Back pain can make your day uncomfortable, and make getting a good night's sleep even worse. It is a daily fact of life for millions of Americans each year. One study reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that a quarter of adults in the U.S. reported having lower back pain in the 3 prior months.
For those who suffer from short or long-term back pain, the immediate desire is relief, or the ability to manage the aches and pains, which are at the very least, uncomfortable, and can significantly impact one’s quality of life negatively.
Types of Back Pain
Back pain can manifest itself in many different ways, and for a variety of reasons. To classify back pain, it is usually described as acute or chronic.
Acute Back Pain
Acute back pain comes on quickly, and is usually a sharp, intense pain. In many cases, acute back pain is directly related to a specific event, such as falling, an uncomfortable turning of the body, or lifting a heavy object. It is pain that is usually caused by injuries to muscles and/or ligaments.
Chronic Back Pain
Chronic back pain on the other hand, lasts three months or more, and persists, despite attempts at treatment. It can be a sharp pain, but it can manifest as stiffness or a dull ache. Sometimes it can be related to a previous injury, but it usually doesn't have a clear or immediate cause.
Another way to differentiate back pain is based on the affected part of the back. These include:
Lower Back Pain
This is by far the most common type of back pain. It affects the lower back, which includes the lower five vertebrae (L1-L5) of the spine. Pain in this area is the second most common reason people see a doctor after cold and flu symptoms.
Lower back pain can be related to strain of the muscle, and more complicated problems of the nerves, organs, and vertebrae. Examples of possible causes are compression fractures, herniated discs, or herniated discs and a narrowing of the spine (spinal stenosis).
The lower back has more curvature and freedom of movement than other parts of the back, making it more prone to injuries related to movement and posture, including positioning during sleep. If a mattress does not provide enough support, the lower back can twist or bend unnaturally. For example, if the bed is too soft or worn, the hips that carry more weight can sink deep into the mattress, and shift with the lower back.
When this or any other misaligned position is maintained for a long period at night, it can directly contribute to back pain.
Pain in the Middle of the Back
Pain in the middle of the back is much less common than pain in the lower back. The middle back is usually identified above the lumbar spine, but below the rib cage. The anatomy of this area is designed to promote stability over flexibility, reducing the propensity for motion-related injuries as against the lower back.
Although pain in the middle of the back is less common, it can still occur due to a variety of conditions. Nerve compression, disc damage, fractures, and muscle or ligament injuries can occur in this region. This type of pain can also be caused by serious underlying conditions, such as cancers or organ problems, and it's important for a doctor to investigate it, especially if it occurs alongside other unexplained symptoms.
Because of the amount of time you spend lying down while you sleep, these alignment issues can often be related to a mattress that doesn't support the body properly, and dampens a person's pressure points.
Pain in the Upper Back
This type of pain is less common than that of the low back, but occurs more often than middle back pain. It affects the thoracic region, which runs from the lower rib cage to the lower part of the neck, and involves the 12 vertebrae that connect to the ribs. As with pain in the middle back, the reduced flexibility of the bones and muscles in this region makes movement-based stresses less common than in the lower back.
Pain in the upper back can occur for reasons similar to pain in the middle back (problems with nerves, discs, muscles, ligaments, or vertebrae), but there is a greater chance that this pain is related to a potentially serious health problem.
Pain in the upper back and shoulders can also occur due to an incorrect or unsupported body position. If a pillow isn't the right height, or if a mattress doesn't fit properly on your shoulders, you can have excessive pressure on the anatomy of the chest region, which increases the risk of back pain.
This category of pain can occur for a number of reasons. A lot of people develop strains due to poor posture, which can be particularly problematic for people who work at their desks. As with back pain, vertebral problems, such as intervertebral disc problems, can cause neck pain.
Another important consideration is the pillow that you are using. A pillow should provide sufficient support and height to keep the neck in line with the spine and hips to relieve pain. Other factors at play include age, physical activity, and previous injuries with long-lasting effects.
Back Pain Causes
Before seeking out treatment options, it’s a good idea to explore many of the potential sources of back pain among the general population—especially considering that such a large chunk of the population is susceptible to it. Back pain can be attributed to any number of different reasons, which include many of the following:
- Employment related injuries
- Repetitive motions
- Poor posture
- Sleeping on a poor mattress
- Improper lifting practices
- Muscle strain
- Sports injuries
- Auto accidents
- Medical conditions
The list goes on and on. For those who suffer from back pain, it is best to get to the heart of the potential causes, especially to rule out potential medical conditions before dismissing the pain to something as simple as a pulled muscle or a bad night’s sleep — especially if the pain continues for more than a couple of days.
