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Last Updated on January 11, 2021

The Best Way to Sleep to Relieve the 7 Most Common Ailments

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The Best Way to Sleep to Relieve the 7 Most Common Ailments

We sleep for about 9,000 days or 210,000 hours throughout our lifetime, and guess what? Many of us do it wrong!

Yes, there’s a right way and a wrong way to sleep. Sleeping in the wrong position can cause everything from lower back pain and frozen shoulder to wrinkles, neck pain and a stiff jaw.

Here are 7 of the most common ailments caused by sleeping in the wrong position and the best way to sleep.

1. Lower Back Pain

If your lower back is bothering you when you wake up in the morning, your sleep position may have something to do with it.

The first thing the Cleveland Clinic suggests you do, is get yourself a firm mattress that doesn’t sag, with a firm box spring.[1]

Next, choose a position that best mimics the natural curvature in your spine. Positions to try include sleeping on your back with a lumbar roll under the small of your back and a pillow under your knees.

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Another position to try is sleeping on your side with your knees slightly bent. When sleeping on your side you may also want to try putting a pillow between your knees. You do not want to pull your knees all the way up to your chest in the fetal position.

The worst position for your lower back is sleeping on your stomach. If you’ve been doing it for awhile, it may be hard to get out of the habit, but it will be well worth the effort!

2. Neck Pain

If you have neck pain, the two best positions to sleep in are on your back or on your side.

However, that comes with a caveat. According to Harvard, you’ll also need to select the right pillow.[2] The best pillow is a down pillow the conforms to the shape of your neck. Alternatively, you may also want to try a pillow with memory foam that conforms to the shape of your neck and back.

Regardless, you don’t want to use a pillow that is too high or stiff, placing your head or neck in an unnatural position and causing it to flex throughout the night.

3. Heart Burn or Acid Reflux

Fall asleep in the wrong position and stomach acids can slip into your esophagus, causing major heart burn. The worst positions for acid reflux are sleeping on your back, your stomach or your right side.

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That leaves sleeping on your left side as the best position to avoid sleep time heart burn. Why does it work? Because sleeping on your left side keeps the junction of the stomach and the esophagus above the level of the gastric acid. This prevents the stomach acid from leaking into the esophagus, which is the cause of the “burn” and discomfort.

This video by Dr. Mandell provides a good visual explanation:

4. Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Do snoring and sleep apnea really impact your health? You bet they do.

Having your sleep interrupted throughout the night over extended periods of time could have long term health implications, as well as leave you constantly tired throughout the day.

Snoring and sleep apnea are typically caused by collapsed airways, leading to pauses in breathing. Both sleeping on your side or on your stomach can help your airways stay open and reduce snoring and mild apnea.

However, because sleeping on your stomach is so bad for your lower back, I’d recommend first seeing if sleeping on your side will solve the problem.

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5. Wrinkles

You know when you wake up with lines and creases across your cheeks after sleeping with the side of your face on your pillow? Well it may not be temporary after all. They’re called sleep wrinkles and research has shown they can affect your forehead, lips and cheeks![3]

Sleep wrinkles are cause by sleeping on your stomach or your side, which causes facial distortions. To avoid facial distortions while sleeping, try sleeping on your back – it’s just one more reason sleeping on your back is preferred.

6. Shoulder Pain

Ever wake up and you can barely move your shoulder? You may not want to put the blame on your game of squash or workout from the day before. The culprit maybe the way you sleep.

Specifically, if sleep on your side, the weight of your body on your shoulder, or of your head on your upper arm places a lot of stress on your shoulder’s tendons, causing inflammation and stiffness.

Shifting to your opposite side, may just cause pain in your other shoulder over time. One again, the easiest solution is to sleep on your back.

7. Jaw Pain

Ever wake up in the morning with a sore jaw? Chances are, you’ve either been grinding your teeth, or you’ve been sleeping on the side of your face causing.

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If you’re grinding your teeth, you should definitely see your dentist and see if he can make a mouth guard, to help protect your teeth. Regardless, sleeping on your side puts additional pressure on the joints of your jaw and the jaw itself. Once again, the solution is to sleep on your back!

The Bottom Line

Getting a good night’s sleep is hard enough. Having to worry about it causing you pain should be the least of your worries.

Follow the advice above and see if it helps you avoid some of the unintended perils of sleeping in the wrong position.

Featured photo credit: Charles Deluvio via unsplash.com

Reference

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Marc Felgar

Marc Felgar is an aging, health & senior care expert focused on improving the lives of mature adults.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

12 Causes of Lower Right Back Pain (And How to Relieve It)

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12 Causes of Lower Right Back Pain (And How to Relieve It)

Lower right back pain can be hard to shake. Even mild back pain can damper your energy levels and take away your focus at work. If you’re experiencing lower right back pain, it’s time to get to the bottom of your back pain.

Don’t write off your pain as simply a bad night’s rest. You deserve to know the cause of your lower right back pain – and how to relieve it.

