Sleeping back pain can make an already horrible back problem even worse. We all need our sleep and chronic pain patients especially need this time to recover and recuperate. Back ache that is experienced while sleeping deprives the patient of much needed rest and can cause some people to seek drastic treatments for their symptoms. However, before doing anything crazy, be sure to observe when the pain occurs and under what circumstances. Compare these factors to your diagnosis and speak to your doctor to see if the expression of misery when sleeping makes any anatomical sense at all. In many cases, the answer will be no.
This discussion provides help for people who are suffering disruptive back pain when trying to sleep.
Sleeping is a time to rest from a long day which may have been spent in pain. Some back ache is actually worsened when lying down or sleeping. There can be several causes for this to occur:
The patient's particular pain problem is aggravated by the sleep position. Try sleeping in different positions and see if these changes help or aggravate the pain. Most back pain sufferers find that sleeping in the fetal position is preferred. Fetal position means sleeping on one’s side with the legs bent and a pillow between the knees. Some patients find relief sleeping on their back, with a pillow under their ankles or knees. Sleeping on one’s stomach often irritates many back problems.
The bed might be the cause of the problem. Many patients with a spinal problem require a firm sleeping surface. Meanwhile, patients with fibromyalgia may require a surface that is soft to the touch. Some patients prefer to sleep in in inclined position. An adjustable bed is a possible solution for these patients. I use a firm supportive mattress with a memory foam topper for softness. This way, I experience the best of both worlds: support and softness. This is a great compromise for many patients.
Psychological back pain is a major cause of nightmarish discomfort. When you sleep, the subconscious mind is in complete control over your body. The conscious mind is resting, but the subconscious is fully functional. Dreams are the result of subconscious processes and so is psychological back pain. People who experience chronic treatment resistant back pain, which occurs at night, are prime candidates for knowledge therapy.
A few months back, I interviewed 2 patients who have chronic sleeping back pain. Both are functional during the day and both report that activity actually makes their backs feel better. These patients also report that periods of inactivity make them feel stiff and they are often awakened at night with acute back spasms. This is a tough situation. Avoiding a painful activity is a common conservative treatment for back pain. However, how can you avoid sleep?
One patient was very interested in the idea that his pain might be psychosomatic. The more he spoke about his life and his feelings, the more I suspected a psychological cause for his pain. This patient has 3 herniated discs, 2 in the lower back, 1 in the neck. He investigated some books as part of a knowledge therapy program and was completely pain-free in under 1 month. It was remarkable.
The second patient believes that a herniated disc receives pressure when he sleeps. This patient also believes in mindbody medicine, but not in the case of his personal back pain: “I am really hurt.”
Hmmm… I do hear that a lot.
(As if the rest of us are just making it up)
Unfortunately for this patient, 19 months have gone by since interviewing him and he is still in pain. He is now using prescription sleep aids just to sleep at all. The last time I spoke to him, he had just received a new MRI result that showed his disc herniation had shrunken considerably, yet his pain had worsened. It is a sad case. Who knows if there is another real structural reason for his pain or if it is the result of a mindbody process.
The bottom line… If a physical condition is causing pain based on position, do everything possible to work around it. I am sure that there is a solution for you, with all the back pain products which are available. Be sure to ask your doctors about their thoughts on sleep positions which may help.
If the pain seems to come on during sleep, and especially when dreaming, it may be time to investigate knowledge therapy. Remember that sleep is a time for the body to rest and if this activity causes symptomatic escalation illogically, then the underlying source may not be physical.