Back Pain Symptoms
The major symptom of back pain involves pain in any part of the back, and sometimes even in the buttocks and legs. Some back problems can cause pain in other parts of the body, depending on which nerves are affected.
Pain is usually not treated, but if it happens with any of the following symptoms, it is advisable to see your doctor:
- weight loss
- inflammation or swelling in the back
- back pain that persists when lying down, and where resting doesn't help
- pain in the leg
- pain occurring below the knees
- a recent blow, injury, or trauma to the back
- urinary incontinence
- difficulty urinating
- fecal incontinence (inability to have control over bowel movements)
- numbness you experience around the genitals
- numbness around the anus
- numbness around the buttocks
How Does Back Pain Affect Sleep?
Back pain is a common problem that affects about 80% of adults at some point in time, according to the American Chiropractic Association. It can make all kinds of daily activities difficult, including walking, working, sitting, and lifting even light objects.
Unfortunately, back pain can also contribute to poor sleeping patterns by making it difficult to find a comfortable position to fall asleep and sleep through the night.
Research studies have found that more than half of people with back pain report having difficulty sleeping. These adverse effects on sleep occur in people with sudden, short-term (acute) back pain, and in people who have long-lasting (chronic) back pain.
People with pain tend to have a fragmented sleep that occurs when waking up at night. After waking up, constant pain and discomfort can make it difficult to get back to sleep. Pain can also contribute to stress, depression, and anxiety, which can affect the quality of sleep.
How Different Types of Mattresses Affect Back Pain
The type of mattress material you opt for may be determined by your back condition, your current state of health, and the different sleeping requirements for people who would rather sleep on their back, side, or stomach.
Latex is a highly recommended material that is also considered to be one of the best options for chronic back pain. The most interesting thing is the fact that it is more responsive and generally cooler. However, it's usually not that contoured, either.
Latex mattresses do well for people with back problems, and around 33% of bed owners say the material provides some level of pressure relief.
When it comes to innerspring mattress, you need to keep in mind that there are orthopedic solutions that are known to provide full body support. These solutions usually use the popular coil system.
They are mattresses that contain hundreds or thousands of coils, each individually wrapped. The coils act independently and autonomously, in order to improve the contouring ability of the mattress. However, some may be a bit lacking in this regard when compared to regular memory foam options.
Memory Foam Mattress
Research shows that people with back problems generally prefer to use a memory foam mattress to solve them. It has been shown that most of such people with painful experiences that led to back pain opt for memory foam mattress because it brings them satisfaction and pain or pressure relief.
A 5 PCF memory foam mattresses should provide optimal spine alignment and support. Whereas, a 4 PCF medium density foam offers a slightly lower contour, and low density 2 to 3 PCF foams are unlikely to be as effective as their predecessors.
Airbeds do not provide the type of contouring offered by latex or memory foam. However, they are the kind of beds with air components that can be mechanically adjusted to more or less fullness and compactness. The ability to customize your bed can be a huge benefit when trying to get good support to relieve lower or upper back pain.
Conventional hybrid mattresses usually have an air bottom with a soft latex top or memory foam. The blend of these two materials provides comfort and support to relieve back pain, and help you sleep well. It is advisable to look for a hybrid with multiple layers of foam or latex for maximum comfort. Hybrid latex mattresses, such as The Luxury Bliss Hybrid Natural Mattress from PlushBeds, are considered one of the best mattresses for back pain.
Can Something as Simple as a Mattress Relieve Back Pain?
For many years, people who suffered from chronic back pain were recommended to seek out the best firm mattress their budgets could afford. However, this may not be the case for everyone, as those who are aging may need a different type of support to help prevent back pain.
According to WebMD Health News, researchers in Spain have determined that people who use medium-firm mattresses are “twice as likely to report improvements in lower back pain compared to those who sleep on more firm bedding.”
Of course, the debate still rages between orthopedic surgeons and chiropractors. Orthopedic surgeons by and large recommend firmer mattresses to patients while chiropractors argue that moderately firm mattresses work best because the spine needs support that has a little bit of give, in order to support its curves. The equalized support of a medium-firm mattress is much better for aging spines.
