Back pain is an elusive beast… it can strike at any moment and can often leave us feeling debilitated for weeks, months, or even years if nothing is done about it. In fact, back pain is so widespread it’s now considered one of the most common issues around the globe. What’s truly interesting is that, while so many people suffer from back pain in one form or another, no pain is similar – how about that? Yet, while no individual is the same, one thing may very well be a common denominator in all cases: poor quality and quantity of sleep. Yes, that’s right. Poor sleep may in fact directly contribute to back pain in various ways. In this post, then, we look at why sleep is important, how a lack of sleep can cause and/or aggravate back pain, and ways in which you can get back to getting some shut eye so as to alleviate your discomfort. Are you ready? Let’s go!
Why is sleep so important? Well, during the hours of sleep our bodies have a chance to heal and to reenergize – muscles, nerves, and joints all have time to re-set and take some time to regroup. Sleep regulates blood pressure, mood, alertness, brain responses, immune system responses, weight control, and so much more. And for these reasons, it’s clear that a lack of sleep may adversely affect you… not least when it comes to back pain.
But why is a lack of sleep particularly bad when it comes to back pain? Well, as mentioned, sleeping hours give the body a chance to recover from the exertions from the day before: muscles relax, blood flow is regulated, and the immune system is given an opportunity to see to any nagging issues that are present. If sleep quality and quantity is disrupted, therefore, the body is unable to do many – if any – of those things, and your tissues, joints, muscles, and nerves are neglected. Because the back and spinal cord are the veritable epicenter of your nervous system for the majority of your body, it stands to reason that a lack of sleep will eventually culminate in back pain – the body has a unique way of centralizing stress placed on it in the back, and in very few ways is this less obvious as when it comes to being tired.
In addition, being tired means you’re less aware of your posture and movements, thereby constantly placing your back in vulnerable and compromising positions. You may be unaware of the way in which you’re walking, sitting, or carrying heavy objects. You may also not be particularly aware of twisting in the spine or pressure placed on it in the form of carrying a backpack, for example. Mental alertness – gained from a good night’s sleep – will help you make positive decisions for your back. The opposite is true if you’re tired and fatigued.
And let’s face it: back pain is very rarely centralized – over time, your back pain may very well turn into neck, shoulder, or even hip pain… not to mention headaches! It’s an ongoing, often debilitating cycle… all of which is facilitated by poor quality sleep.
So, what can be done? The first thing to do is to take a serious look at precisely why you are getting sub-par sleep quality and quantity. You ought to aim for a good 8 hours of sleep so as to reap the most benefits possible. If you’re falling short of this, try thinking about the following:
Are you stretching enough?
Stretching before bed can make all the difference: from lubricating your joints to easing the pent-up stress in your muscles, a good bedtime stretch routine is essential for a good night’s rest.
Do you have the proper pillow?
Ensure that your pillow supports your neck and spinal cord correctly – if you’re unsure, please reach out to a physical therapist for help and information.
Are you sleeping in the correct position?
Stomach sleepers, beware! Avoid sleeping on your stomach at all costs, as the pressure placed on your back can be immense. Instead, sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees and ankles to support your spine.
What’s your bedtime routine like?
Ensure that the hour or so before bed is dominated by a healthful routine: read a book, drink some herbal tea, listen to some music, or mediate. Avoid screens if possible – all this will mean you have a much better quality of sleep simply because you primed your body to relax.
Are you drinking enough water?
Avoid stiffness and aches by drinking enough water throughout the day: dehydration can cause disturbed sleep, whilst an increase in blood pressure caused by a lack of water may very well add to your back pain in the long run.
Are you dealing with your stress?
Stress can and will affect your sleep quality and quantity if you let it: be sure to meditate, practice yoga, walk, or read so as to relieve some of the stress of the day. Never take your stress to bed.
Back pain can spell the end of a successful training routine, the beginning of bad moods, and the potential ruin of your relationships and activity levels. It’s absolutely vital that you find the root cause of your back pain so as to start getting back to the things you love. One way to do this is to take a good look at your sleep patterns. Physical therapy is a fantastic option if you’re ready to get to the bottom of your sleep problems and back pain. By finding and treating the root cause, assessing your sleeping patterns, giving you exercises and stretches to do at home, and advising you on the best sleep-posture and bedtime routine for you, physical therapy will make all the difference. If you’ve not considered physical therapy, now’s your chance!
Don’t let a bad night’s sleep steal one more day from you. For more information and for advice on how we can help you with your sleep and back pain, why not contact one of our professional, friendly physical therapists right now? We look forward to hearing from you!