The Connection Between Chronic Pain and Insomnia

The connection between chronic pain and insomnia is stronger than you may think. People with acute or chronic pain are more likely to have sleep problems than those who do not have pain. Likewise, many people who suffer from insomnia or other sleep disorders may suffer from chronic pain. The key to determining how to correct your sleep issue is figuring out which came first: insomnia or pain.

Losing sleep because of chronic pain is referred to as secondary insomnia, an inability to sleep due to disease or medication. According to the National Sleep Foundation, secondary insomnia affects about one in five Americans a few nights each week.

The effects of disrupted sleep patterns

When pain interferes with sleep patterns, it can adversely affect your mood, thoughts, activities, relationships, work, and overall enjoyment of life. Getting enough restorative sleep each night ensures your body has time to heal, repair, and regenerate. When you don’t get meaningful sleep regularly, your health suffers as a result.

This connection between chronic pain and insomnia is harmful; the pain can make restorative sleep impossible which, in turn, makes you more tired and therefore more sensitive to pain, a cycle that only gets worse if left unmanaged.

What can you do to stop this cycle?

  • Make sleep a priority
  • Stop or limit caffeine and alcohol intake (especially at night)
  • Practice relaxation techniques, like deep breathing or visualization
  • Place a rolled up towel or pillow between your legs (for side sleeping) or under your lower back (for back sleeping) to ease the strain on your back

When is it time to see a doctor or specialist?

A sleeping disorder combined with chronic pain should always be treated together. If your back or hips are preventing you from sleep, but you are too tired to be active, then it’s time to consult a doctor or specialist. Trust the spine specialists at the Spine Surgery of Idaho to help manage your pain and get you back to sleep, comfortably. Call (208) 944-0056 to schedule your appointment today.

Exercise to Alleviate Pain

Exercise to Alleviate Pain

If you are living with chronic back and spinal pain, that last thing you’ll probably want to do is exercise. Many people feel that exercise can worsen their pain or injury, or that it may prevent healing. What many chronic pain sufferers don’t realize is that some exercise can actually help reduce certain kinds of back, neck and spinal pain with cardiovascular, flexibility, and strengthening exercise.

Walking for healthy muscles

Walking can be very beneficial for people who are suffering from pain, if they are able to do so. Walking is a simple, light aerobic exercise that almost anyone can do, as it is low-impact and can be done just about anywhere. Walking helps the body to supply more oxygen to the muscles, build stamina, and reduce pain and stiffness. Try walking around a shopping mall, your neighborhood, a park, a local track, or the beach.

Swimming to ease joint pain

One of the best low-impact exercises that’s easy on your joints is swimming. The “low-gravity” effect of water prevents any sudden jolts or pressure from being put on the joints. Your movements and reactions are forced to slow down, helping you to strengthen the muscles around your joints without sustaining any additional injuries. Look for a community or gym pool if you don’t have one at home.

Yoga for increased flexibility and posture

Yoga is perfect for targeting certain muscle groups, as well as adjusting the intensity to your comfort level. Yoga helps to build endurance, increase flexibility and improve posture, poor sleeping habits, and concentration. If you are bedridden, start small with breathing and meditation, concentrating on specific areas of the body.

Stretching for improved mobility

Simple stretching can help to reduce a wide variety of pain problems. Stretching can promote better circulation and blood flow to the muscles for improved functionality. It also helps to loosen tight, stiff muscles while improving your muscles’ range of motion. Like walking, stretching can be done almost anywhere.

For more information on what you can do to ease your back and spinal pain through exercise, stop by the office and ask for a free booklet on any of these:

  • Neck Exercises for a Healthy Neck
  • Back Exercises for a Healthy Back
  • Walking for Fitness

Or, call the spine specialists at Spine Surgery of Idaho today at (208) 944-0056 to schedule an appointment.

