How Should You Sleep with Lower Back Pain?
People worldwide suffer from back problems due to various reasons. In general, factors at work, excessive standing, physical exercise and even chronic medical conditions play an important role in the development lower back pain. Lower back pain interferes with your daily activities, but it also makes it difficult or even impossible to sleep at night. So how should you sleep with lower back pain?
Best Sleeping Position for Lower Back Pain
Sleep in Fetal Position
Fetal position is known to support our back and relieve any lower back pain. If you sleep on the side with the knees drawn up, your joints in the spine will open up, relieving any pressure on the structures of the back. You can also place a pillow between your legs for a better support.
While sleeping in this position, make sure to avoid any spine curvature. Make sure to place the pillow so that it is positioned between your knees and your ankles at the same time. Choose a thicker pillow for a better support.
If you sleep on the side, alternate it by sleeping on the right and on the left side as well. If you sleep on the same side all night long, you will end up with pain and even muscle imbalance.
For pregnant women, the best sleeping position for lower back pain is to sleep on their left side in order to avoid any pressure on the large blood structures of the body which can restrict the blood flow to the fetus.
Use an Extra Pillow Under the Knees
If you prefer sleeping on your back, you can use an extra pillow under your knees for supporting your back. This will flatten your back and avoid a large curvature of your lower back. For extra support, while sleeping on your back, you can put a rolled up towel under your lower back.
Don’t Sleep on Your Stomach
People suffering from lower back pain should avoid sleeping on their stomach. When sleeping on the stomach, extra pressure is put on your lower back, as well as an unpleasant twist of the spine occurs.
However, if this is the only position in which you can fall asleep, put a pillow under your pelvis and lower abdomen for support. If you sleep on your stomach, you don’t need a head pillow if it puts extra pressure and strain on your neck and head.
How to Get in and out of the Bed
You already know the best sleeping position for lower back pain. But have you ever thought about correct ways of getting in and out of the bed? Here is how to do it.
Getting into bed:
First, sit on the side of your bed.
Use your hands for support while you bend your knees and swing them slowly and carefully onto the bed.
Lie on your side first.
Roll onto your back using your arms for support.
Getting out of bed:
Once you are awake, roll on your side.
Bend your knees and let your legs hang off the bed.
Push yourself with the arms from the bed and swing your legs at the same time in order to get into a sitting position.
Stand up slowly, supporting your body with your arms.
More Tips for a Better Sleep with Lower Back Pain
- Choose the Right Mattress
Have you ever wondered about the best sleeping position for lower back pain? Well, not just the sleeping position, but also the mattress you sleep in is very important for a good night’s sleep. If you prefer to sleep on your side, the mattress should be soft, so your hips and shoulders sink while sleeping, avoiding any pressure to the pressure points.
If you prefer sleeping on your back, the mattress needs to be firm for a better comfort. The worst mattresses are those which are too soft, not offering the necessary support while sleeping.
- Buy the Right Pillows
The pillow you sleep in is also very important. An ideal pillow is the one that offers a neutral position where the head and the shoulders are at the same correlation. If you prefer sleeping on your side, get a thicker and firmer pillow which will help reduce the pressure on your neck.
If you prefer sleeping on your back, a thinner and medium firm pillow is ideal, while if you prefer sleeping on your stomach, a very thin pillow or no pillow at all is recommended.
- Relieve Your Lower Back Pain with Heat
Heat is known to relax the muscles of the body, including those of your lower back. For this reason, before going to bed make sure to take a shower with warm water for about 10 minutes. You can also take a hot bath if you prefer.
Using a heating pad or even a bottle filled with hot water can help relieve your back pain when applied to the sore area. Use the heating pad or bottle for 10 or 20 minutes, but make sure not to sleep with them. There is always the risk of burns and even fire.
- Change Your Dietary Habits
Eating too late or even having a large meal just before going to sleep is never recommended. It can contribute to acid reflux which will just increase your discomfort and sleeping problems. Don’t consume alcohol or caffeine in large amounts as well before going to sleep as they will disrupt your sleep too.
