Tips for overcoming low back pain
The reason people with arthritis are more likely to have sleep issues is likely due to several issues. Your levels of cortisol, a hormone that helps control inflammation, are lower at night. Lying down can cause inflammatory chemicals to pool in the fluid that cushions your joints, which makes them stiffen up. And your perception of pain may be heightened during the nighttime because you’re not distracted by anything else.
But just because painsomnia is normal and common doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Like Lackey, you have to find what works for you to help you get your rest. We talked to people with arthritis about the tricks they’ve learned for getting a good night’s sleep.
1. Sleep with a thin pillow
“Sleep problems were actually how I discovered I have osteoarthritis in my neck,” says Nancy B., 52, of Gig Harbor, Washington. For years, all she knew was that lifting her head, even a little, caused terrible pain and a night of no sleep. To keep her neck straight, she slept with the thinnest pillow possible. Last year she started having neck spasms, which lead her to get diagnosed with arthritis. “I’ve had to change a lot of things since my diagnosis, but the flat pillow has stayed. People think I’m weird when they see my sad little pillow — it’s actually a pillow designed for backpacking — but it’s the only way I can sleep without my neck hurting,” she explains.
2. Use a neck roll or towel
When Nancy’s neck is particularly painful, making it so she can’t sleep, she has a small foam neck roll that she places at the base of her neck when she lies down. “The trick is to keep my neck as straight as possible while I sleep so it doesn’t tense up,” she says. She adds that when she travels a small rolled up hand towel can also do the trick.
3. Get creative with your pillows
“When I’m having a bad flare from my rheumatoid arthritis, I put a wedge pillow behind my shoulders, a tube pillow under my knees, and then prop up each arm on a firm bed pillow,” says Elizabeth P., 35, of Minneapolis, Minnesota. “Once I’m in position I can usually fall asleep and stay asleep for at least a few hours.”