How Cold Weather Affects Chronic Pain

How Cold Weather Affects Chronic Pain

Sometimes, people who experience chronic joint pain can “predict” weather changes based on how their joints feel. Many people have reported that as the temperature drops, conditions like back pain, neck pain, arthritis, and fibromyalgia are exacerbated.

Chronic pain and barometric pressure

Though researchers have yet to unanimously agree that weather worsens pain, there are theories as to why this may occur. One popular theory addresses air pressure changes, which occur when the temperatures drop. Though many people say that their pain worsens with cold, rainy weather, research shows that it’s not because of the low temperatures, rain, or snow. It’s actually the barometric pressure.

What is barometric pressure?

Barometric pressure is the weight of the atmosphere that surrounds us. The tissues surrounding the joints are similar to a balloon. As barometric pressure rises, it pushes against the body and keeps the tissues from expanding.

Barometric pressure will often drop prior to when the cold weather actually hits. As the barometric pressure lowers, it significantly decreases the amount of pressure placed on the body. This causes the tissues to expand and puts extra pressure on the joints.

Ways to remedy the pain

When cold weather makes your chronic pain worse, try incorporating heat therapy into your daily routine. Heat helps to decrease stiffness and promotes healthy circulation. Try these tips:

  • Apply a hot pack, warm towel or heating pad to the painful area for 20 minutes at a time
  • Try over-the-counter heat wraps applied directly to the skin
  • Use water therapy by swimming in a heated pool or soaking in a Jacuzzi or hot bath
  • Stay active to keep the muscles warm

If you are suffering from chronic back or neck pain, call the spine specialists at Spine Surgery of Idaho today at (208) 944-0056 to schedule your next appointment.

Tips on Traveling with Back Pain

Tips on Traveling with Back Pain

The thought of traveling with back pain can be daunting for some and can turn an otherwise pleasant trip into a miserable one. Traveling can exacerbate chronic pain conditions and aggravate sore areas in your neck, spine and back, but there are a few things you can do to help relieve and prevent pain while traveling.

Ask for a doctor’s note

Sometimes a doctor’s note can still go a long way. Ask your physician to write a letter to the airline you are flying with to alert the flight staff of certain pain conditions you may have. He or she can also request special accommodations like upgraded seats with more leg room, extra cushions for support, and permission to get out of your seat to move about during the flight.

Provide support to your back during the flight

Lower-back supports, pillows and neck pillows are all great ways to give your back some extra support during a flight. A flight attendant may even be able to give you extra pillows upon request.

Contact the airline prior to your flight

In addition to your doctor’s note, you can also get in touch with the airline prior to your trip to inform them of any health conditions or limitations you may have. If you give them enough advance notice, they may be able to make special accommodations like wheelchair assistance, early boarding, enlisting airline personnel to carry and load your luggage, as well as special shuttles or elevator platforms.

Bring pain medication

Keep yourself prepared by keeping either an over-the-counter or prescribed pain medication with you while traveling. Take your medication an hour before your flight to give it time to process through your system.

Strategically schedule your flight

Some flights are more crowded than others. Do your best to avoid these by contacting the airline to find out which flights tend to be less crowded so that you have a greater likelihood to be able to stretch during the flight. Also try to limit any layovers or downtime between flights as well as early morning flights that could disrupt your normal sleep patterns. Disturbing your normal sleep patterns can make you feel more tired, which often makes pain more severe.

Pack light and minimize heavy lifting

Heavy lifting can place extra pressure on your back, so try to move slowly and pack only what you need for your trip. Most types of luggage have wheels attached to avoid any lifting, but lifting your suitcase in and out of cars or up into carry-on storage can strain your back more.

Move around during the flight

Sitting in one place for extended amounts of time can put extra stress on your back, making the pain feel much worse. Do your best to get up at least once every hour of your flight to move around the cabin and stretch (if you can find some room to). Try to get an aisle seat to avoid disturbing any fellow passengers.

If you or someone you love have been experiencing back pain, call the spine specialists at Spine Surgery of Idaho today at (208) 522-6930 to schedule your next appointment.