The medium-firm mattress is also the best mattress for side sleepers with back pain who need the “curve support”, even more than those who sleep on their backs. Sleeping on your stomach is not recommended for back pain sufferers, as this will often lead to a completely misaligned spine, and, by default, more back pain.A Natural Latex mattress for back pain provides a healthy compromise between the firmness you need to properly support the proper alignment of your spine, without it being so firm that it causes additional strain on sensitive pressure points. Another benefit to latex is that they tend to last longer than traditional mattresses before their resilience and structure gives way. At the very least, they are worth more than a second glance as you explore your mattress options in an effort to relieve back pain.
What People with Back Pain Should Look For in a Mattress
Purchasing a new mattress is a very personal decision, but there are a few considerations that back pain sufferers should care about when choosing a mattress for back pain.
It is imperative that people with back pain rest on a supportive mattress that maintains spine alignment. The alignment of the spine ensures that the natural "S" curve of the spine is maintained, which brings about pressure relief on the back, and promotes a healthy posture. So you may be wondering: can a soft mattress cause back pain? The answer is yes. By resting on an unbearable mattress that causes your hips or other body parts to sink too deep into the bed, you run the risk of experiencing spinal misalignment, exacerbating any existing pain, and potentially causing new pain to form.
It was once thought that a firmer mattress would provide the best support for the back, but this is not always the case. "While it's common to believe that a firm mattress is the best mattress for back pain, that's not always the case," says Dr. Luis Peña-Hernández, MD, FCCP, of the Pulmonary Institute for Critical Care and Disorders. A firm mattress does not always provide an adequate contour for the spine, which can cause further problems. A better approach is to select a mattress that aligns with your unique preferences and sleep needs.
Sleep Tips for Dealing With Back Pain
Sleeping well is vital to your health, and an important part of your overall well-being. Studies found that Americans who rated their quality of life as very good or excellent slept an average of 18 to 23 minutes longer than those who rated their health and quality of life poorer.
If you have a hard time closing your eyes due to back pain, try these tips which can make sleeping a little easier.
● Get a suitable mattress
The type of mattress you need depends on your body type. A soft mattress may be fine if your hips are wider than your waist, as it will allow your spine to stay straight while you sleep. If your hips and waist are already aligned, a firmer mattress may be better because it will give you more support.
Doctors have always recommended firm mattress for back pain, but research shows that people with low back pain sleep worse on mattresses that are too firm than other types. But, soft mattresses can also cause problems. You can sink too deep, and your joints can twist, and cause more pain.
Try sleeping on different types of mattresses, at a friend's house or hotel, to see what is best. If you think a firmer mattress can help, put a sheet of plywood between the mattress and the bed spring, or try a few nights with the mattress on the floor to see if the extra support makes a difference to your pain.
● Find an appropriate position
Some sleeping positions can help relieve back pain, so find the most comfortable one. Try sleeping with a pillow between or under your legs for extra support. If you are a side sleeper, place the pillow between your knees, and gently pull them towards your chest. If you like sleeping on your back, try using the pillow under your knees, or wrap a small towel and place it under your lower back.
Avoid sleeping on your stomach, as this causes severe back strain. If this is the only position you can sleep in, place a pillow under your stomach to relieve pressure on your back.
● Exercise your core
Regular physical activity is a great way to improve sleep quality. But doing exercises aimed at strengthening the core, muscles of the abdomen, hips, lower back, and pelvis can also help relieve back pain.
Increasing the strength and flexibility of these muscles can reduce the chances of straining your back, and having muscle spasms at night. Maintaining a plank position with your hands under your shoulders and your legs straight can help tense these muscles. Start by holding the pose for 15-30 seconds, and try to maintain proper alignment, with your body in a straight line, and your abdominal muscles engaged.
● Get up and out of bed carefully
It may seem obvious, but be very careful getting on and off the bed. Leaning forward at the waist, or making sudden and quick movements can cause more back pain.
It’s advisable to take your time, roll to your side, and use your arms to push up. Then you can swing your legs off the bed to get up slowly. Reverse your movements when it's time to go to bed in the evening.
