Chronic back pain

Tips for a better night’s sleep when suffering from chronic back pain.

Chronic back pain can affect people of all ages. Constant pain may lead to both physical and emotional symptoms such as irritability and feeling tired. Back pain not only affects sleep, but the quality of sleep. Poor sleep may lead to actually hurting more as muscles and joints are not able to get that nighttime relief.   

The good news is that with proper exercise, a firm mattress and a nutritionally healthy diet, the pain will decrease. 

Michigan State University Extension suggests these tips on improving sleep:

  • Strengthening and stretching – It is important to complete strengthening exercises at least twice a day (morning and evening). Lay flat on the floor, stretch your arms out, bend your knee and bring your leg over your opposite leg. Do this with each side a few times. As you get stronger, you will feel the difference.
  • Firm mattress - A firm mattress is a very good investment. When you go to sleep, sleep on your side and put a pillow between your legs. This helps your spine stay straight. If you must sleep on your back, roll a pillow up lengthwise and place it under your knees. Again, this will help keep your spine straight without pressure on it.
  • Eating a proper diet – Eating a proper diet helps everyone physically and mentally. Food fuels and helps repair your cells. Refer to to see portions sizes and ideas on cooking healthy meals that the entire family will enjoy.
  • Enlist your healthcare team – Pain management sometimes takes an entire team. Always enlist the help and support of your healthcare team when starting any physical activity or dietary changes.

To maintain and improve your sleep, the CDC recommends assessing your sleep habits:

  • Are you going to bed at the same time each night and rising at the same time each morning?
  • Are you sleeping in a quiet, dark and relaxing environment, which is neither too hot nor too cold?
  • Have you made your bed comfortable?
  • Do you use the bedroom only for sleeping and not for other activities, such as reading, watching TV or using the computer? 
  • Do you avoid large meals before bedtime?

Do you avoid caffeine and alcohol in the late evening? MSU Extension offers a Matter of Balance class and a Walk with Ease class in all areas of the state. Both of these classes are endorsed by the Arthritis Foundation and the National Council on Aging. Extension also offers Evidence Based Chronic Pain Management Classes through The Self-Management Resource Center.

For more tips on health and nutrition if you suffer from a chronic disease, visit Michigan State University Extension Chronic Disease website.

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