Essential Ways to Sleep Better Despite Chronic Back Pain

By Dr. Brent Wells, Doctor of Chiropractic

chronic back painWhile everyone has trouble falling asleep now and then, if you find that you are frequently having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep because of back pain, you aren’t alone.

Poor sleep is a well-known cause of a wide range of both psychological and physical effects.  For one thing, it can be nearly impossible to find a comfortable sleeping position.  Another contributing factor is that while gentle exercising and walking can create better sleep, a lack of exercise due to chronic back pain makes sleep more elusive.

The Catch-22

One of the main issues is that sleeping poorly makes back pain worse and the worse your back pain, the less quality sleep you will have.

“Rapid Eye Movement” or REM sleep is one of the deepest, most necessary and health-rejuvenating phases of sleep. Your body may be more sensitive to pain when you can’t get some serious REM sleep.  A lack of quality sleep only increases inflammation, which contributes to pain and can also lead to depression.

Normal Quality Sleeping

Sleep isn’t just a nice past time; it is vital for the body’s overall functioning. Quality sleep, meaning REM sleep, allows the body to rest and conduct its needed functions, such as the removal of old hormones and the creation of new ones, and it can’t do this when the mind is awake.

While there is no true “normal” amount of sleep, most people need between 7 and 9 hours each night. Of course, some seem to operate fine on 6 hours and others need 11, but since one’s sleep requirements change during a person’s lifetime, there is no one perfect number of hours, only what is perfect for you.

Sleeping with Chronic Back Pain

If you suffer from chronic back pain, you might find getting enough quality sleep a real problem.

While it might seem impossible, there are plenty of ways you can try that have been shown to help those with lower back pain or chronic back pain get the sleep they desperately need.

Let me share with you the tips I give my patients when it comes to sleeping with back pain.

Essential Tips for Sleeping with Back Pain

Keep in mind that not everything will work for everyone. If one method doesn’t work for you, don’t be afraid to try something else.

Essential Tip #1- Eat Foods That Are Known to Stop Inflammation

It’s a fact that some foods encourage inflammation while others help to put out that fire. Inflammation causes pain, so the more you can do to stop inflammation, the less pain you will have. Some of the best anti-inflammatory foods include:

  • Green leafy veggies, such as spinach and chard
  • Fatty fish
  • Colorful fruits, such as cherries, blueberries, and strawberries
  • Nuts, including walnuts and almonds

Avoid foods that encourage inflammation such as fried foods, sugary treats, junk food and refined flour goods (such as cookies or white bread).

On a side note, eating more anti-inflammatory foods may not only help reduce your pain, but it can help prevent cardiovascular issues and might also prevent cancer.

Essential Tip #2- Get in at Least Some Stretching and Exercise Daily

chronic back painI know, right about now, you are saying “How can I exercise when my back hurts so much?” This is another terrible Catch-22 in life. You need to exercise and stretch to stop back pain, but exercise and stretching hurt your back.

Nearly everyone can do at least some sort of exercise and stretching. I often recommend yoga stretches to my patients, since it’s a good way to do both. It might not be aerobic, but it will help to strengthen the muscles, as well as stretch them. Once you are feeling stronger, your back pain will be reduced, and you might be able to try some other forms of exercise.

Swimming and water aerobics are also an activity I highly recommend. If these are open at this time in your area, check with your YMCA, YWCA, or other community pools regarding classes.

Essential Tip #3- Try Natural Supplements

There are plenty of supplements that can help to reduce inflammation, as well as promote sleep. Some of the best ones would be calcium and magnesium, which have been proven to induce natural sleep and are directly related to our sleep cycles.

Anti-inflammatory supplements include curcumin, fish oil, ginger, and alpha-lipoic acid, or ALA. If you are unsure about interactions with your current medications or if you want to know more about which supplements might be best for you, consult with your primary care physician or chiropractor.

Essential Tip #4- Time for a Bed Check

chronic back painYou might think that your bed is just fine, but the truth is that most mattresses have a lifespan of only 10 years. If your mattress is more than 10 years old, you aren’t doing your back any favors by sleeping on it.

