Waking up with a low-back pain is a tough way to start the morning. Back pain is the single most cause for disability worldwide.  It may be that your sleeping position or perhaps your mattress is no longer giving your body the support it needs. It can also be that you have an undiagnosed medical condition which can disrupt a restorative night’s sleep.
So, how do you to sleep with lower back pain and sciatica? It depends on the source of the pain. If you suffer persistent back pain or pain that radiates to other body parts, it’s time for a visit to your doctor. Your health care provider will ask specific questions regarding the type of pain (“pins and needles” versus sharp), location (shoulders versus lower back), and when it occurs. All of this information helps pinpoint the cause and subsequent treatment. Let’s take a closer look at lower back pain and sciatica.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatic nerve pain can cause back, hip, buttocks and the outer side of the leg. The resulting compression of the sciatic nerve can cause irritation and inflammation. Typically, it affects one side of the body. Episodes of sciatica can be short-lived (pregnancy) or chronic depending on the cause.
Causes of Sciatica
The aging process can cause sciatica. Degenerative joint disease, also called osteoarthritis, occurs when inflammation, breakdown, and eventual loss of the cartilage of the joints develop through the aging process. In the spinal column, the cartilage between each intervertebral disc can wear down. The simple “wear and tear” can occur at any joint. When it occurs in the area of the lumbar vertebrae, sciatica can develop. Sometimes, a herniated disc causes sciatica. In this situation, the outer portion of the disc (the area between the vertebrae in the spinal column) is torn.
When it occurs in the lower back, sciatica can develop. But, sciatica can also occur when nearby muscles are irritated. Piriformis syndrome is a medical condition that occurs when the piriformis muscle becomes irritated and compresses the sciatic nerve.
Other conditions that can cause sciatica are spinal bone spurs (bony projections) or spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal column.)or muscle spasms in the lower back or buttock regions. It’s essential that a person visits a medical professional when they experience sciatica as the symptoms could be indicative of a more serious condition. For instance, cauda equina syndrome occurs when the nerves at the end of the spinal column (cauda equina) are damaged. This is potentially a grave condition which requires confirmation by MRI Scans.
Symptoms of Sciatica
The symptoms of sciatica affect those areas where the sciatic nerve run. Symptoms can range from numbness to severe pain shooting up and down your lower back and your leg. Here are a few signs of sciatica.
- Lower back pain
- Hip pain
- Numbness, weakness, or trouble with moving your foot or your leg
- Shooting pain that stops you from standing up properly
- Pins and needles or burning sensation running down your leg
- Rear or leg pain that worsens when you sit down
How to Sleep with Lower Back Pain and Sciatica
When you experience low back pain and sciatica, getting a good night’s sleep can be elusive. Fortunately, there are ways to help you sleep even when you are dealing with pain in your sciatic nerve disc regardless if it is caused by herniation, injury or degenerative joint disease.
- Choose a good mattress. Pain relief for your lumbar spine problem can be as simple as buying a proper mattress that will provide support for your spine. Memory foam, latex, and pocketed coil may be good choices, but if you are looking for pressure relief as well, then memory foam may be your best option.
- Elevate your knees. Another possible solution to alleviate the pain in your lower back triggered by a degenerative disc is to elevate your knees. Placing a pillow between your knees may not be enough to provide you with relief, so if you are lying on your back, it will help if bend your knees a little bit. However, pillows can fall out of place during the night; an adjustable bed frame may be an easier and more consistent solution. Placing a pad under your knees, until you find a more comfortable posture can take time.
- Stretches. Try some simple stretches. Among the stretches when you are in bed are a pelvis tilt, knees to chest, figure 4 stretches, and knees to your opposite shoulder. These may help lessen the pain in your lower back and your legs.
- Sciatica pain relief massage. Massage therapy can alleviate sciatica and help you get a good night’s sleep. One example of this is the knuckle pressure sciatica massage. To do this, you should lie on your back with your feet pressed on the floor and your knees bent. Make your hands into fists then position them on both sides of the spine in your lower back. Your knuckles should be pressing on your back. Keep this position for about a minute or two at the most. Go into a fetal position by rolling on your side. Hold this pose for five minutes before you stand up.
- Go into a fetal position. If your spinal column has a herniated disc, the best way to ease the pain is by going into a fetal position when you sleep. Lie down on your back first before rolling to either your left or right side. Bring your knees toward the chest while curling your torso towards them. Switch sides to help reduce any imbalance. Sleeping in the fetal position helps open up the space found between your vertebrae.
- Pillow between the knees. Most people who have lower back pain tend to sleep on their side with a pillow placed between their knees. Let your shoulder, hip, and pelvis lie on your mattress then position a pillow between the knees. If you notice that there’s a space between the mattress and your waist, place a small pillow there to help give you more support. The idea here is to keep your spine, hips, as well as your pelvis aligned as you sleep to ease the pain in your lower back.
- Use the right neck pillow. When your neck is cranked high, your spine will no longer be aligned thus increasing your risk of low back pain. It would be better if you choose an appropriate neck pillow to help keep your spine aligned.
- Ice packs. Sciatica pain that is causing pain or numbness in your lower back can worsen after a day of sitting for too long. Place an ice pack on your lower spine, buttock, or even your tailbone for about 20 minutes. This can help reduce the inflammation and pain emanating from your lower back.
- Pain medications. It is understandable that you are looking for a treatment to help relieve pain coming from your lower back because of sciatica pain. Fortunately, there are over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications. Treatment can vary from one person to the next.
- Strengthen your core. To decrease the chances of low back pain or sciatica from occurring, it would help if you put an effort in strengthening your core. Your core muscles are not limited to the muscles in your abdomen only, but they also involve your back and hips. There are several core workouts that you can incorporate into your daily workout. Just make sure that you ease into these exercises because you don’t want to make it worse.
How to sleep with lower back pain and sciatica? It depends on the source of the problem. For those who are experiencing chronic pain or a sudden onset of acute pain, make an appointment to with your doctor. They will examine you and perhaps order testing to determine the source of the pain. Sometimes, physical therapy in conjunction with home exercises is recommended. On other occasions, surgery may be recommended.