- Use Analgesic Rubs for Lower Back Pain
If you are dealing with lower back pain and are having problems sleeping, you can always try rubbing an analgesic into the sore area. This will help relax the muscles and even create a pleasant and warmth sensation.
- Don’t Sleep Too Much
Sleeping too much is not recommended as well. Adults should get about 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. Staying for a prolonged period of time in bed will just contribute to muscle stiffness and even increase the back pain.
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr. J Jaranson
Low Back Pain Shouldn’t Sideline You
Many Penn State alumni fondly remember David K., now 34, as the student who crawled to class. Mired by back pain throughout his four years of college, David saw tons of doctors from top neurosurgeons to psychologists for the pain. Instead of listening to the popular college music of his day like REM, he listened to the soothing sounds of pain expert John E. Sarno, MD, on cassette tapes called Mind Over Back Pain when he drove his Mustang around the college campus.
“If you don’t have chronic back pain, you can’t possibly imagine what it feels like,” he says. “It’s unbearable — literally.” He says that there were many times he couldn’t walk and would have to crawl from his fraternity house all the way to class so he would not miss a midterm or final exam. “My fraternity brothers made a lot of fun of me,” he says. “Still do.”
About 80% of Americans — or four in five — experience low back pain at some point in their lives and understand David’s plight all too well. Many people with chronic low back pain are working age and for them, back pain is the most frequent case of lost productivity. Treatment for back pain costs roughly $100 billion a year, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in Rosemont, Ill.
But new developments may signify hope, help, and healing for millions of back pain sufferers including David K., my husband.
First Things First
Without exception, the first step for people with back pain is to “[get] a good history and try to establish the onset and aggravating factors,” says Joel R. Saper, MD, director of Michigan Head Pain and Neurological Institute in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“A big mistake is to see a back pain problem in a narrow perspective,” he says. “Doctors have to know the overall health, past experience with any pain syndrome, what precipitated it and what it has responded to at this point, and do a proper examination of the back and a general medical examination,” he says.
Your best bet is to seek treatment from a “comprehensive program that specializes in pain with a wide range of services available so that treatment is determined by what you need — not by what’s available,” he says.
“If you have back pain that lasts six weeks or more, seeing a specialist is a reasonable thing to do and the main reason is to make sure it’s not a more serious condition that presents as back pain such as infection, tumor, fracture, or aortic aneurysm,” says Scott D. Boden, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon and director of The Emory Orthopaedics and Spine Center in Atlanta.
For mild to moderate symptoms, over-the-counter painkillers such as acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen can help along with heat or cold applied to the back. Massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic treatment may also play a role for some people. Adjusting or modifying your activities may help; light activity may actually speed recovery.
Not for David. He has tried just about every medication and every alternative treatment for back pain, and nothing really did the trick for long. The new thinking is that “chronic back pain may be chemical and that’s why some of the older treatments don’t work,” Saper explains. “There may be a chemical basis for sustaining the pain.”
That said, there may be a role for treatments such as the tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) blockers used to treat joint inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis. These medications, also known as biological response modifiers, neutralize specific chemicals that are key players in the inflammatory process.
Richard D. Guyer, MD, spine surgeon at the Texas Back Institute in Plano, says different types of drugs like seizure medications including Topamax and Neurontin may help relieve pain. “They are not for everybody, but they may have a role for people with previous spinal surgery and chronic leg or arm pain,” he says.
Spinal cord stimulators can be implanted in the spine to help both back and leg pain, but they are better for leg pain, Guyer says. These medical devices work by sending low levels of electric stimulation to the spine to block the sensation of pain.
Also promising, but not yet FDA-approved for low back pain, is the lidocaine patch, says Charles E. Argoff, MD, director of the Cohn Pain Management Program of North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., and an assistant professor of neurology at New York University in New York City.
The lidocaine patch is worn on the skin like a bandage.
