Treating spinal canal stenosis while you sleep

While most patients with a narrowed spinal canal, a condition called stenosis, wish there were a way they could simply go to sleep one night and wake up in the morning without the discomfort of pain, tingling, numbness and weakness, this is not a realistic expectation. However, there are ways that back pain can be treated during the night.

Adults sleep for approximately eight hours out of every 24 – that’s one-third of the entire day. So, doesn’t it make sense that we would be just as careful to manage our pain at night as we would while we were awake? Plus, our backs are especially vulnerable while we sleep – we become so relaxed that we can easily lie in a position that puts excessive strain on our spines, already weakened from spinal canal conditions like stenosis.

Nighttime pain prevention

Below are a few simple ways to ensure that your back is properly supported while you sleep and that spinal canal stenosis is not exacerbated. However, do not try any of these ideas without first checking with your physician:

  • Find a medium-firm mattress. Traditionally, people with back pain have chosen extremely firm mattresses, though new studies have shown that mattresses with too hard a density can actually make back pain worse. When gauging firmness, take into account the number of coils in the mattress, how far apart they are and the amount of padding that is on top of the mattress.
  • Consider a bed that is adjustable. If you have stenosis of the spine, lying down in a perfectly flat position may be very uncomfortable. Usually, elevating the sections of the mattress that are under the head and under the knees have proven to be the most helpful for people with spine pain.
  • If you sleep on your side, slide a pillow between your knees. If you sleep on your stomach, remove the pillow under your head and slide it under your abdomen. This way, the section of your spine that would normally “collapse” into the mattress is supported from beneath.

An additional benefit of maintaining back health while sleeping is that you wake up with less spinal stenosis pain. Do some light stretches first thing in the morning before getting out of bed to help with flexibility and circulation. This also ensures that you will not strain muscles that have been immobile during the night.

Finding more permanent relief

If you have taken precautions to prevent your back pain as you sleep – in conjunction with other methods of conservative pain relief therapy – for several months and you still endure the debilitating discomfort of spinal canal stenosis, your physician may suggest surgery. Contact Laser Spine Institute for more information about our minimally invasive outpatient procedures that are effective and safer alternatives to open spine surgery, and to find out if you are a candidate.

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