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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

How to Sleep with Lower Back Pain Using These 13 Tips

How to Sleep with Lower Back Pain Using These 13 Tips
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Your clock began with just a blink of how late it had gotten. Now, it screams at you that the night is far underway. Yet, there you remain – awake and still uncomfortable.

Perhaps, you had just barely begun to doze when the pain unfairly awakened you. Sleeping with lower back pain is not always as easy as just lying down and closing your eyes. You must plan ahead for a proper – and enjoyable – night’s sleep.

Preparing your mind and body for rest is just as important as preparing your sleeping space.

So how to sleep with lower back pain?

Let us help you figure out a few alterations that may help you sleep better tonight. From that, you will be more equipped to choose which tips will most benefit you.

Where to Start?

It is no secret that exercise, food, and rest each have a balance that is required for general health. Creating an environment in which you can relax is imperative for minimizing tension. So, how can you do this if your body is in pain?

If a back injury has been sustained, the first step is to ensure that the source of the pain has been eliminated or is under review. If you are aware of an injury, it is best to ensure that proper care is received for the best chance of a timely and effective recovery.

If you are uncertain what may have caused the pain, speak with a medical professional to determine what may be needed for recovery.

How to Sleep Better Tonight

What can you do at home to help work through some of the pain for a better night’s sleep? Perhaps, it is already bedtime and you are just now realizing that pain from the day has begun to settle into your lower back. What can you do to get through tonight? What can you do to be ready for tomorrow night…and the next night?

Let’s look at some new ideas for sleeping with lower back pain. Find a couple that you want to try first. Combine them, mix them up, and find out what works for you. Alternate some of the options to keep it interesting. Be sure to incorporate any information given to you by your chiropractic doctor.

Take one or two nights with each of these 13 sleeping tips for lower back pain. Decide which ones help you the most. Feel free to adjust each concept to your lifestyle and physical needs.

1. Recognize the Power of Your Brain

The human brain is an incredible tool for directing what happens throughout the body. Pain signals are sent to the thalamus telling us that pain is present.[1]

What does the brain do? It sends a signal telling our hand to, “Move! There is something beneath your hand that is too hot for your skin to handle!” How do we respond? We yank our hand into the air, “Ouch! I’m not sitting on that park bench!”

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Why is it important to understand the brain’s power? Recognizing that the pain is part of the brain’s alert system can help us see that something isn’t as it should be within the body. This is especially important for us as humans because we cannot feasibly walk around with an MRI or X-Ray machine and constantly take stock of our insides. Pain signals take care of this for us. They act as an alert system that can help stop us from causing further damage.

Does that mean that we have to like the pain? Of course not! We can, however, take the messages from those pain signals and use them to help direct us to a reasonable recovery.

Will we always get rid of all pain all the time? That depends on the cause for the pain and what steps are taken to minimize its source, as well as any underlying conditions that may require medical attention.

Will crashing on a snowboard be automatically healed simply by recognizing the pain? Nope – but rather than going along day by day in hopes that the pain will subside magically on its own, recognizing the pain’s presence is a great first step.

2. Understand the Relationship Between Pain and Tension

Pain and tension have a closer relationship than we might realize. You may even hold your breath to avoid sending movement through your body in times of great pain.

Helping tight, tense, and sore muscles to relax release the tension held in them can help get you on the way to feeling better faster.

If an injury is present, we may easily compensate for the pain by using other muscles more. Holding tension in one portion of the body to avoid pain puts greater strain on the surrounding muscles.

Chronic pain can easily find its way into your life through stress and tension that is not dispensed with regularly.[2] Pain is often increased by our desire to resist its presence on our bodies. You may find that the pain becomes greater with a lack of sleep. An ache may start small and become progressive with little or no sleep.

3. Be Warm, Not Hot or Cold – Especially During Sleep

The human body shivers to gain warmth when it is cold. This brings tension to the muscles. We may not even realize this added tension until warmth is regained.

If pain is present and muscle tension is increased, we risk further stressing the neuromuscular system. Our nerve endings can detect changes in temperature.[3]

Not only does this take them away from their job as pain signal devices in the body, it also alerts them that an adjustment should be made. Allowing the body to stay cold for long periods during the day can cause the body to retain unnecessary tension, which may increase pain.

Sleeping too hot can simply make us uncomfortable and prevent sufficient REM sleep. Tossing and turning because your body is trying to dispense heat does not help you eliminate back pain while sleeping. Rather, it can put increased stress on your body during the time when it is meant to be recovering.