“It is a very simple, safe, topical analgesic and you can’t hurt anyone with it,” Argoff says, “In preliminary, non-randomized studies, it has shown great promise in treating both postsurgical low back pain and nonsurgical back pain.”
The Opioid Dilemma
Opioid analgesics are one type of pain reliever and they do not work for everybody, says Argoff.
Opioids often get a bad rap from media reports of addiction such as recent reports of talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s abuse. Buts some experts in pain management argue that fear of addiction to these medications has lead to undertreatment of patients with chronic pain.
The first question that needs to be answered is do they work for this patient, Argoff says.
If we get past that and show there is benefit, doctors need to determine whether this patient is at-risk of becoming addicted, he explains.
“There is no shred of evidence that suggests the acquisition of drug addiction, but not every patient walks into doctor office and says, ‘by the way, before you prescribe, I am a drug addict’ or ‘I have an addictive personality,’ and we can’t as health-care providers already know who has that risk,” he says.
“Very few people not known to be abusers become abusers, but frequent follow-up, medication contracts, and multidiscipline therapies can help prevent addiction and/or abuse,” he says.
Botox, the same toxin that doctors routinely use to eradicate fine lines and wrinkles, can also treat back pain, says Gary Starkman, MD, a clinical attending neurologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the medical director of New York Neurology Associates, both in New York City.
“I use Botox for selected patients with back pain when I suspect muscle spasm is involved,” he says. In cases of low back pain, Botox is usually injected into the muscles on either side of the spine in the area of pain.
“The results could last three or more months ” he says, “but the pain relief is individual, and if it breaks the pain cycle, pain can go away for many months or completely.” The only downside is the cost.
Botox may relieve low back pain because it relaxes the back muscles, but Saper says it may alter various chemical pain mechanisms that have nothing to do with muscles.
No Pain, No Gain?
“We now recognize that with simple back strain (such as when you wake up with a backache), we want you to remain active rather than take to bed,” Saper says. “We used to put people to bed; now we get them out of bed.”
This is why a growing number of doctors including Brain W. Nelson, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and medical director of Physician’s Neck and Back Clinic in Minneapolis, are recommending exercise programs to people with chronic back pain. Such programs are aimed at strengthening the back muscles, and often patients see results in about nine weeks, he says.
“There is a growing movement towards fitness as an approach to chronic back pain,” Nelson says. “I’ve come to believe that this is the way to go for the vast majority of people with back pain [and] I think that 10 years from now, it will be the mainstay of treatment because it is so dramatically more cost-effective.”
Nelson points out that we are spending $100 billion a year on spine care in the U.S. and we do 10 times more surgery than any other industrialized country. “A single epidural [shot in the back to numb the area] costs $1,500. That’s almost the cost of our entire program,” he says.
Just as David K. crawled to class, “people become experts at protecting their back and learn to do activities without using it to protect it, but you pay a price — you essentially lose a lot of functional ability with the part of body that you are trying to protect,” he says. “Your back is becoming more fragile [but] aggressive physical strengthening can increase the capacity of your back and you typically will have a very significant decrease in pain,” he explains.
“A key part is putting people in positions and using special equipment that does not allow them to cheat and forces them to move a body part that they don’t feel like moving — their back,” he says. This is for people with chronic back pain, not acute injuries, he stresses.
“Our goal is to make sure they are better a year from now, five years from now, and 10 years from now, and the only way to do that is to aggressively strengthen the back and show them how to maintain it,” he says.
“If you read this article and say, ‘this makes sense to me,’ look around your community and call some places and say, ‘I am looking for a fitness approach to back pain,” he suggests.
Guyer says, “People that get into active strengthening exercises really do the best because they also get a release of endorphins to control the pain,” he says. Endorphins are considered the body’s own “feel-good” or “pain-killing” chemicals and are known to be released with exercise.
The Changing Face of Spinal Surgery
Only a small percentage of patients with back pain are candidates for surgery, but for these patients, advances in techniques have made recovery a much easier road, says Boden of The Emory Orthopaedics and Spine Center.
