How to Sleep With Upper Back Pain: 8 Tips

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how to sleep with upper back pain
Author Name: Beth Rush
Date: Monday October 31, 2022

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Chronic pain presents a pressing challenge. You need to sleep if you hope to heal your body. However, finding the right position can seem impossible. Determining the underlying cause can help, as can talking to your doctor. However, these eight helpful tips for how to sleep with upper back pain can also help you achieve a well-deserved night’s rest. 

What Causes Upper Back Pain? 

Learning the underlying cause of your upper back pain can help you get your sleep. The right daytime therapy, medication or both can significantly relieve symptoms. If you’re fortunate enough to have a doctor, discuss the following possibilities, filling them in on your unique history of car crashes or other accidents. 

  • Poor posture: If you sit slump-shouldered over your desk, it creates unnatural pressures on your body. 
  • Improper lifting technique: If you spend a lot of time in the gym, the wrong techniques can bring injury. 
  • Overuse: Did you just move an entire house by yourself? If so, that’s your explanation. 
  • Accidents: A car crash or a fall can crush bones, injure nerve tissue, discs, ligaments, tendons and muscle.s 
  • Arthritis: Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can affect the spine. Ankylosing spondylitis is a special form of arthritis caused by an autoimmune disease that can cause significant pain and deformity. 
  • Herniated and degenerated discs: Although disc disease typically impacts your mid to lower spine, it occasionally causes problems up top. 
  • Fibromyalgia: This condition causes widespread body pain that concentrates along trigger points, two of which may lie within your mid to upper back. 
  • Spinal deformity: Congenital deformities can likewise cause suffering and pain. 

Your doctor will perform tests such as a CT scan or an MRI to check for injuries or deformities of your spine. They may also evaluate your mobility and inquire about a family history of arthritis and other chronic conditions that might be responsible for your pain. 

It might take a while to confirm your diagnosis. For example, fibromyalgia was once treated as a disease of exclusion and some doctors might remain hesitant to apply the label until they rule out other causes. Talk to them about how your pain impacts your sleep. They may be able to prescribe you something to help you get your Zzz’s, easing one symptom while you work together on a treatment plan for the underlying problem.

8 Tips for Sleeping With Upper Back Pain 

However, not everyone has access to a health care professional. What can you do while you wait to go to the doctor — or if you can’t see one? The following tips may help ease you into dreamland. 

1. Unplug 

This tip is trickier than it sounds if you have worked from home since the pandemic began. It’s understandable to grab your tablet or laptop to knock one more item off your to-do list when you can’t sleep. However, doing so could keep you awake even longer. Your brain can’t differentiate the blue-light wavelength from the sun’s rays, making your biological clock chime the “wake up” signal. 

2. Drink a Relaxing Brew

No, this tip doesn’t mean reaching for a nightcap. While alcohol might make you fall under, it won’t keep you asleep. Instead, you’ll wake up midway through the night. However, some herbs have a decided calmative effect on your body and mind. Chamomile and lavender are popular choices. Kava works as both a sedative and muscle relaxant, helpful if spasms make sleep difficult. 

3. Stretch

Although yoga is thousands of years old, scientists still don’t fully understand why stretching feels so good. It relieves tension and can help ease cramps and spasms. It also encourages fluid flow to the inflamed area, carrying away toxins and filling it with fresh oxygen and nutrients. 

4. Meditate

Your mind and body share an intricate connection. While it might sound new-agey, studies show that meditation can ease chronic pain. A recent analysis of 38 random controlled styles showed a small but statistically significant improvement in symptoms and improved overall quality of life. 

5. Keep It Cool 

You sleep best in cooler temperatures of around 65 degrees. However, that can make getting out of bed miserable, especially if you have arthritis that gets worse in the cold. If your home didn’t come with a programmable thermostat, consider investing in one. That way, you can set the temperature to rise before you awaken — it can even double as a sensory alarm clock. 

6. Bring on the Pillows 

The right position can help you fall under and pillows can help you find it. Placing an extra one between your knees can help alignment if you’re a side sleeper. Belly sleeping is ill-advised for folks with upper back pain, as you have to turn your neck to the side, creating strain. However, if it’s the only way you can sleep, try placing a thin one under your head and another under your hips to minimize pressure. 

7. Ice or Fire? 

Either heat or cold may help, depending on the underlying cause of your pain. Muscle spasms and inflammatory arthritis tend to respond better to heat. However, acute injuries require ice. Likewise, people with spinal injuries might find relief from a cold pack. 

8. Try Compression 

Compression helps some inflammatory conditions, especially if poor alignment or posture contributes to your pain. You can find single or double-shoulder compression sleeves that help you sit up straighter during the day. Wearing one at night might make you more comfortable. 

How to Sleep With Upper Back Pain 

Chronic pain is a catch-22. You need rest to recover, but finding sleep can prove elusive when every position you try is uncomfortable. 

Your doctor is your first stop for relief. However, you can also try the above tips for sleeping with upper back pain to get your Zzz’s while you wait for an appointment. 

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