Suffering from sciatica can be utterly painful. Not only is the pain excruciating, but it also affects the other aspects of the patient’s life. From tough days at work to disrupted sleep patterns, sciatica can cause a havoc in the life of the patient and completely throw it out of shift.
Sciatica, however, cannot be termed as a disease in itself. It is a medical symptom of an underlying condition, specifically, radicular pain in the lumbar region of the spine. It is a very common condition affecting millions of people and causes pain, tingling, and weakness in the lower back area of the human body. Some of the common causes of sciatica are lumbar herniated disc, degenerative disk disease, lumbar spinal stenosis etc. The large sciatic nerve in the human body is a result of the joining of five nerve roots from the lower back. When one or more of these nerves get affected, the patient starts experiencing agonizing pain in the lower back region of the body, commonly termed as sciatica. The symptoms of the pain vary from patient to patient and depend on the nerve affected. You may also experience a mixture of symptoms in case, more than one nerve is affected.
Here is a quick comprehensive guide for sleeping with sciatica. These are the top dos and don’ts that can considerably help you while you are trying to adjust with the problem. Read ahead…
Invest In a Quality Mattress
Although your mattress is not a strong reason behind that excruciating lower back pain, still it can lead to the pain worsening sometimes. Lack of support from the mattress results in a poor sleeping posture leading to increased pain. An orthopedic mattress can be one of the options for you if you are losing sleep over sciatica. Soft, mushy beds, although quite popular, are not recommended. They tend to lose their stiffness easily and do not provide firm support to the spine.
With a vast variety of mattresses available in the market, choosing the right one can be daunting. A suitable mattress should provide support to the natural curves and alignment of the spine. Before buying, you should also enquire well about the number of coils, type of padding and the depth of the mattress. Although there is not any significant scientific backup yet, still researchers have found that medium-firm mattresses usually provide more relief to the symptoms of back pain as compared to firm mattresses.
Elevate Your Knees
There are five sciatic nerve roots in your lower back. When one or more of them is compressed or irritated, it leads to severe lower back pain. When you elevate your knees, it minimizes the pressure on your lumbar disks and exercise on your nerve roots. If your symptoms are not severe enough, placing a pillow between your knees may help. While if they are severe enough, you may need to adopt some additional measures.
Elevating your knees while lying down on the bed can help a lot. If you can comfortably lie on your back, try elevating your knees with a few pillows stacked between them and the bed. If you prefer sleeping on your side, bend your top knee and pull it towards your head. Support your knee with two to three pillows, so your buttocks are squared as you sleep.
Use a Body Pillow
Another common method that can help you get some sleep while struggling with sciatica is using a body pillow. Placing a pillow between your knees, in case you are sleeping on your side, or stuffing some under your back while you are laying on your back can assist you a lot. It helps keep your buttocks, spine, and pelvis well aligned.
Take a Warm Bath before Bed
Resorting to heat therapy has helped a lot of sciatica patients. It is one of the oldest, tested and tried methods of getting some immediate relief from the agonizing pain. Heat widens the blood vessels, increasing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the affected area (your lower back, in this case), which helps in healing and provides relief. Heat treatment also invigorates sensory receptors in the skin, making the brain concentrate less on the lower back pain. This is best used after the acutely agonizing, sharp pain has subsided, typically 3 to 7 days after the start of the condition.
A warm bath with some essential oils before bed can help you sleep by intensifying the release of pain-fighting endorphins. It also relaxes the muscles around your sciatic nerve roots. A lesser-known fact is that the application of a cold pack can also reduce inflammation and numb sore tissue, thus providing some immediate pain relief. This should preferably be used initially when pain is quite acute, usually for 2 to 7 days.
Although exercising immediately before bed is not advisable as the adrenaline rush can make it difficult for you to fall asleep, you can do some light stretches before bed. It will help to alleviate your pain symptoms by a significant margin and provide you some quick relief. Preferably, you can do them on your bed. Knees to the chest and pelvic twist are two of the most recommended ones.
Do Not Ignore Your Medications
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If your pain is severe enough to keep you awake for days together and your doctor has prescribed you some medicines, you should take them. Taking rest after a daylong of work is essential as it aids the healing process. Completely avoiding medicines can have an adverse effect. Rather than taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs, you should consult your doctor and get some medicine prescribed which has less or no side effects at all.
Do Not Sleep On Your Stomach
If you are sleeping with sciatica, you must not sleep on your stomach. It hyperextends the lower back by causing the pelvis to tip forward resulting in an unpleasant situation for the patient. In fact, sleeping on the stomach is considered as the worst sleeping position for the patients of sciatica as it flattens the natural curvature of the spine and strains the neck with your head turned to a side.
The best way to catch some sleep with sciatica is to find a position that works for you and stick to it religiously. Lying flat on the back has helped many patients. Although a majority of the patients prefer lying on their side, the position does not seem to offer any significant relief from the pain and is not recommended much by therapists.
Do Not Disturb Your Sleep Pattern
Not having a fixed sleeping schedule and disturbing it time and again can also have an adverse effect on your health. A fixed night time routine has effectively been found helpful in alleviating the symptoms of the pain and catching some sleep. You should preferably avoid watching television or using your smartphone while lying on your back at night. Your nighttime routine should essentially not change much and be almost the same every day. In fact, you must go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including the weekends to set your biological clock to sleep. Having a set sleeping schedule will help you fall asleep faster.
Do Not Sleep In a Noisy Environment
If you are already having a hard time with sciatica, the least you can do to make yourself comfortable is sleep in an environment conducive for sleeping. You should avoid any unnecessary noises or loud music while you are trying to sleep. Put your phone on mute before going to bed so that you do not get disturbed time and again by the frequent texts and other notifications.
Do Not Ignore Personal Care
Although taking medicines is a nice way to have some quick relief, there are other alternative methods to make your encounter with sciatica less painful. You should consider investing in personal care equipment that helps to alleviate the symptoms of pain by acupressure. You can get some tools and techniques recommended by your doctor or physical therapist and start using them.
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Thus, these were some of the general tips and tricks to deal with sciatica. Sleeping with sciatica can be a nightmare for many patients. However, if you change your lifestyle a tiny bit, you can find yourself in a comparatively comfortable position. Besides, these tips are here to motivate you to experiment a bit and find what works for you. Sleeping is an important activity for human beings in general. It becomes even more important for patients of any disease as a good sleep is necessary for the body to heal. Lastly, you should not lose hope and keep on working on finding and maintaining a lifestyle appropriate for your condition. You can also consider incorporating some lower back pain exercises into your daily routine. It can make your pain much more manageable. All the best!
Jessica is an avid reader who enjoys getting lost in the world of books. Holding on to her passion for fitness, she believes that healthy diet is a key to healthy living.