Fifty years ago, a spine fusion meant a two-week hospital stay, a body cast or brace for months, and a minimum of six months away from normal activities. A spinal fusion is performed by fusing the vertebrae together with bone grafts to eliminate motion between two adjacent vertebrae where motion is causing lower back pain.
Today, minimally invasively techniques allow for smaller incisions, less blood loss, and faster recovery time, Boden says. Some spine fusion techniques can be done on an outpatient basis.
Fifty years from now, Boden predicts that disc replacement will be an alternative to spinal fusion. Moreover, gene therapy will be able to prevent or reverse disc degeneration, and genetic research will help discover genetic sources of back pain, he says.
“Gene therapy for disc regeneration may be more than five years off, but less than 20,” he predicts.
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr J Jaranson
Dr J Saper
Yoga as Good for Back Pain as Physical Therapy
Chronic lower back pain is equally likely to improve with yoga classes as with physical therapy, according to a new study.
Twelve weeks of yoga lessened pain and improved function in people with low back pain as much as physical therapy sessions over the same period.
“Both yoga and physical therapy are excellent non-drug approaches for low back pain,” said lead author Dr. Robert Saper, of Boston Medical Center.
About 10 percent of U.S. adults experience low back pain, but not many are happy with the available treatments, Saper and colleagues write in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The American College of Physicians advised in February that most people with low back pain should try non-drug treatments like superficial heat or massage before reaching for medications.
Physical therapy is the most common non-drug treatment for low back pain prescribed by doctors, according to Saper and colleagues. Yoga is also backed by some guidelines and studies as a treatment option, but until now no research has compared the two.
For the new study, the researchers recruited 320 adults with chronic low back pain. The participants were racially diverse and tended to have low incomes.
The participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups. One group took part in a 12-week yoga program designed for people with low back pain. Another took part in a physical therapy program over the same amount of time. People in the third group received a book with comprehensive information about low back pain and follow-up information every few weeks.
At the start of the study, participants reported – on average – moderate to severe functional impairment and pain. More than two-thirds were using pain medications.
To track participants function and pain during the study, the researchers surveyed them at six, 12, 26, 40 and 52 weeks using the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ).
Scores on the RMDQ measure for function declined – meaning function was improving – by 3.8 points over the 12 weeks in the yoga group, compared to 3.5 points in the physical therapy group. Participants who received education had an average RMDQ score decline of 2.5.
Statistically, participants ended up with similar functional improvements whether they underwent yoga, physical therapy or education.
More people in the yoga and physical therapy groups ended up with noticeable improvements in function, however.
People would feel a noticeable improvement with a four to five point drop on the RMDQ, write Dr. Douglas Chang, of the University of California, San Diego and Dr. Stefan Kertesz of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, in an accompanying editorial.
They write that 48 percent of yoga participants and 37 percent of physical therapy participants reached that goal, compared to 23 percent of people who were in the education group.
For achieving noticeable differences in pain, physical therapy was again no better or worse than yoga. After 12 weeks, people in the yoga group were 21 percentage points less likely to used pain medications than those in the education group. That difference was 22 percentage points for physical therapy versus education.
The improvements among the people in yoga and physical therapy groups lasted throughout the year, the researchers found.
“If they remain the same after one year, it’s a good bet that their improvement will continue on,” Saper told Reuters Health.
One treatment method won’t help all or even most patients, wrote Chang and Kertesz in their editorial.
“Nevertheless, as Saper and colleagues have shown, yoga offers some persons tangible benefit without much risk,” they write. “In the end, however, it represents one tool among many.”
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr Jay J
Spine Surgeon Reveals Roadmap Out of Chronic Pain
As many as 8 out of 10 Americans struggle with back pain, and many resort to surgery as a solution. Unfortunately, this often does not resolve the problem, and in some cases simply worsens the situation.
