Eight out of 10 Americans will suffer from back pain at some point in time, and many of those will never see permanent relief. Chronic back pain is a debilitating daily distraction that can damage your ability to work, play, be healthy, and happy. Chronic back pain has a ripple effect in our lives. It can lead to weight gain, irritability, reduced productivity at work, lethargy in relationships and sleepless nights. Unfortunately, for many sufferers, this creates a cycle of discomfort and often depression that can be very challenging to break.
Managing chronic back pain takes a great deal of motivation, dedication and creativity. It sounds hard, especially when you’re experiencing substantial amounts of pain, but it’s not impossible. Once you start exploring healthy pain management habits, you will see a difference. One of the most important to start with is getting a good night’s sleep.
Give your back a break from housework
When your sleep is disrupted by back pain, your body doesn’t have a chance to heal and recover through rest. This means certain household chores and projects need to be avoided. For example, bending over to mop floors can worsen the pain in an already aching lower back. Or pushing a lawn mower through a large yard can add tension and strain to shoulder pain. If you can’t delegate these tasks to your partner, consider hiring lawn care professionals or a cleaning service to take on those chores so your back can heal. The costs can be surprisingly reasonable, too. For instance, most homeowners in and around Chicago spent between $91 and $183 for a deep interior clean.
Purchase a new bed (with a 90 day or longer trial period)
How old is your bed? Do you even know? Most doctors recommend retiring our mattresses after eight to 10 years, but it’s not uncommon for people to go twice that long before rethinking their bedding. Do your research to find a bed that is the right level of firmness and made from materials that will help alleviate pain. For example, memory foam mattresses have been shown to provide the kind of support that helps release strain on the trigger points where pain takes hold. The memory foam mattress even comes with a 20-year warranty! You’ll want to be sure to pick out a mattress that supports the way you sleep, as well — back, stomach or side. When purchasing a new mattress, pick one with a long customer trial period. It can take at least a month before you know if a new mattress is going to help, and sometimes the pain gets worse before it gets better.
Practice yoga before bed
A regular yoga practice can do wonders for your sleep routine. Taking a class or practicing at home can help improve posture and muscle tone, which in turn helps reduce pain. You can also start a restorative yoga practice before bed, emphasizing poses that encourage spinal flexion, a strategy that over time will reduce pain. Plus, the deep stretching that restorative yoga is known for can relax you overall, not just the back, signaling to your body it is time for rest. That will also signal to your mind that you are ready to wind down and let go. A brief meditation after yoga, often called savasana, can help you let go of stress, worry and tension (mental and physical) that keeps many of us tossing and turning at night.
Studies show that back pain is one of the leading health concerns among Americans. Our lifestyles — slouching on couches, hunched over computers, lugging heavy loads — have set us up to carry more pain than ever before. Focus on health and healing by resting when you need to and stretching when you can. If you start a daily habit of this, not only will you likely be able to reduce pain, but you’ll also have an easier time improving sleep.