A good night's sleep makes a world of difference, especially if you suffer from back pain. My husband and I have both suffered from back problems in the past. We all know that a lack of sleep can affect your overall health.
I talked with Travis F. McClain, DO, RMSK, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist with The Christ Hospital Physicians, about how poor sleep and back pain can go hand-in-hand.
Bad sleep can equal a bad day
We have all been there — you wake up not feeling so great. Having a sore neck or back can ruin your entire day. I knew it was from not getting a comfortable night's sleep.
According to Dr. McClain, "Poor sleep can have a direct impact on your overall pain level, in particular back pain. Your body needs sleep to heal, and without appropriate sleep, little things can become big things over time."
A good mattress is key
My husband and I made an investment in a great mattress a few years ago, and it made a world of difference. We both felt so much better because we were sleeping better and in less pain in the morning.
When it comes to getting the right mattress, Dr. McClain suggested, "The general recommendation is to use a firm mattress that can adequately support the spine in either a side-lying position or with lying on your back. Avoid mattresses that provide very little support." He also recommended changing your mattress every 5 to 7 years.
Proper pillows also make difference
In my mind this is a no-brainer. I had severe neck pain at one time, and a change in pillows and the position I slept made an enormous difference. Dr. McClain recommended, "A good pillow could be a game changer, particularly with neck pain. Once again, find a pillow that enhances your normal extension/position of the neck and provides firm stability."
Changing my sleep position also made a difference, and here is what Dr. McClain had to say about that: "The best position to sleep to avoid back pain is typically the position of comfort to achieve the greatest amount of sleep. If patient finds all positions tolerable, then typically sleeping on your back with a nice firm mattress is ideal."
Exercises to conquer back pain at home
The first thing most people do in the morning is stretch. I started that routine a while ago, and it was another improvement to my back pain. Dr. McClain had some great tips on exercises that you can do at home to help improve your overall pain.
He suggested, "People with back pain should be focusing on core strength, lower extremity flexibility, and typically benefit from exercises that promote symmetry. In other words, if you are going to work out your legs, make sure you work out both the front and the back of your legs. If you're working on your upper body, make sure to do just as many back exercises as chest exercises to maintain symmetry."
Seeking medical attention
I have said it many times, "Oh, this pain will go away on its own." However, that is not always the case, so when is it time to call the doctor?
Dr. McClain recommended, "It is always a good idea to seek medical attention if pain does not resolve within a short period of time, or if you have any sudden changes, including changes in pain level or any type of weakness. These could be indicators that something more serious is going on."
So, the bottom line is, a great mattress, exercise and getting a good night's sleep is key to helping relieve and avoid back pain. I have used these tips and — trust me — they work!
When pain and limited movement become part of your daily life, it may be time to see a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist. Click here to learn about our care team with The Christ Hospital Physicians or call us at 513-585-3000 to schedule an appointment.