Living with chronic back pain means living with misery. It means struggling to get comfortable riding in a car, sitting at your desk at work, and curling up in bed at night when you’re trying to sleep. Back pain can be a major obstacle to good overall physical and mental health, because sleep deprivation, however it happens, poses a major threat to your ability to function and to your body’s ability to heal itself.
A solid 7 to 9 hours of restful sleep a night keeps you mentally sharp during the day; helps prevent illness, obesity and diabetes; and gives your hair and skin a lustrous and healthy appearance. Unfortunately, if back pain impairs your ability to sleep soundly, you could find yourself with a lot more than just back pain to deal with.
Finding your sleep groove
Finding a comfortable, sustainable sleep position is an important part of finding your sleep groove. That means preparing yourself for bed with a routine that makes you comfortable and ready to sleep. Getting into the groove includes doing what you need to to feel rested, relaxed and ready to fall asleep. It could include meditation, taking a warm bath, or reading a book for a few minutes at bedtime. Once you’re ready to fall asleep, you must know how to work around your pain and get into a sleeping position that works for you.
The right position
Working around back pain, ideally, means adapting your normal sleep position so you don’t have to change it completely. So if you prefer sleeping on your side, try inserting a pillow between your knees, and pull them upward slightly. If you’re a back sleeper, place a rolled-up towel or small pillow under the small of your back. Back experts recommend not sleeping on your stomach because of the pressure it places on the back. Always take your time getting in and out of bed. Avoid bending over at the waist; instead, roll over onto one side, and push your way up using your arms. Slowly swing your legs up onto the bed, and assume the position that’s most comfortable for you.
It’s always to your benefit to maintain a healthy, balanced diet. You should also be aware that there are some foods that can help mitigate joint pain and that often help individuals with back pain enjoy more restful sleep. Emphasize cruciferous vegetables, like cauliflower and broccoli (you should be doing so anyway); incorporate fruits that are heavy with vitamin C, such as oranges and mangoes; and add ginger and bone broth to your favorite recipes.
Strengthen the core
The more you can do to bolster your core, the better it’ll be for your back, so work those abdominal, pelvic and hip muscles. A stronger core reduces the chances that you’ll suffer a back strain, which can be debilitating to someone with chronic back pain. Hold a plank pose with hands under your shoulders with legs extended out straight for about 30 seconds, then repeat (always stop immediately if the pain becomes excessive).
Stretching before bed can be a very difficult thing to do depending on the severity of your pain, but it can prevent muscle spasms at night. Gentle yoga poses are often the best, safest approach, though it might be necessary to adapt yoga poses to suit the kind of movement you’re capable of doing.
Chronic back pain can force you to abandon many activities and habits that are an important part of your life. Coping with chronic pain should be about preventing the problem from limiting what you enjoy doing as much as possible. Getting the sleep you need will benefit every part of your life, including your back problems.
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