Dr. David Hanscom, an orthopedic surgeon with a practice in Seattle, is unusual in that he tells most of his patients they don’t need surgery. He’s written a book detailing his novel approach to chronic pain treatment, called “Back in Control: A spine surgeon’s roadmap out of chronic pain.”
Spinal Fusions Rarely Cure Chronic Back Pain
Spinal fusions are a lucrative business and great source of revenue for the hospital and surgeon. Unfortunately, they rarely work for the patients. Spinal fusions arose from the assumption that disc degeneration was a source of back pain.
Therefore, it was thought that by fusing the disc together with the bone, which eliminates motion, you would get rid of the pain. However, that has since been proven false.
“Disc degeneration actually does not cause back pain. That’s been well-documented,” Dr. Hanscom says.
“The success rate of the spinal fusion for back pain was about 24 percent, but we still kept doing it. Then, in 1994, when this paper came out Washington showing that the return-to-work rate one year after a spinal fusion for back pain was 15 percent, I just stopped.
Every paper since then has showed pretty much the same dismal results; there’s maybe a 20 to 25 percent success rate of spinal fusion for back pain…
And the downside of a failed spine surgery is terrible. It’s really bad. These people are condemned to live their entire lifetime, 30 to 40 more years, in chronic pain.”
Despite such findings, spinal fusions are still popular. Each year, some 600,000 spinal fusions are performed in the U.S. with a high percentage of them being performed for non-specific low-back pain, at a cost of more than $600 billion.
Neurophysiological Disorder (NPD)
By 1988, Dr. Hanscom was suffering from burnout, which included 16 NPD symptoms. He did not know the nature of the problem and would be in this state for another 15 years.
Chronic pain was one of his symptoms. He inadvertently solved his chronic pain in 2003 and it took another few years before he understood that he had full-blown Neurophysiologic Disorder (NPD). He began sharing his experience with his patients in 2006.
NPD is rooted in chronic stress and anxiety. Your body becomes full of adrenaline, and every organ system starts responding and acting up. According to Dr. Hanscom, there are over 30 symptoms created by an adrenalized nervous system.
“Some of my 16 symptoms included migraine headaches, ringing in my ears, burning on my feet, itching on my scalp, migratory skin rashes, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
It was brutal. What I didn’t realize… is that anxiety is actually one of the classic manifestations of neurophysiological disorder. I developed extreme anxiety. I did not become a major spine surgeon by having anxiety; I became a major spine surgeon by suppressing anxiety.
As you know, when we try not to think about something, we think more, right? Interestingly, the burnout rate in medicine is about 50 to 55 percent and has a lot to do with suppressed anxiety.
Whenever I give lectures on burnout and I use the ‘anxiety’ word, the whole room just goes absolutely quiet. If I hadn’t gone through it myself, I would not really be able to talk about it….
We also found out that anxiety or mental pain and physical pain are processed in the same part of the brain. They’re essentially the same thing.”
Over the following decade and a half, Dr. Hanscom struggled to recuperate, and through a combination of pure luck and trial and error, he eventually developed a system for treating chronic pain by addressing not just the physical, but also the emotional/mental component of anger and anxiety.
While there’s nothing particularly new about this process, it involves going through a sequence of strategies that allow you to calm down and de-adrenalize your nervous system. Hundreds of patients have now tried this system, and lead pain-free lives.
This system includes:
Addressing your sleep
Nutrition and mild medications
Physical therapy and rehabilitation, including structure strengthening exercises
The Therapeutic Value of Expressive Writing
One of the strategies that had a profound impact on Dr. Hanscom’s own recovery was expressive writing — the act of writing down your negative thoughts and emotions. Interestingly, there are over 200 research papers published since 1982 documenting the effectiveness of expressive writing.
“The research began with expressive writing around prior traumas and many different formats have been studied. The most straightforward method is ‘negative writing.’
This is where you’re simply writing down your current negative thoughts – the darker, the better – and you’re destroying them instantly. You’re not writing positive thoughts; you’re writing down your negative thoughts.
