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sleeping tips for chronic shoulder & back pain

Sleeping Tips for Chronic Shoulder & Back Pain

by Wasifa Ahmad Hasan

Put your hands up if you have chronic shoulder pain. Now put your hands up if you have chronic back pain. How about both?
If you have experienced one or both of these symptoms you must know how difficult it is to sleep with the pain. You are tossing and turning and unable to find a suitable position to give you comfort. Then you wake up and the lack of sound sleep makes the pain even worse. I can’t count how many nights I have experienced this. It took a lot of trial and error to find some comfortable solution.

Dr Jason Loth

I reached out to Dr. Jason Loth, CCSP, CSCS, CMTA, Co-founder of SpineAlign, Practicing Physician and Owner at Nevy Health. He has received his Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician degree from Logan College of Chiropractic and has Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Certified Metabolic Typing Advisor degrees. Dr. Loth understands, more than most, the absolute importance of sleeping in a correct posture. It’s just as important to sleep in the correct posture as it is to walk and sit. In his own words, he is going to share some sleeping tips for chronic shoulder & back pain.

SC: What are the best practices for having a healthy sleep routine?

Dr. Loth: A good sleep routine will need to have consistency, be easily achieved, and produce optimal sleep.  Each person is different and will find what works best for them.  This may take some trial and error to achieve a great sleep routine but is worth the effort.  Some of the items listed below can help your sleep routine.

GET DAILY EXERCISE – As a sports medicine specialist in Mesa, Arizona, I understand the importance of daily exercise. Exercise helps to produce melatonin which improves overall sleep quality.  As little as 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity done five times a week will make a difference.  For some people exercise at night isn’t optimal because it can overstimulate your body. 

MAINTAIN PROPER SLEEP POSTURE – Sleep should be comfortable and encourage healing and recovery as well — it’s all about proper spinal alignment. When your body is in its most natural, relaxed position it will allow for maximum recovery and energy regeneration. You’ll wake up feeling more refreshed.  Sleep either on your back or on your side but never on your stomach.

MAKE YOUR ROOM DARK – Even with the lights off, you can find areas of your room with significant light from electronics and streetlamps outside your window. Light makes us wake and alert while darkness tells our brain to create melatonin, the sleep hormone. Make sure that your mobile phone is off and try to avoid watching tv or being on a computer directly before bed.

FIND THE RIGHT TEMPERATURE – Everyone has their own comfort levels, but generally, people should have their room at 55°F or higher with a maximum temperature of 67°F.  Most experts note studies that show that the cooler the room, the better the sleep quality but again this is different for each person.  The rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t toss and turn because you are hot or cold.

SC: How can someone with chronic back and shoulder pain sleep comfortably?

Dr. Loth: There are a few things that should be in place to help with this. 

First, correct sleep posture.  Correct spinal alignment when lying on your side and correct posture on your back without having your head propped up by a pillow.  The back of your head should almost be on the bed to maintain this posture.  With shoulder pain back sleeping is usually optimal as it minimizes pressure on the shoulders.  A slightly softer mattress is preferred by side sleepers who want to feel more relief from pressure points and more support for body contours but everyone is different.  I usually tell people to use the goldilocks rule.  Not too firm that the muscles can’t relax but also not too soft that you don’t get support. 

The second thing is having a great supportive mattress and pillow.  Make sure the mattress isn’t too old and still supports well.  The materials that I believe work the best to offer this support come from a hybrid mattress with good breathable, dense foams that dissipate heat.  These foams supported by pocketed individual coils in my opinion function the best to give support and comfort.   The reason people should look for comfort and support is so they sleep aligned, and undisturbed throughout the night. When the spine is in proper sleep alignment, the person will have a more restorative sleep by allowing our body and mind to optimally cycle through all four stages including REM sleep without interruption.

SC: What should we be mindful of when choosing sleeping essentials- mattresses, pillows, sheets, etc.? 

Dr. Loth: In a nutshell – Support, comfort, correct posture, and temperature regulation- these 4 must be kept in consideration sleeping with chronic shoulder and back pain.

The SpineAlign’s Luxury Hybrid mattress is a one-of-a-kind sleep system that is specifically engineered to put your body in its most natural, relaxed position to allow maximum recovery and energy regeneration. The mattress utilizes a proprietary hybrid technology and comes in 3 different firmness levels that will work for every type of sleeper.  It also contains copper and gel-infused foams that divert heat away from the sleeper to maintain a comfortable temperature throughout the night. The responsive design of this mattress equally distributes and minimizes pressure, adjusting to your body as you move and supporting your spine while you sleep.

The SpineAlign pillow technology will help you get the best sleep possible by focusing on restorative sleep through proper sleep posture. While other pillows come in multiple sizes and shapes, the SpineAlign pillow is one adjustable size.  It has wider edges to accommodate side sleepers and the middle area dips to encase the head and neck area of a back sleeper.  The pillow is also fully customizable as it is made with zippers on the back of the pillow to adjust, add or remove fill as needed to help you achieve the correct sleeping posture.

SC: Last but not least, please share your top 5 tips for a restful sleep.

Dr. Loth: In addition to the recommendations above, here are some more sleeping tips for chronic shoulder & back pain:

EAT AND DRINK EARLY – Eating habits also impact your circadian rhythm.  Try and finish dinner three hours before bedtime. This will allow your body enough time to digest the meal.  Avoid caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, or energy drinks afternoon if possible.  Caffeine can take several hours to wear off and is known to keep people awake.

STAY ON SCHEDULE – Studies have shown that if you want to create a proper sleep schedule, you should choose a time to go to bed.  Even on the weekends, stick to this schedule. Avoid staying up extra late or sleeping in for more than two hours. A regular schedule will allow your internal clock to settle into a routine and over time you’ll more naturally be tired and awake.

DRINK MORE WATER – Drink at least 75% of your body weight in ounces of water per day as hydration helps your metabolic process and helps the overall health of your cells. 

MAINTAIN PROPER SLEEP POSTURE – Make sure you sleep with the correct posture in either the side or back position but never on your stomach.

CHANNEL YOUR STRESS –  Sleep can be severely disrupted by stress.  Channeling your stress can be done in many ways.  Here are some quick tips for stress management below.  

  • The first is to have a positive attitude. Try to find the best even the hard times. 
  • Do some deep breathing.  
  • Read a good book. 
  • Pray- put your trust in the Lord and get spiritual peace.  
  • Complement at least one person each day.  This is great to be done in general but also gets you to start thinking of positive thoughts and loving others which helps balance your stress hormones.  

Thank you Dr. Loth for sharing these valuable sleeping tips for chronic shoulder & back pain.
His work can be found on Facebook, Instagram and website www.spinealign.com.

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