Lower back pain is something that most people will face at some point in their lives. Maybe it's a temporary pain related to a recent injury or strain. Perhaps it's something that's been creeping up on you for years. Your lower back is at the center of your body. Not only does it support your entire upper body, but your lower back is also subject to the alignment of your legs. That means that if there is anything wrong from your shoulders to your feet, your lower back may suffer the consequences. Part of that is having a hard time getting to sleep. Back pain keeps many people awake at night, but there are things you can do to reduce the pain and finally get a good night's sleep.
Join us as we explore the causes of lower back pain and some things you can do at home to make your life and sleep quality much more enjoyable.
Causes of Lower Back Pain
Supporting the Upper Body
Lower back problems come from many sources and, oddly enough, injury is one of the least likely reasons. If you slouch your shoulders or spine, your back may hurt because your spine is not properly supporting the weight. If you have weak upper back or core muscles, your lower back will have to pick up the slack. But even more notably is what happens when lower body troubles start to cause back pain.
People with flat feet are much more likely to experience lower back problems because their standing posture is damaged by the inward roll of the ankle when standing straight. Those with knee problems may walk with an uneven gait, causing a lack of symmetry in hip movement, which puts stress on the lower back. Along the same lines, hip troubles or having one leg longer than the other can also cause your lower back to hurt.
Injury and Environment
The third kind of lower back pain is temporary or casual. Injuries can and often do cause severe back pain, especially if you wrench your back trying to pick something up. But while most people know how to address a back injury, many miss the signs that their environment is causing back problems. From uncomfortable chairs to old mattresses, there might be an every-day factor causing your back pain to manifest or worsen.
And, unfortunately, if the cause of your lower back problem is a regular part of your life, so too is the pain. The good news is that with the right techniques, you can improve the strength and health of your back, so it is more capable of taking on what you need in day-to-day movement.
1. Know Your Orthopedic Situation
The first and the best thing you can do for yourself is to know why your back hurts. We've mentioned the reasons it could be, but back pain is different for everyone. Is it your feet, your posture, the work you do, or an injury you sustained? The cause of your back pain will always guide you toward the best way to ease that pain.
Sometimes, people already know what the problem is. You may know that you have flat feet and your back hurts after standing for too long or that a past back injury has come back to haunt you. However, for many, lower back pain comes on you slowly, and you may not know the reason. If you don't already know the reason, check with your medical professional to determine the root cause or causes.
2. Find Posture-Supportive Comfy Shoes
You might be surprised just how important shoes are to your lower back. The shape of your shoes will determine how you walk and the alignment of your hips. The alignment of your hips determines the form your lower back takes when you are standing and how it moves when you walk. That, in turn, determines the stress on your lower back muscles.
Even if your feet don't hurt, your shoes could be pushing your hips into an unhealthy configuration for your lower back. Make sure that your shoes are well-padded with the right shape and sufficiency of arch support for your feet. Check your posture when wearing shoes, and if you wear heels, consider lowering the height or switching to flats. For those of you with flat feet, make sure your shoes are providing the right support to keep your ankles from turning inward when you're standing.
3. Take Walks
Many people respond to chronic or growing back pain with bed rest. While this may help in small doses, resting too much can make your back pain worse because your supportive muscles will deteriorate. Don't spend all weekend in bed and don't try to sit every chance you get. Instead, take those new subtly orthopedic shoes and go on a relaxed walk at least once a day.
Only remaining mobile will help build your back muscles and work your hips in a way that can release built-up tension. Take a walk on your lunch break or treat your dog to a delightful evening walk after you come home from work. Making a no-rush walk part of your routine can help your back pain, along with exercises that strengthen your side and back muscles like twists.
4. Lie Flat and Prop Your Knees
When your back starts to hurt, often the only thing you want to do is lie down. However, you may find that lying on your back isn't quite as relaxing as you'd hoped. The fact of the matter is that lying flat on your back isn't flat on your back. It may sound funny, but your booty can and will get in the way of setting your lower back completely flat.
That is why the real relaxing position is to lay on your back with your knees propped up. It swivels your bottom up and settles your lower back flat on the floor or mattress without the need for additional lumbar support. Many people with back problems sleep with a pillow under their knees and for a quick relaxing break, you may go so far as to lay on the floor and set your feet against a wall with your legs up at a right angle.
5. Get a New Firm Mattress
Mattresses are also the enemy of the lower back, especially if it's a mattress you've had for years. If your mattress becomes lumpy or, worse, develops "the valley" in the middle, you are no longer sleeping on a comfortable and supportive surface. When you don't have a supportive sleeping surface, your back winds up twisted or contorted into an irregular shape for hours while you sleep.
Getting a new mattress of the same type could be a surprisingly effective fix to your lower back problems. However, many people with back problems find that a firmer mattress also provides an improvement. A mattress that is too soft can allow your back to sink into a weak position during sleep, while a firm mattress will enable you to keep your back flat while still enjoying the comfort of a pillow top.
6. Find the Right Ergonomic Chair
Another external cause of back pain is your office chair. Professionals in many industries spend the majority of the day sitting in the same chair working on the computer or interacting with clients. The chair you sit in, much like your shoes or your bed, determines the alignment of your hips and lumbar support throughout the day.
The wrong chair can leave you aching despite spending the day off your feet. However, many people miss that their chair is the problem because it seems comfy enough or might even be ergonomic. But just because it’s ergonomic doesn't necessarily mean the chair is right for you. To be effectively ergonomic, it must be the right size with the lumbar support in the right place for your body.
Lower back pain can stem from all sorts of daily activities or stresses, but ultimately it comes back to haunt you when you're trying to get to sleep at night. With these techniques and others you will pick up along the way, you can relieve back pain and finally get the good night's sleep you've been waiting for. If you'd like more tips on how to improve your sleep quality in every possible way, contact us today!