Medications That Improve Sleep and Reduce Chronic Back Pain
Some medications can help you get sleep while helping with your chronic back pain. They should be used as part of a more comprehensive and widespread program of pain management and only under the direction of your doctor. The goal of medication should be to help you develop a more normal sleep pattern.
Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin, Tylenol (acetaminophen), or Advil or Motrin IB (ibuprofen) can be effective for short-term use. These drugs are also available in a "PM" version that includes a medicine to help you sleep. Naproxen sodium (Aleve) is long-lasting and may offer pain relief throughout the night. Use these medications only as directed.
Newer sedatives, including Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata, are prescription medicines that can help you sleep.
Prescription drugs for back pain include antidepressants, such as doxepin or Cymbalta, or a medicine that combines antidepressant and pain reliever effects, such as amitriptyline, or a muscle relaxant, such as cyclobenzapine (Flexeril).
The goal of medication should be to help you develop a more normal sleep pattern.
Lifestyle Changes for Chronic Back Pain and Sleep Problems
Here are some tips for getting a good night's sleep with chronic back pain:
Minimize stress. Stress is the major cause of insomnia. It is also associated with chronic back pain.
Limit or eliminate caffeine. Even moderate caffeine use can cause insomnia and sleep disturbances.
Avoid eating heavily before bedtime. A heavy meal can cause acid reflux (heartburn) and keep you awake.
Don't self-medicate with alcohol. It's worth restating that alcohol impairs the quality of sleep.
Do some soothing exercises. Try relaxation techniques and ask your health provider or physical therapist about helpful exercises that you can do to help your back before going to bed.
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 is best for most people. The key is to use whatever is comfortable for you. If your mattress is too firm, you can add an egg crate mattress pad. Pillows come in all shapes and sizes. Find the one that's right for you.
Sleep in a comfortable position, although try not to sleep on your stomach. It can cause you to arch your back. Bending backwards often aggravates chronic back pain. To break the habit, wear a sleep shirt with a pocket in front and put a tennis ball in it. For most people, the best position is to lie on your side in a fetal position with a pillow between your legs. If you prefer to lie on your back, put a pillow under your knees.
Establish a bedtime routine. Try to go to bed at the same time each night. Follow a routine, such as setting the alarm, putting on your pajamas, and brushing your teeth. Do not read, work, or watch TV in bed.