I know that mattresses can be expensive and if you are wondering which mattress would be best for your back, you might consider the Casper Wave mattress, as recommended by the American Chiropractic Association.

These are not terribly expensive, and you don’t need a fancy box spring or anything other than a flat surface to set it on. Casper also has a generous return policy. I’ve had many clients say that they were skeptics, but after just a few nights with this mattress, they slept like a baby.

Essential Tip #5- Pillow Talk

Many people sleep with the same pillow for decades, but like mattresses, these can wear out in as little as 4 years. If you also experience neck pain along with back pain, your pillow might be to blame. Try different pillows until you find the one that works best for you.

I also recommend body pillows. These long, very flexible pillows can be molded into many positions, allowing you to support your back and reduce back pain.

If you have tried all of the above and you still experience back pain that keeps you awake, it’s time to consult a professional. See your primary care physician or your chiropractor for practical advice and a health checkup.

About the Author:

Dr. Brent Wells founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in 1998. He is a graduate of the University of Nevada where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree before moving on to complete his doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College. The goal for Dr. Wells is to treat Anchorage Alaska patients through physical therapy, chiropractic care, and massage therapy, with care and compassion while providing them with a better quality of life.

Will chronic back pain ever go away?

In this article, Dr. Brent Wells, Doctor of Chiropractic, shares the tips he gives to his patients when it comes to remedying chronic back pain. The article includes how to sleep better, which foods to eat, gentle exercises and stretches, supplements to take, and tips for mattresses and pillows.

Top 3 Anti Inflammatory Foods for Better Sleep, Good Health

anti inflammatory foodsThe Top 3 Anti Inflammatory Foods for Better Sleep and Good Health

Inflammation comes into play in our bodies when bacteria, viruses, damaged cells or unhealthy substances are recognized and attacked by our immune system.  Without immunity and inflammation, healing would not take place.

This system defends our health and is made up of white blood cells called “lymphocyte cells”, “natural killer cells” and others – many of which originate in the bone marrow and then travel in the blood to organs and tissues.

In a healthy body, inflammation smooths the healing process but for some people, the body can become confused and begin to mount a defense against its own tissues.  This can lead to arthritis, celiac disease, irritable bowel disease and other “autoimmune” conditions.  In fact, inflammation has been shown to be at the root of the majority of health conditions we face such as heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and more.

Eating naturally anti-inflammatory foods can reduce the symptoms of inflammation and disease and help to repair and heal the body.  Here are the top three food-based anti inflammatory foods.

Vitamin D Foods

Vitamin D has been the subject of many studies for its potent anti-inflammation properties.  The foods highest in vitamin D include sardines, wild caught salmon, mackerel, herring, maitake mushrooms, cod liver oil, and organic vitamin D fortified milk and yogurt.

A study from the Journal of Investigative Medicine found that vitamin D has important functions beyond those of supporting calcium and bones in the body.  It concluded that vitamin D is a boost to immunity and a deficiency is common in autoimmune disease, where the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells by mistake.

Vitamin D has also been studied for its benefits with sleeplessness and insomnia. The results of a vitamin D study was published in a recent issue of the journal “Medical Hypothesis”.  The researchers followed 1500 patients over a 2 year period. A consistent level of vitamin D was maintained in their blood over many months.

This produced normal sleep in most of the participants, regardless of their type of sleep disorder, which suggests that many types of insomnia may share the same cause.  During the research, the authors discovered the presence of high concentrations of vitamin D “receiving sites” or “receptors” in those areas of the brain that are related to the onset and maintenance of sleep.

Walnuts

A recent research study in the journal “Nutrients” has a lot of good things to say about the benefits of walnuts.  The authors say: “Walnuts could be predicted to be more anti inflammatory than other nuts for two reasons. First, walnuts are the only nuts that contain substantial amounts of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid is a kind of omega-3 fatty acid found in plants).