You are not destroying them to get rid of the thoughts. They are permanently etched into your brain. You are allowing yourself to write with complete freedom, so the exercise separates you from your thoughts. Again, when you try not to think about something, you think about it more. None of us like unpleasant thoughts, so we keep tossing them aside. Dr. Daniel Wegner out of Harvard pointed out that by simply writing down the thoughts you’re trying to suppress, it breaks the cycle,” he explains.
Expressive writing exercises are now a foundational component of Dr. Hanscom’s program. By breaking up the psychological pathways of anxiety and frustration, it allows you to reprogram your brain. Back pain is a classic type of chronic pain that responds well to expressive writing. An interesting study showing the emotional aspect of back pain was published last year.
Using MRI brain imaging, they showed that while people feeling acute back pain had an activated pain center, as you would expect, people who have been in chronic pain for more than 10 years experience pain in the emotional center of their brain only. The pain center was completely dormant.
Patients in the acute pain group were then rescanned every three months, and they found that within 12 months, if the pain still persisted, it migrated from the pain center to the emotional center. So, chronic pain is experienced in a completely different part of your brain compared to acute pain.
An Extreme Success Story
Dr. Hanscom recounts one rather extreme example of how effective this technique can really be. A gentleman broke his back in a horse riding accident. He subsequently needed surgery on most of his thoracic spine, which led to severe chronic pain. By the time he came to see Dr. Hanscom, he’d been in pain for eight years. Two other surgeons had told him he needed a fusion from his neck all the way down to his pelvis for pain. He came to Dr. Hanscom for a third opinion.
“He had disc degeneration, but he had a straight spine. He had no indications for a major spinal fusion surgery. I said, ‘Look, I don’t think you need a surgery no matter what. There’s just nothing there to operate on. By the way, here are your writing exercises. Take a look at the book, see what you think, and call me in a couple of weeks.’ He’s a Ph.D. scientist and he thought I was just absolutely out of my mind. ”
The man’s girlfriend convinced him to try the writing exercises despite his skepticism, and by the third writing exercise — about three days later — he was 80 percent pain-free. After participating in one of Dr. Hanscom’s workshops at the Omega Institute, he became completely pain-free, and he’s now been pain-free for a year.
“He’s doing normal things now after eight years of chronic pain, he’s even back riding his horse in the hills at a full gallop. If he’d had those operations, he’d have a spine as stiff as a board, the chance of getting rid of his pain is almost zero, and it would’ve been disaster.”
Three Components to Treating Chronic Back Pain
According to Dr. Hanscom, disc degeneration is never a reason for surgery. In his view, surgery simply isn’t the right solution for back pain or neck pain. Sciatica and leg pain may be relieved through surgery, however. When it comes to treating back pain, he believes there are three components to getting better:
Learning about the mechanics of chronic pain and understanding that it’s a neurological disorder
Treating all the variables simultaneously. This includes sleep, stress, medication, nutrition, mental outlook on life, and physical conditioning. “There’s never one answer for chronic pain. People say, ‘I tried a chiropractor, it didn’t work.’ Well, that could help 10 percent, but if you’re not sleeping, it’s not going to work. You have to combine modalities to get better,” he says. “Sleep is No. 1. The entire project is null and void unless you’re sleeping”
Taking control of your own care. For example, for some people chiropractic or acupuncture may be very helpful, whereas it may not work for others. You need to take an active role in determining what’s best for you, and pursue treatments that work in your case
When seeing a new patient, for the first month or two, Dr. Hanscom works with simple medications to address sleep problems and pain. Then he will immediately ask you to start the expressive writing exercises, which teach you awareness and detachment, allowing you to reprogram your brain. Active meditation is also used.
“I simply have them put their brain on sensory input, maybe 20 to 30 times during the day. If you’re anxious and frustrated, you simply listen to your sensory input. Instead of fighting the pathways, you place your attention elsewhere.
The second phase of the treatment is all about learning more about chronic pain, and addressing the physical part of your pain. He also stresses the need to work on forgiveness. Since pain pathways and anger pathways are linked, whenever your anger pathways are fired up, your pain pathways are going to be fired up, and vice versa.
