Sleep Problems Associated With Back Pain (and How to Fix Them)

Martin Reed | Apr 13th 2017 May 9th 2017

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Back pain can be tiresome!

If you suffer from back pain, you probably struggle to get a good night’s sleep. Here are some of the sleep issues related to back pain and a few tips on how to improve your sleep, as identified by a 2015 study published in International Musculoskeletal Medicine.

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Consequences of back pain

The review found that back pain has a profound effect on causing insomnia and depressed mood. The worse the pain, the more difficult it is to fall asleep and the more frequent the night time awakenings.

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Difficulty falling asleep

Difficulty falling asleep was linked to back pain severity. It was also found to be more common in women and those with direct lumbar trauma.

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Waking due to pain

Waking up because of pain was found to be more likely in those with a posterior column problem. The awakenings were found to be caused by pain when turning during the night, or aching when lying still.

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Waking due to night time movement

Men were found to be more likely to wake due to pain caused by turning in the night. It was also found to be more common in those with facet joint syndrome.

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Waking due to night time aches

Women were found to be more likely to wake due to pain or aches not associated with night time movement. This form of sleep interruption was more common in those with a herniated disc.

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Early morning stiffness

Those with posterior ramus syndrome (also known as thoracolumbar junction syndrome, Maigne syndrome, and dorsal ramus syndrome) were found to be more likely to experience early morning stiffness for an hour or more.

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How firm a bed do you need?

The review found that physiotherapists recommend those with back pain relieved by flexion should sleep on a softer bed. Those with pain relieved by extension should sleep on a firmer bed.

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Check your sleeping position

Although sleeping on your side with your knees bent may feel comfortable, it isn’t a balanced position for the back. If you sleep on your side, keep your lowermost leg almost straight and bend your top leg. Lying flat on your back can minimize pressure on the spinal discs.

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The benefits of heat wrap therapy

Using a low level heat wrap overnight was found to provide relief from pain, reduce muscle stiffness, improve flexibility, and improve sleep quality.