When looking at the stats, it seems like our backs secretly hate us! In every six month period, five in every 10 people surveyed suffered from low back pain. And if this isn’t enough, up to 85% of working people can expect to experience low back pain during their lifetime. 85%!
Over the next couple of years, these numbers are expected to rise even further! Now, why is this? Thanks to the combination of increasingly sedentary lifestyles both at work and at home, our society as a whole are becoming more inactive. You would think that sleeping should bring some relief to this pain, however, often the discomfort does not diminish during the night when we lie down. Since our joints aren’t typically moving during the night, there is less blood flow to those areas and therefore less repair is occurring during the nighttime hours. In addition, if the joints are remaining still during the night in bad posture, this can have a very detrimental effect on your back pain! There is definitely no one size fits all for sleeping and back pain because there are so many types of conditions associated with it!
Sleeping Positions And Back Pain
If you’ve ever waken up with a tweaked back, you know that it can really offset the start to your day. The key to waking up pain-free could be as simple as how you sleep. Whether you are a side, back or stomach sleeper, here are a few easy tips that could protect your back and have you waking up pain-free again!
If You’re A Stomach Sleeper
Sleeping on your stomach is a known position to contribute to back pain. Now, why is this? Well sleeping in this position provides very little support for your back and allows your spine to hyper-extend or cave in. On top of this, you are forced to sleep with your neck fully twisted in one direction or the other to allow for proper breathing. This position puts unnecessary stress on your muscles and joints and should be avoided if possible. However, if you are unable to change positions, a pillow placed under your pelvis can help to further support your back. If this is uncomfortable, rotating slightly to the side using a thin pillow may help to alleviate the discomfort.
If you’re A Back Sleeper
When you sleep on your back, there is a lot of extra stress placed on the discs of your lower spine. There is a natural curve in the lower spine called lumbar lordosis which is just a reference to the natural forward curve of the lower back. The pitfall of sleeping on your back is that this natural curve slowly flattens out throughout the night. A very easy way to fix this, however, is by placing a pillow under the knees. The placement of this pillow will promote the natural forward curve of the spine while allowing the spine to relax.
The other factor to consider is the type and size of the pillow that you are using to support your neck and head. The pillow should never be fatter than the distance from your neck to your shoulder. Any larger than this puts your neck in a state of flexion which has been seen to exacerbate neck, shoulder and even headache pain.
To promote the necks natural lordotic curve, similar to that of the lower back, it is helpful to support it using anything from a rolled up towel, to a cervical roll pillow. You don’t need to use anything pricey, but this addition will help to support and maintain your natural neck posture.
If you’re A Side Sleeper
In general, the majority of people tend to gravitate towards sleeping on their sides. This can often cause pain as well, different from what we see with stomach or back sleepers, but pain all the same. The difference with sleeping on your side is that the top leg often slides forward which causes the lower portion of your spine to rotate. On top of this, often the top shoulder rotates forward as well forcing the spine into even more torsion. The great thing with sleeping on your side is that there is a very easy fix to the problems mentioned above. By simply placing either a regular sized pillow or a body pillow between the knees, it will help to keep the body in proper alignment.
If you are a side sleeper, the pillow you use for your head will be slightly thicker and more firm then what you would use if sleeping on your back. It should be thick enough to take up the distance from your ear to the bed while keeping your neck in a neutral position. This is very important as it will reduce the pressure on your neck.
No Matter What Type Of Sleeper You Are
If you are someone who suffers from chronic back pain, use heat to your advantage. It will help to relax those low back muscles and help to remove some of the tension. There is a time, however, when heat is not appropriate to use and may even cause further worsening of symptoms and that is when the injury is acute. In this case, use ice. Heat will increase the inflammation and will actually worsen the pain!
Come Visit Us at Edgar Family Chiropractic
If you find that you continue to wake up in the morning with back pain even after adjusting the pillow you sleep with, come see us at the clinic. One of our chiropractors, Dr. Maja or Cameron Edgar will be able to provide treatment and walk you through additional options!