Dr. Hanscom recommends the book, Forgive for Good by Fred Luskin, the director of the Forgiveness Projects at Stanford University, and who did four major research projects on forgiveness.
A retired physician and professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at NYU School of Medicine, Dr. John Sarno, was a forerunner in the field of using forgiveness to address chronic pain, and many of Sarno’s concepts have formed the foundation of what Dr. Hanscom now teaches.
It’s also important to realize that working on your anger and anxiety issues may be a long-term process. An old issue may be triggered at any time, and unless you immediately address it, your pain may come back right along with your anger and anxiety. As noted by Dr. Hanscom:
“It can be base level stress or quirky stress. But you will get triggered. It took me a long time to accept that fact. I teach this stuff. But when I get triggered, I get angry about being triggered.”
Surgery Is Best Reserved as a LAST Resort
In many if not most cases, pain can be resolved using very simple strategies. The key is to find what works for you, and more often than not, there’s an emotional component that needs to be addressed. Dr. Hanscom, like me, strongly recommends leaving surgery as a very last resort.
I also struggled with back pain for about five or six years, despite getting regular exercise and trying a large number of different treatments. Still, I persisted and continued to try different strategies. The approach that finally resolved my back pain was simply to avoid sitting! I now sit about one hour per day, and I have no back pain.
“I can’t tell you how bad the suffering is for people with failed back surgery,” Dr. Hanscom says. “I see people like you all the time, where some simple intervention solved the problem. And then I’m watching another person come in with five back surgeries in five years. They started out just like you. It’s hard to watch.
I’m incredibly determined to bring this right to the mainstream public. I don’t think mainstream medicine is going to buy into it, but I’m incredibly determined to get this out into the general public knowledge because, right now, the business in medicine is doing procedures that don’t work because they make a profit, period… [But] I’m working very hard about creating my own gravity around the situation, and we’re making some definite progress here at the hospital. My partners and I are looking at [pain] differently.”
To learn more, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Dr. Hanscom’s book, Back in Control: A Spine Surgeon’s Roadmap Out of Chronic Pain. Please do keep in mind that while it may initially seem like there’s nothing new here — perhaps you’re already familiar with medication and physical therapy for example, and therefore think it simply will not work for you — it’s the process that makes it work.
And most importantly, your willingness to truly and fully engage in the process will determine much of your outcome. Dr. Hanscom views his book as a framework that presents known solutions to the various aspects of pain. Once you understand your situation in light of this structure you will find your own solution.
“It’s a very paradoxical process. You actually can’t fix yourself. [But] you are putting tools into place to allow your brain to heal,” he says… “For instance, a lot of people have read the book and started their writing. Nothing really happens until those writing exercises start. Usually by the second or third … phone call they’re sort of doing the tools but they’re heading for the wrong direction.”
This happens because sometimes these people are writing all day, long, Dr. Hanscom explains, and that’s actually counterproductive because you’re trying to capture your thoughts and “fix” them — which is another form of trying to regain control.
“This is a process about letting go of control, not having more control,’ he says. It’s completely opposite of what we’ve been taught about stress. That’s why I think finding a coach of some sort who can guide you through the process is critical.I do think a psychologist can be very helpful for guidance and wisdom… There’s just not an exact answer for different people. It’s more like a menu of options. But the key is staying persistent with the process.”
I would also encourage you to sit less, as sitting may actually be aggravating your back or neck pain. Cut it down to about three hours a day or less if you can. Also, while it’s not a popular idea, consider being grateful that your body is wise enough to tell you that there’s something in your life that needs to be changed, be it emotional in nature, or physical. A book that addresses this is Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants, by Dr. Paul Brand. Once you pinpoint the real problem, your pain can finally be released.
Health and Wellness Associates
Archived : Mercola
Yogis, hippies, and holistic medicine specialists have been touting the health benefits of yoga for years: it can improve your fitness level, fight cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and a variety of other disorders, they’ve argued.