Luckily, most cases of lower right back pain are a result of musculoskeletal issues and not an urgent medical crisis. Of course, that doesn’t make your back pain any less serious. Whatever the cause, you’ll need to treat your condition to get better, even if that means self-care remedies that you can easily find at home.

Lower right back pain should be taken seriously: it’s often a sign that some area of your body is out of balance. And with everything going on in your life, back pain is the last thing you need.

Today, we’ll look at common causes of lower right back pain and how to relieve it. Let’s get your back on track, so that you can feel great again.

Urgent Lower Right Back Pain Symptoms

Before we get started on common causes of lower right back pain, let’s look briefly at urgent symptoms to watch out for.

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, you should go to the emergency room to rule out urgent conditions.

  • Intense pain that’s sudden or sharp
  • Intense pain coupled with fever, nausea, vomiting or incontinence
  • Intense pain coupled with swelling or feelings of fullness
  • Intense pain coupled with urinary symptoms

These symptoms could be signs of urgent conditions such as appendicitis, kidney infections, kidney stones or endometriosis. Don’t take any chances and see a doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.

Common Causes of Lower Right Back Pain

Now, let’s turn to common musculoskeletal causes of lower right back pain. By learning more about these causes, you’ll be better prepared to get quick pain relief.

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1. Sprains and Strains

Sprains and strains are the number one cause of lower right back pain.

What’s the difference between a sprain and a strain? In essence, they are similar injuries. Sprains happen when you overextend or tear ligaments (tissues connecting joints); strains happen when you tear muscles or tendons (tissues connecting muscles). Typically, you’ll feel swelling, stiffness, bruising, cramping and/or spasms in your lower right back.

You usually know when you have a sprain or strain because you did something to trigger it. This could be an everyday activity, such as a sports injury, lifting something heavy, household falls or overexercising. Any sudden movements, or unnatural twisting and turning can also injure your muscles.

While both sprains and strains can heal on their own, you can help speed up the recovery process. Generally, the R.I.C.E. formula is recommended, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.[1] The idea is to limit the use of your back muscles, ice them and apply any compression bandages. By following this formula, your lower right back should feel better in no time.

Since back sprains and strains often recur, you should also consider stretching and strengthening exercises to prevent re-injury. Building up your back muscles, following warm-up or cool-down exercises and learning proper form and posture can also boost your back and prevent it from becoming chronic pain.

2. Disc Degeneration

While a natural part of the aging process, disc degeneration can also cause lower right back pain. Disc degeneration happens when the discs that hold up the vertebrae start to decay. With this wear-and-tear, the vertebrae have less protection and begin to rub together painfully.

Getting relief from disc degeneration can be tricky, because there’s no cure for this natural decay. Sometimes doctors will recommend physical therapy, massage therapy or chiropractic for possible benefits by changing your posture and movements, as well as using adjustments and the therapeutic touch for pain relief.[2]

In extreme cases, you may even consider steroid injections or surgery. However, most people with disc degeneration will focus on getting relief at home.

3. Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is another aging condition that can cause lower right back pain. As the most common arthritis condition, osteoarthritis occurs when the cushion on your joints wears down with age, especially for commonly used joints, such as your spine, knees and hips.

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Specific symptoms of osteoarthritis involve stiffness, swelling, tenderness and loss of range of motion. Since the damage of osteoarthritis can’t be reversed, treatment usually focuses on physical therapy and lifestyle changes, including low-impact exercise and weight loss. Home remedies such as hot and cold packs and supplements are also effective.

4. Herniated Disc

A herniated disc may also be the cause of your lower right back pain. When the spine is working correctly, discs cushion and protect the spine. According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, a disc is like a jelly donut. When a herniated disc occurs, the jelly inside is pushed outside of its case.[3] This material then makes contact with nerves, causing pain, numbness and tingling.

Treatment for this condition can be as simple as physical therapy and pain relievers, or as complex as surgery. In any case, lifestyle changes can help with pain relief, including regular low-impact exercise such as yoga, weight loss, massage therapy and home remedies.

5. Muscular Imbalance

At times, lower right back pain can be hard to pinpoint, especially if you don’t remember an initial injury or movement that caused it. However, the way you move and exercise can impact your back pain. Specifically, muscular imbalance is an extremely common source of lower right back pain.

Muscular imbalance occurs when the natural balance of your muscular system is disrupted. This typically happens when you use certain muscles more than others, or do physical activity in an unnatural position.

For example, if your abdominal muscles are weak, your lower back will take the load, creating a muscular imbalance that may cause you pain. In athletes, this a common problem when you use certain muscle groups for sports, leaving others unfit or unused. Muscular imbalance can cause pain spots, such as in the lower right back.

Muscular imbalance is best treated by a physical therapist or chiropractor who can identify the imbalance among the muscle groups and create exercises for boosting weak areas. In the meantime, home remedies are a good way to stay pain-free.

6. Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis can cause serious lower right back pain. This condition occurs when the spaces in between your spine narrow, which puts excess pressure on your nerves.

