Relax, Refresh and Renew Your Aching Back

Studies indicate that pain interferes with sleep, and sleep problems can worsen pains. As a specific example, up to two thirds of individuals with arthritis experience pain during the night.

A solution for reduced arthritis and pain is a good night’s rest. But how can you get a good night’s rest if you have pain and joint problems? Individuals with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia can benefit from healthy, natural approaches to manage the pain and get a better night’s sleep.

Poorly designed mattresses can create pressure points, causing decreased circulation, and discomfort. By comforting your bedding, you will likely benefit and achieve that anatomically correct position, and improve your circulation.

It’s not just mattresses that are important. Exercising your back muscles, stretching appropriately, lifting accurately, and sitting and standing at work with good posture can really improve your management of back pain. Turning out the lights, using a sleep mask that may be filled with a pressure relieving material, contouring your sleep to a beneficial pressure-free and temperature exact therapeutic level may also help.

To look for some solutions, I recently visited Relax the Back® store in Houston, Texas, and spoke with a salesperson who was passionate about the benefits of their products.

Esteban Salas, Manager of the Galleria store in Houston, provided some very important insight, “People should not sleep on their stomach. They should have proper alignment and understand if they are hyper-extending their neck. When you incorporate properly fitted head and body pillows, you can have proper alignment. Flexion is when you are rounding your back (all day we are usually in this position), and you should extend, but not for long periods of time.” This could lead to neck problems, which can be alleviated with a cervical pillow.

Esteban continued, “Sleeping on your back is correct. It is the way you stand, with your head straight and aligned with the rest of your body. It’s not tucked down or behind (with too much or too little support).”

Another option to achieve a “weightless environment” is to sleep on a comfortable adjustable bed, which will allow you to sleep on your back. I also had the opportunity of relaxing in a custom chair recliner. The zero gravity chair is incredible. The spine is relaxed, and you feel relief instantly! It decompresses the spine and allows the fluids to enter and circulate properly in the disk regions, and it appears helpful for patients who come out of surgery or to prevent getting to that point.

This could be very beneficial for diabetics and heart patients for good blood flow (or if your feet are tired). This provides full back support, and also anti-gravity helps alleviate some of the pressure from the spinal cord and relieves some of the muscles.

This inversion therapy had a nice effect on the lower back, calmed the area, and was quite comfortable. By safely guiding my body in a back stretch, it seemed to also show potential for better posture.

For others, hot and cold therapy can also help, and the belt wrap device offered a safe and comfortable source of pain control to the specific lower back area. I’ve never used the round exercise balls, but many people are using them and exercising the areas of the back for better flexibility and posture. Talk with your physical therapist for the best methods on how to use them.

Proper alignment of the spinal cord can lead to a healthier state. To emphasize this point, we examined a replica of the spinal cord. By bending the back in certain directions, there was definite impingement. It was apparent that certain positions stress the nerves, bones, and muscles of these areas. Considering the amount of stress that bad posture puts on the spine, it is absolutely essential to keep good posture. Using these devices is a simple way to improve overall health and in turn, sleep.

Other natural solutions that can lead to healthier sleep:

Use a comfortable, therapeutic mattress to eliminate pressure points and improve sleeping conditions. An adjustable bed can also help.
Decrease allergenic dust mites and other household allergens by vacuuming regularly, consider an air purifier, and open the windows in your home periodically for fresh air.
Design a space saving work environment that is ergonomic, and decreases tension on the back, feet, and neck.
Do daily stretching exercises to relieve tension and reduce potential for injury.

Take a moment the next time you are in a store and visit the bedding department. You may be surprised at how comforting a nice bed, a therapeutic chair, and an ergonomic work environment may be to your health.

Dr. Nikos

Nikos Linardakis, M.D. is a physician executive based in Salt Lake City, and is the author of Ten Natural Ways to a Good Night’s Sleep. Visit and

Amanda Hanley is a recipient of the Tharos Laboratories 2008 Internship Award Program, and is a writer and student at Villanova University in Pennsylvania.