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Sleeping Easier with Back Pain

Is back pain keeping you awake? Try these seven tips for sound sleep.
By
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 -- Diagnosis and Treatment

Before a doctor can begin treating back pain, he or she may do tests to diagnose what is causing your problem. Unless you are totally immobilized from a back injury, your doctor probably will test your range of motion and nerve function and press on your back to locate the area of discomfort. Blood and urine tests may be done to be sure the pain is not caused by an infection or other systemic problem. X-rays are useful in pinpointing broken bones or other skeletal defects. To analyze soft-tissue...

Read the Understanding Back Pain -- Diagnosis and Treatment 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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