4. Try Not to Procrastinate: Understand that Hard Work Deserves a Break

Allow yourself to rest and rejoice after working hard. Try not to push a task to the end of its time. Plan to work hard and then take a break. Schedule breaks into undesirable endeavors – and then allow yourself to enjoy those breaks.

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Why is this important for lower back pain? Back pain is often the result of overworked muscles. If an injury has occurred in the past or if you are seeking to recover and avoid chronic back pain, you need to let your muscles take a break.

If your mind is geared to finish a task but you find that your body is not willing, planned break times might help you feel as though you are still on task.

Break bigger projects up into separate days. Enlist the help of a relative or neighbor and enjoy the scheduled break together. Why is this important for sleeping with pain?

If you can work to minimize or eliminate pain before it gets underway, you are less likely to be troubled by pain as you sleep.

5. Create a Balance in Your Body

Recognize the work your lower back does to help the rest of your body. Try to take some of the stress off of your lower back by treating your body as a complete unit. We do not mean that you must fill your time with crunches or a complicated weightlifting regimen.

Simply, your body will heal itself more efficiently if it is permitted to function as a unit. When you rest, it is time to allow your body to relax and rejuvenate itself from the interior – all the way through your extremities. Yes, over time working on core muscles can help with lower back pain. Thinking about intense workout procedures while you are in pain may not be so desirable.

Instead, choose a few stretches or yoga poses that can help your body relax and function more efficiently. Choose positions that bring you joy and do not cause pain. You might be a bit uncomfortable if you have not tried stretching techniques for lower back pain – but the rewards are amazing once you get the hang of it!

6. Work to Clear Your Mind

Fixating on your lower back pain will not help you rest or heal. Find activities that help you separate the pain you experienced during the day from your sleeping routine. In the evening, enjoy a favorite book. Go for a walk outside. Play with the kids – make a mess!

Find something that makes you laugh! Take your mind off of the pain as much as you can a few hours before it is time to put your head on your pillow. Clear your mind of anything that distracts you from joy.

7. Focus on Your Breathing Patterns

Breathing is something that our bodies naturally do by design. We often simply do not realize that we are taking in oxygen and dispensing carbon dioxide.

However, if an event takes place and we are not permitted to complete this basic physical task, we won’t live long.

Focusing on the body’s ability to be so completely amazing is a wonderful way in which we can divert our attention from pain.

8. Meditate as You Prepare to Sleep

Meditating for a better night’s rest can increase your ability to rest comfortably. While taking a moment to ponder and reflect at any time of day may be helpful, taking a moment to decompress shortly before sleep offers another level of relaxation.

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Similar to a focus on your breathing, find something else for your brain to interact with as you lie in bed attempting to sleep. Plan to enjoy a few moments in your preferred sleep position as you allow your eyes and ears to interact with something that calms you.

You may find these night time meditation techniques beneficial:

  • Select a night light that slowly dims up and down. Enjoy watching the color(s) change as you prepare your mind for sleep. Ensure that the light shown does not become bright enough to alert your ‘daytime’ thinking. Blues and greens are best if available.
  • Look out of your window and watch the sky, a storm, or the trees blowing.
  • Listen to the sounds of your home. What do you hear? Wind rustling outside?
  • Place an interesting image that glows in the dark on your ceiling. Observe how this image is shaped or designed. What do you appreciate about the image?
  • Enjoy a projection night light that throws your favorite design onto the wall or ceiling. Some children’s night lights offer fun cartoon images, too!
  • If you prefer having your eyes closed, consider listening to your favorite calming music for a few moments. Listen to the words, and focus on trying to hear phrases you may have missed in the past. If you prefer to listen to sounds without words, classical music, ocean sounds, or rustling river sounds may be preferred. Try to follow the sounds with your mind.

With this many meditation ideas, it will take several days to try them all! Be sure to allow your body to relax during this time.

Once you feel somewhat comfortable in bed, begin with whatever technique you have chosen for that night. The idea is to distance your mind from the day you just enjoyed (or endured).

Getting started is often the most difficult part. You may desire to set a timer if your chosen technique utilizes technology. Set it for 30 minutes and adjust up or down as desired the next evening.

Meditation is also a wonderful way to work through pain that may arise overnight. Be mindful of the sleeping habits of others. You may want to think ahead and have one of the techniques ‘ready to activate’ in case you do wake up from back pain and are unable to sleep.

