Protect your sleep to protect your back

Backs LOVE sleep.

Poor sleep (both quality and quantity) is highly predictive of developing and worsening low back pain (see here and here).

Sleep patterns influence our psychological an emotional well-being (mood) which can further sensitise back pain and reduce the ability to cope and tolerate pain. Furthermore, worry and anxiety related to back pain (e.g. attributing the pain experienced when moving/turning over in bed, to damage and harm to the back) further negatively impacts sleep. This pain/damage-related fear results in the muscles becoming tense to ‘protect’ the back and further enhances pain and sensitivity.

Some strategies to develop healthy sleep habits include:

  • Establishing a daily night routine. – Reduce use of electronics in bed.
  • Employ body relaxation, breathing regulation, guided meditation techniques for sleep.
  • When your sleep is affected by postures and movement in bed, remember that the pain is not indicative of damage and moving/turning in a relaxed manner will likely limit pain.

So, rather than adopting movement and behavioural strategies which are commonly assumed to protect your back (for example, avoiding particular movements, not bending or contracting ‘the core’ when moving), but we now actually know are associated with triggering, worsen or prolonging back pain (see here and here)- adopt strategies which enhance the quality and quantity of your sleep to help prevent and manage back pain.

There are multiple factors which are now known to contribute to the development, worsening and maintenance of low back pain. Often, it’s the physical factors (e.g. poor posture, weak core, spinal asymmetry) which patients believe to be the main causes of their back pain. However, we now know that these physical factors play a very limited role in the development of low back pain. Despite this evidence, patients frequently seek out and invest money and time into such treatments, and health professionals continue to deliver ineffective care which focuses on fixing/improving the physical structure, posture and mechanics of the back. We now know that relying on passive biomechanical ‘quick fixes’ is sub-optimal in the management of low back pain, and in some cases can prolong pain further. Research has shown that active strategies to improve physical and psychological/emotional health (e.g. regular exercise, stress management, thinking/cognitive therapy), enhancing self-confidence to move, developing healthy (evidence-based) attitudes beliefs and attitudes through education are some of the most effective approaches to treating and managing low back pain.

I don’t offer any ineffective quick fixes, but I can provide effective evidence-based treatment and advice to help you manage and overcome your back pain, so that you’re able to get on and enjoy life. To book an appointment click here.

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