Back pain keeping you up? Here’s what to do.

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Sealy fan asks: My back pain keeps waking me up at night. What should I do?

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Here is The Sleep Expert’s response:

I am sorry to hear that you are in pain and even more sorry to hear that the pain is interfering with your sleep. Pain is worse at night. We don’t know why… perhaps it is the drop in temperature, or the accumulation of a day’s worth of strain, or perhaps because it is the first time that many stop and listen to their bodies…

It is unfortunate as, as we all know, sleep is essential for tissue healing. And even more so for back health.

During a good night’s sleep the back, which comprises 33 vertebrae, takes the opportunity to escape gravity and decompress. Thanks to a good night’s sleep you can wake up 2cm taller than you were when you went to bed. This is made possible by the cartilage in the disc spaces plumping itself up with fluid to create gel like cushions between each bony vertebrae.

And so back pain that disrupts your sleep is going to create a nasty pain cycle. As your back health deteriorates, your pain increases and your sleep decreases. This will leave you with a shattered pain threshold and a tattered sense of humour.

So… what can you do? Here are 10 things that may help to decrease your back pain.

  1. Use heat to relax the muscles of your spine. A warm bath can do wonders to increase the circulation and aid healing. Alternatively, use a hot pack once you are in bed.
  2. Icing a sore back can help decrease the pain and swelling.
  3. Stretching regularly can prevent muscle tension. Find a back stretch routine here.
  4. Letting it all hang out. Use gravity to grow your spine while you hang. Headstands, handstands, holding onto a bar, dropping your head towards the floor, or using a tilt table, are all great ways to help your back heal.
  5. Take a load off. Swimming allows you to take weight off your spine. With gravity eliminated, many feel they are able to exercise pain-free which helps them get fitter and stronger and prevent further strain on the back.
  6. Taking pain medication is a great way to break the pain cycle so you can get some quality sleep. Medications that combine a safe pain killer such as paracetamol with a soothing anti-inflammatory are usually very effective. Codeine is often used for bone pain, but beware as this drug is addictive and many people experience side effects such as nausea.
  7. Getting a massage. If your pain is severe then it is preferable to see a health professional such as a physiotherapist or chiropractor. However, if the pain is from chronic muscle tension than a massage from a beautician or masseuse may be sufficient and more relaxing.
  8. Make sure you get adequately hydrated. Healthy inter-vertbral discs require water to get plumped up and healthy muscles require water for healing. Sip fresh water throughout the day and watch out for signs of dehydration such as dry mouth, dry skin, foul smelling breath and dark, concentrated urine.
  9. Use supportive pillows to find a pain-free sleep position. Many pregnancy pillows are great for those with back pain sans having a baby on board.
  10. Ensure you are sleeping on a great mattress such as the best-seller Sealy Posturepedic.

Find the combination of these that work for you and let us know your progress.

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