Imagine your spine contracting or “crunching” together. Symptoms include lower right back pain, as well as numbness and weakness. Sometimes spinal stenosis is a secondary symptom of osteoarthritis too.

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The treatment of spinal stenosis is lifestyle-based, including building up strength, flexibility and balance. For extreme cases, doctors may also recommend decompression treatment or surgery. However, many get pain relief from staying active, losing weight and using home pain relief remedies.

7. Sciatica

If you’re experiencing sharp pain on your lower right side, you may have sciatica. Your sciatic nerve runs from your lower back down your legs. If it becomes pinched, you may feel pain that spreads all along the nerve, including your lower back. Common symptoms of sciatica also include numbness and tingling.

The majority of sciatica cases are relieved by home treatment. Typically, physical therapists will recommend a stretching routine and regular low-impact exercise. Sometimes, steroid injections are also beneficial for pain relief, though most cases can be successfully minimized by home remedies.

8. Bone Spurs

Another possible cause of your back pain is bone spurs. As the name suggests, bone spurs occur when bones in your spine rub together painfully.

When your discs start to decay, bone spurs become more likely, as the cushioning is no longer there between the vertebrae. Bone spurs are difficult to prevent, but you can get pain relief from home remedies.

9. Spinal Infection

Though less common, a spinal infection can also cause lower right back pain. There are many different types of spinal infections, but the most frequent happen when bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus or Escherichia coli enter the spine via the bloodstream.[4] This bacteria then causes swelling and tenderness, and may also manifest as a fever, muscle spasms and lower right back pain.

A spinal infection should be treated as soon as possible before the bacteria causes irreparable damage. The biggest clue is a fever: if you have a high fever in addition to lower right back pain, be sure to see a doctor as soon as possible. Antibiotics will typically resolve the condition, or surgery in extreme cases.

10. Scoliosis

The back condition scoliosis is another culprit of lower right back pain. Scoliosis is when the back curves in an unnatural shape, usually a C or an S. This curvature then places undue pressure on certain areas of the back. A doctor or chiropractor can easily diagnose scoliosis by looking at X-rays of the spine. Other symptoms of scoliosis include other misalignments in the body, as well as muscular weakness or numbness.

A physical therapist is extremely important for mitigating scoliosis and trying to correct spinal curvature in young adults. Other lifestyle treatment options include using a brace, regular exercise, chiropractic adjustments and home remedies for pain relief.

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11. Joint Dysfunction

Joint dysfunction may also account for lower right back pain. Joint dysfunction can cause inflammation in and around the spine. Specifically, joint dysfunction occurs when the joint in question moves too much or too little, causing muscle tension and tenderness. This inflammation then affects the surrounding area, including the spine.

In the case of sacroiliac joint dysfunction, the sacroiliac joint that connects the hips and the lumbar spine becomes inflamed, which causes pain both in the lower back and legs. To get pain relief from joint dysfunction, you can get chiropractic adjustments, wear a brace or use home remedies to get rid of the pain.

12. Cauda Equina Syndrome

Cauda Equina Syndrome is a serious and urgent spinal condition that results from nerve endings of the Cauda Equina becoming compressed. When this happens, the patient may experience motor weakness or sensory loss, since these nerves are involved in these physical sensations.

Cauda Equina syndrome is considered a medical emergency. If you’re experiencing lower right back pain, in addition to motor weakness, bladder dysfunction or sensory abnormalities, you may have Cauda Equina syndrome.

Home Remedies for Lower Right Back Pain

Depending on the cause of your lower right back pain, home pain relief remedies may help. If you’re looking to improve your back pain today, you can try the following options. Sometimes these self-care options are a matter of trial and error. Be sure to find the remedy that works for you.

  • Hot and cold packs
  • Natural supplements, such as white willow bark, devil’s claw or capsaicin
  • Anti-inflammatory spices turmeric and ginger
  • Green tea
  • Essential oils, including peppermint and lavender
  • An anti-inflammatory diet, including lots of fruits, veggies, fish and olive oil
  • Regular low-impact exercise, including yoga or Tai Chi
  • Good posture habits
  • Hot herbal baths
  • Regular massage therapy and chiropractic
  • Healthy sleeping positions 

The Bottom Line

Remember that getting relief for your lower right back pain is up to you. It’s important to take the time to make sure you’re creating good back-friendly habits and finding ways to incorporate these home remedies in your day-to-day life.

If you’re not sure how to get started with recovering from back pain, you can also see a professional chiropractor, who will create a customized back pain plan to get your back condition resolved.

Whatever you decide, don’t just ignore your lower right back pain. It’s essential that you address the pain and find ways to overcome the condition and get pain relief. Don’t let your back pain take over your busy schedule – you’ve got better things to do!

Reference

[1] National Institute of Health: Sprains and Strains
[2] Better Health Chiropractic: 65 Proven Facts about Chiropractors and Chiropractic Care for Back Pain and Other Conditions
[3] Mayo Clinic: Herniated disk
[4] American Association of Neurological Surgeons: Spinal Infections

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