9. Discover What Actions or Positions Cause or Increase Pain

You may already be well aware of what positions are the most and least painful for sleeping with lower back pain. However, have you tried really relaxing as you search for comfortable positions? Moving around trying to find comfort can easily cause temporary tension in your muscles.

Choose a position that is moderately comfortable, and take the time to breathe in and out 8 to 10 times without moving from that position. Give your muscles time to dissipate the tension in them.

Releasing tension from overworked muscles can be hard at first. Give yourself time to feel the difference in how your lower back responds to the decrease in tension.

You may or may not need to dramatically alter your preferred sleeping position. If you prefer to sleep on your side, simply place a pillow between your knees to align your spine.

Back sleeper? Ensure that your back is supported by your sleeping surface so that it does not bow and cause your muscles to strain overnight. You might prefer a pillow under your knees. Stomach sleepers may benefit from placing a pillow at or just above the hips for added support.

Many people simply do not realize the importance of their pillow for lower back pain. Too thick or too thin, your pillow may place your spine into a position that creates too much pressure on your lower back.[4] Choose a pillow that places your head in alignment with your spine.

10. Understand How Proper Support Helps the Lower Back While Sleeping

Be prepared to adjust your sleeping position a few times each night. Your spine contains sections that permit you to bend and move as you direct. The ability to twist and contort is a wonderful feature if you must reach something on a shelf. When you sleep, your body still retains the same ability for movement.

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As you lie down, your body conforms to the space on which you place it. Shoulders and hips tend to push into the surface beneath you. Your middle may curve too far pulling your back muscles into a position that creates undue stress on your spine and back muscles.[5]

If this is the case for any length of time, your lower back is likely to complain to your brain, “Help, I’m having trouble completing what you are asking me to do while your body is asleep! I can’t do this anymore. I need support down here!”

11. Decide Not to Utilize a Mobile Device if Awake Due to Pain

The light projected directly into our eyes from a device with backlighting can trick our brains into thinking that daylight is present. Why is this important? If you are awakened by lower back pain and wish to return to sleep, telling your body that morning is close does not give your brain a true perspective of your need for rest.

A mobile device may help take your mind off of the pain for a time – but it will not be the best thing for returning to dreamland.

If you really must read something, consider a few moments with an old school flashlight and paper.[6] Then, perhaps, focus on your breathing, meditate, stretch in bed, or adjust your sleeping position accordingly. (Be sure not to awaken your sleeping partner.)

12. Consider How External Factors Play a Role

Is something, in addition to lower back pain, causing you to be awake (e.g., caffeine, stress, particular unpleasant sounds)? If so, include changes to those matters in your preparations for sleep.

Are there external factors that add to your lower back pain (e.g., work requirements, exercise choices, yardwork, childcare considerations)? Existing pain will not likely diminish if the situation that caused it still exists in your life.

You may find that once you remove some of the sleep inhibitors, it will be easier for your body to allow you to sleep in spite of any remaining lower back pain.

13. Inquire with a Musculoskeletal Expert

Work with your chiropractor to determine the source of your lower back pain. Medical imaging can be done to ensure that possible injuries are properly assessed. From that, you and your chiropractor can work to set a goal for an efficient recovery. Receiving care as early as possible is beneficial for helping to avoid chronic back pain.

If your back pain has already been present for some time, your body may have begun to heal and simply is not able to properly tell your brain that the major injury itself is no longer present. Chiropractic care works to realign joints so that nerves can more efficiently send communications to the brain.

In opposition, you may be experiencing pain symptoms that mean your body still retains an injury and needs healing. Not sure what chiropractic care does for lower back pain? Chiropractic care seeks to find the source of pain and eliminate it from within the musculoskeletal and neuromuscular systems in the body.[7]

Finding Your Next Step

Which tips will you try this evening? Consider observing your breathing, meditating, and clearing your mind at various times throughout the day.

Releasing tension as we encounter it is beneficial for muscles, joints, and nerves. Do what you can to minimize the effects of stress and potential injury during your waking hours.

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As evening approaches, be willing to let go of the day and focus on sleeping pain-free

More Resources About Back Pain Relief

Featured photo credit: Leighann Renee via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Brent Wells, D.C.

Chiropractic doctor currently leading over 10,000 Alaskans to more active, pain-free lifestyles – without addictive drugs or invasive surgeries.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

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

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