● Try the gentle stretches of yoga before bed
Research has shown that yoga or intensive stretching can help reduce lower back pain. It can also help reduce stress, and help you sleep better.
Talk to your doctor about which positions are safe to practice, and which ones won't make your pain worse. It may be helpful to start by using yoga accessories, such as blocks and pillows for additional support, so that you can comfortably hold positions. And, taking some yoga classes with an instructor to make sure you are performing the positions and breathing correctly, which is the key to relaxation, is also not a bad idea.
Lifestyle Changes for Chronic Back Pain and Sleep Problems
Below are some basic lifestyle tips for getting a good night's sleep, and dealing with chronic back pain:
- Minimize stress: Stress is the main cause of insomnia. It's also linked to chronic back pain.
- Limit or eliminate caffeine: Even moderate consumption of caffeine can lead to insomnia and sleep disorders.
- Avoid overeating before bed: A heavy meal can cause acid reflux (heartburn), and keep you awake.
- Do not self-medicate with alcohol: It's worth noting that alcohol affects the quality of sleep.
- Choose a comfortable mattress and pillow: You don't have to spend thousands of dollars on a mattress. Studies show that a medium-firm mattress works best for most people. The key is to use what is comfortable for you. If your mattress is too firm, you can add an egg mattress topper. Pillows come in all shapes and sizes. Find the right one for you.
The Best Sleeping Positions for Lower Back Pain
An interesting fact is that most back pain isn't caused by serious medical conditions, such as cancer or arthritis. Instead, it is often caused by stress or strain from poor posture, awkward sleeping positions, and other lifestyle habits. Below are the best sleeping positions to try if you have back pain, as well as some other things you can do to get a better night's rest.
Sleep on the side putting a pillow right between your two knees:
If you are lying down on the back, and it feels so uncomfortable, try moving to the side position: Let your left or right shoulder make enough contact with your mattress, together with remaining of that particular side of the body. Put a pillow close to your two knees.
If a gap exists between the mattress and your waist, you may use a pillow for additional support. Whether you choose to use just one pillow, or go for two, you need to avoid the temptation of always sleeping with the same position. Sleeping always on same side can cause problems like scoliosis or muscle imbalance.
How is this sleeping position helpful? Choosing to sleep on only your side won't make you get or feel any better. It's actually having the pillow placed between your two knees that is more helpful.
Sleep in a fetal position on your side:
If you’ve developed a herniated disc, you can try going to bed on your side, curled up in the fetal position: Lie down using your back, and gently roll to your side.
Bend your knees towards the chest, and mildly bend your torso towards the knees.
Don’t forget to switch sides at intervals to avoid every form of imbalance.
Sleep on your stomach with a pillow under your abdomen
You probably have heard the fact that being a stomach sleeper can cause back pain. In part, this is the truth because it can increase the stress on the neck. But if you're resting lying on your stomach, you don't need to force another type of position. Rather, you can:
Put a pillow beneath your lower abdomen and pelvis as a form of pressure relief on the back.
Depending mainly on how you really feel in this position, you can choose whether or not to place a pillow below your head.
Sleep with your back using a pillow beneath your knees
For some individuals, going to bed on their back might be the right position for relieving back pain. It involves:
Lying down with your back.
Put a pillow under your knees, and maintain a neutral spine. The pillow can be essential - it functions to maintain your back’s lower curve.
You can also keep a small towel beneath your back for additional support.
Sleep on your back in a lying position
Are you more comfortable taking a nap in a good recliner? While having a good sleep in a chair may not be the most suitable option for back pain, this position can be quite helpful if you suffer from spondylolisthesis. Consider getting an adjustable bed, so you can sleep with better support and alignment.
What Makes PlushBeds Mattresses Stand Out?
A good night's sleep plays a significant role in the enhancement of our well-being as humans, which means that a comfortable mattress is one of the most important tools for a healthy lifestyle. PlushBeds mattress for back pain are free from harmful chemicals commonly found in today's bedding. With impressive safety, environmental, and health certifications for their luxuriously comfortable mattresses, PlushBeds mattresses are offered in different forms to effectively deal with back pain, and ensure users enjoy a sound sleep at all times.
PlushBeds collections of mattresses for back pain include Natural and Organic Mattresses, Memory foam mattresses, Sofa bed mattresses, and RV mattresses, which are all meticulously sourced and designed to create the ultimate sleeping experience for users.
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