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Sleeping Easier with Back Pain

Is back pain keeping you awake? Try these seven tips for sound sleep.
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Back pain can make it hard to get a good night's sleep. But by experimenting with a few different simple sleep strategies, you can help ease your back pain and prevent future problems.

"First you have to start off with the understanding that there is no perfect position for everybody to sleep in," says Joel M. Press, MD, medical director of the Center for Spine, Sports & Occupational Rehabilitation at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. "Generally you have to listen to your body."

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Understanding Back Pain -- Prevention

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is key to helping prevent back pain. Excess weight puts a strain on the back, so maintaining a healthy weight is important. Regular exercise, especially core work, keeps the abdominal and back muscles firm. Smoking ages the spine, so avoid smoking and inhaling secondhand smoke. Practicing good posture is another way to help prevent back pain. First, analyze your posture by standing with your heels against a wall. Your calves, buttocks, shoulders, and the back of your...

Read the Understanding Back Pain -- Prevention article > >

Here are some sleeping tips Press recommends:

  • Put a pillow between your legs. For people with back and hip related problems, this can help take the tension off the low back and hips.

  • When choosing a mattress, find the hardest bed in the store and then go down a notch or two. "In general, you want to sleep on a firmer mattress," says Press, "but it doesn't have to be the firmest one."

  • Keep your neck neutral. Use a pillow that fills in the space between your head and shoulders and allows your neck to lie in a neutral position, not bent in one direction or the other.

  • Avoid using heating pads in bed. Lying with your body weight against a heating pad, even a non-electric one, increases the risk of burns to the skin.

  • If a pillow top or egg crate on top of the mattress makes your back feel better, feel free to use it.

  • Establish a good sleep routine. When you don't get enough sleep, the muscles never get a chance to relax and you won't wake up feeling refreshed.

  • If your back pain is still keeping you up at night, talk with your doctor about other treatment options, such as medication or physical therapy.
Reviewed on January 15, 2004
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