But when it comes to the science backing up these claims, a lot is still left unresolved. For example, research has shown that yoga doesn’t necessarily help at all in treating asthma compared to other breathing exercises. And while yoga and mindfulness can improve quality of life, and reduce chemotherapy side effects, it hasn’t been proved to treat cancer in any way, according to the American Cancer Society.
That being said, let’s take a look at all the conditions or disorders yoga does treat — according to the scientific evidence that’s out there, at least. Maybe this way, you can give yoga a try, and better understand how it may benefit you.
Some 80 percent of adults will experience back pain at some point in their lives, and it’s something that can cause a lot of distress and distraction. But research has shown that yoga or simply stretching can alleviate chronic back pain. A 2011 study found that both yoga and stretching helped people with chronic pain — they were considered “safe options” for a condition that is normally treated with a regimen of painkillers. As long as you focus on yoga’s therapeutic effects (and don’t push yourself too much trying to perfect the crazy poses), yoga may relieve your chronic back pain.
Doctors still aren’t certain whether yoga directly improves arthritis; several studies have yielded different and conflicting results. However, it’s generally agreed that yoga can and does assist in reducing the stress and frustration caused by arthritis — and that incorporating yoga into an arthritis treatment program can only enhance it.
“While there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence of the benefits of yoga (just visit any yoga studio), to date only a handful of scientific studies have been conducted on persons with [arthritis],” Johns Hopkins University states. “These early studies have shown promising results with some improvement in joint health, physical functioning, and mental/emotional well-being… People with arthritis may also enjoy yoga more than traditional forms of exercise, and exercise enjoyment is an important predictor of adherence.”
A recent study out of Erasmus University Medical Center found that yoga was beneficial for cardiovascular health. While yoga mainly works on flexibility and muscular strength, it’s not considered an aerobic exercise like running — so it’s an interesting finding.
The researchers note they’re not sure exactly how yoga improves cardiovascular health. “Also unclear, are the dose-response relationship and the relative costs and benefits of yoga when compared to exercise or medication,” Myriam Hunink, lead author of the study, said. “However, these results indicate that yoga is potentially very useful and in my view worth pursuing as a risk improvement practice.”
Indeed, yoga is unlike other types of physical activity in that it focuses more on slower poses, meditative breathing, and a calm approach. This trifecta can assist in reducing stress and lowering blood pressure, which can all have a good effect on your heart health.
Anxiety Disorders, Depression
You may enter a yoga class, your body tensed and tight from weeks and even months’ worth of accumulated stress. Our body holds emotion in it — and yoga can help unravel that. Just an hour’s worth of yoga can force you to leave all your stresses and anxiety behind, and this “yoga high” effect can last for hours afterwards.
Though there aren’t too many studies on this yet, one study found that “several studies of exercise and yoga have demonstrated therapeutic effectiveness superior to no-activity controls and comparable with established depression and anxiety treatments” such as cognitive behavioral therapy, sertraline, and imipramine. “High-energy exercise and frequent aerobic exercise reduce symptoms of depression more than less frequent or low-energy exercise. For anxiety disorders, exercise and yoga have also shown positive effects.”
Chemotherapy Side Effects
While there is no evidence that yoga can fight cancer, or lower a person’s risk, it has been shown to reduce inflammation and alleviate chemotherapy side effects in cancer patients.
In one recent study, scientists gathered breast cancer patients who were suffering from debilitating chemotherapy effects, and placed them in 90-minute yoga classes twice a week. They found the cancer patients had more energy, less fatigue, and slept much better than the patients who didn’t do yoga.
This brings us to yoga and sleep: like most exercise, yoga can improve your sleeping patterns and fight insomnia. Stress and the “buzz” of external anxieties — and yes, a sedentary lifestyle — can keep us lying awake at night. Learning to breathe more slowly and deeply in yoga classes can ultimately improve our sleep. A 2004 study found that yoga treated chronic insomnia in patients,
Health and Wellness Associates