ALA is described as one of the more anti-inflammatory fatty acids. And second, walnuts are also particularly rich in ellagic acid (a natural plant chemical found in fruits and vegetables), which has shown potent anti-inflammatory properties in experimental studies.”

Eating a handful of walnuts before bedtime may also be a good way to soothe sleeplessness and insomnia due to the melatonin they contain. Russel Reiter, Ph.D., a professor of cellular biology at the University of Texas says: “Relatively few foods have been examined for their melatonin content. Our studies demonstrate that walnuts contain melatonin, that it is absorbed when it is eaten, and that it improves our ability to resist the stress caused by toxic molecules. Walnuts also contain large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to inhibit certain types of cancer and to keep the heart healthy.”

Olive oil

Oleic acid is the main fatty acid found in olive oil.  This substance has been shown to greatly reduce levels of inflammation in the body.  A study from the “Current Pharmaceutical Design” journal writes that “Chronic inflammation is a critical factor in the development of many inflammatory disease states including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, degenerative joint diseases and neurodegenerative diseases. Popular methods to deal with inflammation and its associated symptoms involve the use of non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, however the use of these drugs are associated with severe side effects.”

”Therefore, investigations concerned with natural methods of inflammatory control are warranted. A traditional Mediterranean diet has been shown to confer some protection against chronic diseases through the reduction of pro-inflammatory foods and this has been partially attributed to the high intake of virgin olive oil in this diet. Virgin olive oil contains numerous compounds that exert potent anti-inflammatory actions.”

The anti-inflammatory effects of olive oil also extend to brain health and it’s known to help with depression and insomnia.  Olive oil can help balance hormones and keep the neurotransmitters in the brain functioning well. Neurotransmitters are those molecules that keep the cellular communications moving.

In another study from the journal “Nutrients” researchers found that people who eat a Mediterranean diet of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, legumes and fish have better sleep quality.  In fact, the authors said that “exclusion of no individual component, besides olive oil, showed significant association with the aspects of sleep quality, including sleep duration and efficiency. This suggests that olive oil may play an independent role in sleep quality.”

Olive may accomplish this benefit to good sleep by stabilizing blood sugar levels, calming the heart, inducing relaxation, and cleansing the body of toxins,

Other top anti-inflammation foods include broccoli, green leafy vegetables, blueberries, bok choi, pineapple, coconut oil, turmeric, ginger, wild salmon, beets, garlic, oysters, yogurt and other probiotic dairy foods.  Enjoy a wide variety of them to reduce inflammation, increase overall health, and ensure a good, sound sleep.

This natural health news is provided by Nutrition Breakthroughs, a publisher of nutrition articles and supplier of natural remedies since 2002. Nutrition Breakthroughs makes Sleep Minerals II, the effective natural sleep aid with calcium, magnesium, zinc and vitamin D, and also Joints and More, the natural solution for joint relief, aches and pains, stronger hair and nails and more energy.

What is the most effective natural anti inflammatory?

Vitamin D rich foods such as sardines, wild caught salmon, mackerel, herring, cod liver oil, and organic vitamin D fortified milk and yogurt. Other top ones include natural fats like walnuts and especially olive oil. Additional foods are broccoli, green leafy vegetables, blueberries, pineapple, coconut oil, turmeric, ginger, beets, garlic and oysters.

Can anti inflammatory foods help arthritis?

In a healthy body, inflammation smooths the healing process but for some people, the body can become confused and begin to mount a defense against its own tissues. This can lead to arthritis, celiac disease, irritable bowel disease and other “autoimmune” conditions. Eating naturally anti inflammatory foods can reduce the symptoms of inflammation and help to repair and heal the body.

Do anti inflammatory foods work?

One study from Italy found that an anti inflammatory Mediterranean-type diet reduces inflammation in women with diabetes and also provides cardiovascular benefits and healthier insulin sensitivity. A Mediterranean diet focuses mostly on vegetables, fruit, whole grains, olive oil, legumes and fish. Virgin olive oil in particular, contains numerous compounds that exert potent anti-inflammatory actions in the body.