Healthy Living

What is Nighttime Back Pain?

What is Nighttime Back Pain?

To reduce the pain that they feel during the day, most individuals who experience back pain change their sleeping behaviors.  However, the sleep changes and positions don’t often reduce the pain of those people with nighttime back pain (nocturnal back pain). Sleeping may make them start feeling the pain or increase the pain.

People with nighttime back pain may not feel any pain during the day, but they will most likely experience it during the night.

Nocturnal back pain is a possible problem during the night that can deprive one of a sound sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, approximately two out of three chronic pain victims don’t sleep properly.

Sometimes, one can simply avoid nighttime back pain by sleeping in a comfortable position. This can be achieved by getting a new and comfortable mattress as well as bed pillows.


Nocturnal back pain symptoms

Back and neck pain symptoms lead to anxiety and distress during sleep time. When examining a person with back pain, a doctor mostly inquires about the patient’s position and how they feel as they attempt to sleep.

A patient with back issues will experience back pain that is usually more intense on one side of the body than the other during the night. The patient may also feel pins and needles in both hands as well as in one or both legs. Additionally, someone with nighttime back pain may also experience random senselessness in the lower parts of their legs. 

In most cases, the severity of the symptoms increases if the patient sleeps in a specific position. For instance, individuals experiencing pain in their lower right back typically feel more pain when they lie on their right side or when facing upwards. The pain reduces if they lie on their left side.

You can expect to feel more pain if you lie in a posture that will exert pressure on the injured part of your back. However, you will experience less pain if you lie in a posture that reduces pressure on the part of your back that is in pain.

If you don’t get pain relief even after changing your lying postures during the night, seek medical assistance. The symptoms may be representing a more severe illness.

You should also seek urgent doctor’s advice if you have symptoms that are less severe or disappear during the daytime but recur and worsen during the night.  Although the symptoms may be naturally voluntary, they may also indicate a more severe illness. Always seek medical clarification if you are not sure about the underlying cause.


Causes of nighttime back pain

Just like the usual back pain, the cause of nighttime back pain isn’t always straightforward. Back pain can be caused by a number of factors including the following: 

  • Spine injuries like fractures or severe twists as well as serious accidents or falls
  • Voluntary spine issues such as movement problems due to deterioration of discs
  • Pregnancy, various spine deformities or illnesses like scoliosis, kidney stones, spinal stenosis, cancers and arthritis

Determining the cause of back pain may not be easy.


Critical signs to watch out for

In some severe cases, nighttime back pain may indicate something more serious such as a tumor of the spine or cancer. It may also show the presence of a spine infection. Infections in the spine hinder free mobility. Look for urgent medical attention if the pain is associated with any of the following:

  • Painful and stiff legs
  • Weak or prickling legs
  • Bowel and bladder regulation problems
  • Throbbing stomach pain
  • Strange and extremely high body temperatures
  • Abrupt increased body weight
  • A close relative who has or had cancer, immune system issues or trauma


Treating back pain while you are sleeping

Identify and lie in a position that helps you relieve the pain - this is a simple and effective way to reduce discomfort. A majority of mechanical injuries that occur in the back are based on direction of movement, and to avoid pain, you should avoid bending towards the direction in which the injury occurred. For instance, do not bend forward during initial recovery stages if your injury occurred as you were bending forward. Similarly, you should initially avoid twisting if the injury happened as a result of extreme twisting.

In such incidences, you will experience pain relief if you sleep on the opposite side of the injury. For instance, lying on your stomach will help you feel less pain if your back was injured while bending forward. Here are some tips for reducing the severity of your back pain for when you are sleeping: 

  • While lying facing upwards, put a pillow directly below your knees to relieve the pressure on your lower back.
  • When lying on your stomach, put a pillow directly below your belly to reduce pressure on your lower back.
  • When lying on your side, bend up your knees and put a pillow between them.
  • Reinforce your spine’s normal curves by using an orthopedic pillow.
  • Check for and maintain the moderate firmness of your bed.
  • Put heat on the hurting area to reduce pain.

If you do these things and your pain continues, it is advisable to seek the help of a doctor. It is common for a typical mechanical back injury to interfere with your sleep for three nights, but you should seek medical assistance if it exceeds that duration.

To heal properly and quickly, it is crucial for you to get an adequate amount of sleep. If you are persistently sleepless, you should consult a physiotherapist for advice on managing your pain and maintaining your health.


Exercises to ease back pain

There are a number of physical activities and exercises you can do to help your back injury heal, and medical professionals such as physical therapists can provide you with such exercises. As your injury heals, you will feel less pain in your back during the nighttime. These professionals can also provide you with tips for sleeping with your injury. 

You will first want to find a position that is comfortable for you to sleep in. If you find yourself tossing and turning at night, return to the comfortable posture to feel minimal pain in your back. But if you continue to feel pain even after returning to your previous comfortable position, stand and walk around your room with small strides.

Normally, sitting isn’t good for relieving back pain. Therefore, unless the pain prevents you from standing, you should avoid sitting. Move all parts of your body that are not in pain. Use direct heat on your injury and take back pain relieving drugs if required. Try arching backward 10-12 times if you feel pain while bending forward. Nevertheless, you should curve only in postures that don’t make your back hurt. Straighten your spine and position yourself upright if you realize that bending isn't easing any pain. In such a case, seek urgent medical help.

If your back pain is in an acute stage or between chronic and acute stages, and you are unable to lie down due to the pain, try sleeping in a partial-lying position on your sofa or bed. Lie on three pillows and put one beneath your knees. This is usually an effective way of reducing pressure on your lower back. Look for professional medical advice if the method isn’t helpful.