If instead of restoring energy during sleep, you constantly wake up feeling like you’re 80 years old, you’re not alone.
Occupational lower back pain is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, and its prevalence has raised by 22% between 1990 and 2010. Today, this number may be even higher.
And the curious thing about lower back pain is that often, it isn’t caused by chronic medical conditions like arthritis, but by the lifestyle habits you can correct.
And if you want to know how to bring relaxed shut-eye back into your life, continue reading.
So, according to the information by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the leading causes of lower back pain are:
Strains. A poor sitting posture and overstretching of the lumbar area can cause pain and stiffness.
Skeletal irregularities. When your spine loses it’s natural alignment due to lordosis, for example, it may compensate for loads and create painful sensations.
Injuries. Sports traumas or accidents disrupt the integrity of tendons and ligaments around the spine. Also, as a result of injury, some vertebral disks might become overly compressed, which can contribute to pain.
Disk degeneration. This is the most common mechanical cause of lower back pain. Vertebrae disks lose their flexibility with age, and this can result in different aches and pains.
Other factors that impact a person’s predisposition to lower back pain include age, weight, level of physical activity, and genetics, as some people are initially more flexible than others.
Finally, you might just be sleeping on an old mattress. Experts recommend upgrading a bed every 7-10 years. And if the age of your mattress falls in this range, it probably cannot offer you uniform support and prevents your spine from resting in a relaxed position.
So, now let’s talk about what you can do to relieve back pain symptoms. Start with tracking in which sleeping position you fall asleep and wake up.
Why would you even need this, you may ask?
Well, because some sleeping positions are more beneficial for your spine alignment, while others may completely wreck a good night’s rest.
Let’s get into detail.
The supine sleeping position is recommended by most chiropractors and healthcare specialists for those who have back issues. In this position, your spine maintains its natural arches, and your body weight is evenly distributed around the mattress surface.
However, some individuals with back pain find it difficult to get up from the supine position. In this case, the supine position might not be suitable.
Note that if you sleep on your back on an old mattress, sagging in the middle can aggravate the symptoms and make the stiffness even more pronounced.
Side sleeping is another great position for back pain relief. It can eliminate the strain from the lower back area and redistribute the body weight, especially in heavy sleepers.
But the main drawback of side sleeping is that it can create pressure points in the shoulder and hip areas. So, if you’re a fan of firmer beds or are prone to hip pain, you may as well wake up with the stiff pelvic area, which can spread the pain into your lower back. So, the best mattress for side sleepers with lower back pain is the one with a softer feel and a lot of give, such as those reviewed in this research.
Now, stomach sleeping is the worst sleeping position, and many scientists agree on that. Its only advantage is that it can reduce the chances of snoring. But when it comes to lower back pain, tummy sleeping can make this area hurt even in healthy people.
When you sleep on your stomach, your lumbar area gets a lot of pressure, which contributes to pain. And things can become even worse if your mattress is saggy.
You should generally avoid stomach sleeping. Concerning other two sleeping positions — trust your body and how it feels in different positions, and implement the tips below for better comfort if needed.
#1 Upgrade Your Mattress
The first thing you can do to alleviate lower back pain symptoms is to upgrade your mattress. Here are some key things to consider:
Your weight. Heavier sleepers typically need a firmer bed to compensate for their body weight. A firm mattress won’t allow much sinkage and won’t bend your spine too much. Petite sleepers, on the contrary, may feel more comfortable on a softer mattress, as it can cradle them without drowning.
Sleeping position. As with weight, your sleeping position is also crucial in defining the right feel of the mattress. Side sleepers typically sink more deeply into the mattress, so they are most comfortable on softer memory foam and latex mattresses. Back sleepers, in general, feel comfortable on medium-firm mattresses.
Materials. Memory foam mattresses are famous for their pain-relieving properties, but they can be unsuitable for people with limited mobility due to pain. Memory foam absorbs motion, so it might be challenging to get up from a bed. Latex is bouncier and easier to move around on. At the same time, it has similar pain-relieving properties, so it may be a more suitable option for people with severe pains. Mattresses with coil construction, such as hybrids and innersprings, typically are firmer and more responsive and may suit people with chronic conditions.
#2 Add Some Pillows
You can remove the strain from your lower back area and help your spine maintain a neutral position with pillows.
If you’re sleeping on the back, you can put a thin pillow under your knees to relax thighs.
Side sleepers can place the same thin pillow between their knees to align the hips and reduce the tension in the pelvic area.
Finally, you can use the full body pillow and just hug it during the night to relax your shoulders.
Maintaining the flexibility of the tendons and ligaments in the lumbar area will do you a favor and prevent you from sore mornings.
According to a study with 320 participants published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, simple yoga stretches can be just as beneficial as physical therapy sessions. Both these treatments helped the participants in the study use fewer medications and reduced the symptoms of lower back pain.
#4 Stay Hydrated
Water is life, and you probably heard that you should drink at least eight glasses of liquid per day.
Although your need of eight glasses is likely a myth, as the water needs of each person are different, staying hydrated throughout the day is still important.
Water helps keep your joints and ligaments flexible, which improves their health and can prevent you from strains and aches.