Pain

For back pain, there are a couple of different positions you can try depending on what you normally find comfortable. If you sleep on your back, you can try placing a couple of pillows underneath the lower legs. This is going to flatten the lordosis in your lower back, which isn’t ideal, but doing it for a couple of days when you’re getting back pain might be helpful for you. Try also to not sleep on too many pillows in this position so you’re not propping your head up, rather if you want to replicate the pillow trick we recommended above then this would work well. You can also pop a very small towel underneath the lower back, you’ll just need to make sure that when you wake up in the morning you gently wiggle the hips to get the body mobile again. Wiggling them from side-to-side can help just get the blood flowing to the area again,

If you’re a side-sleeper, again don’t be propped up on too many pillows as this can end up hurting your neck over time. Popping a pillow between your knees is going to help keep your pelvis better aligned and avoid your glutes tensing up which can pull on the lower back. If you’re a lady with slightly wider hips, you may also find it comfortable to have a slightly rolled towel underneath the waist, so this doesn’t drop and rather it again levels out the pelvis.

We hope today’s article has been helpful for you! If you do have any questions about your case or about sleeping with back pain, please do get in touch with us either through our social channels, or by tuning in to our live videos every weekday. There you can ask our lead practitioner Michael Fatica about anything back or neck pain related! Also remember if you’re currently struggling with back pain, do check out our free membership area for back pain. In this area, we recommend stretches you can be doing, mistakes you might be making, as well as things you can do to give you relief. Sign up for free at www.backinshapeapp.com!

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