©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Believe it or not, many back problems can start while you're asleep.

Protecting Your Back in Bed

Many activities in a typical day put stress on your back -- even some activities that you may not think of as strenuous at all. In the short term, these activities may result in minor aches and pains; in the long term, they can cause chronic back problems. For example, about a third of your life is spent in bed. Still, some people never make the connection between their early morning back pain and the condition of their bedding or how they position themselves in bed at night. Here are some tips you can follow for taking care of your back while you are getting a good night's sleep.

Get a Back-Friendly Bed

When was the last time you bought a new bed? Maybe you considered putting a sheet of plywood under your mattress to support your back. Many sleep-related backaches are indeed caused by a mattress that is too soft. In most cases, however, adding plywood to a soft mattress will not help, because there is just too much soft material between the wood and your body, and your spine gets too little support.

What you need is something firm. Many people like lying on a carpeted floor, because it is firm but has some padding on top of it for your bones. This might work sometimes, but what you really need is a good orthopedically designed box spring and mattress. The cost may scare you at first, but consider how much money many people spend on car payments every month; think how much time the average person spends per day in that expensive car or truck; now consider how much time you spend in bed. Get the picture?

What kind of mattress is best? That may come down to personal preference. Different types of bedding, such as water beds and air mattresses, have different advantages and disadvantages when compared with more conventional beds. For example, a water bed, when filled with the proper amount of water, can have a therapeutic effect. The heat of the water may keep your back more limber as you sleep. On the other hand, if it has too much or too little water, your back may be stiff in the morning -- if you manage to sleep that long.

Whatever your choice, gauge your bed's support by lying down on the bed in your usual sleep position (on your back or side -- not on your stomach), and have a friend look to see if your spine is aligned correctly. Imagine a line drawn through the ear, the shoulder, and the hip joints on one side of your body; if the line is straight, then the bed is OK for you. If you share a bed with someone, make sure that he or she is also lying in the bed before trying this out, because the change in weight will definitely make a difference.

Stretch Before Getting Up

Your body is a marvelous machine. As you sleep, it shifts blood and warmth from the back muscles to other areas such as the kidneys, liver, stomach, and other organs that need them all night. When you wake up in the morning, the lack of blood flow and movement in your spine makes it vulnerable to strains and sprains. Muscles are tight, and joints are dry; face it, your back is just not ready for the day.

One of the best things you can do to reduce the risk of back strain or injury is to stretch before you get out of bed. Stretching will start to warm, limber, and lubricate your back. Try something as simple as lying on your back in a relaxed, comfortable position with your legs extended. Slowly raise your arms over your head and lay them on the bed. Gently reach with both arms as far over your head as you comfortably can. Then, add your legs and toes to the exercise, pointing your toes toward the foot of the bed. Remember to stretch only to the point of mild tension, hold the stretch for ten seconds, and then allow your whole body to relax. For maximum benefit, repeat this stretch a few times. You might also want to try it with one arm at a time. For your spine, it's like breakfast in bed.

Use the Logroll Technique

Getting out of bed may not seem like much of a problem for your back. If you have ever had a back injury, though, you probably found out that this seemingly easy task can be one of the most challenging feats you attempt all day. The first thing you can do is make the task easier by raising your bed off of the ground if it sits flat on the floor (the way many water beds do). If your bed is on the floor, put it on a pedestal or bed frame. It makes the task of getting out of bed much easier on your back and the rest of your body.

Next, use what is called a logroll to get your body in a position to get out of the bed. The technique goes like this: As you are lying on your back, roll over onto your side so you are facing the side of the bed you plan to get out of. Gently bring your knees toward your chest, keeping your legs in contact with the bed at all times. As you do this, simultaneously use your hands and arms to push your upper body up off of the bed; let your legs fall slowly off of the edge. As your upper body raises up, most of your weight will be on the hip, buttocks, and thighs rather than on the spine. Complete the maneuver by putting your hands on your thighs and extending your back up as you push yourself up and out of the bed. Keep your back straight and your head up as you rise.

Take your time completing this maneuver. Remember that your back is still waking up, and even after an in-bed stretch, it is not entirely up to speed. A little extra time and a little extra care spent here could save you the agony and frustration of a bad back day.

Remember, getting back into bed can also be stressful to even a healthy back. It can be tempting to flop into bed at the end of the day, but the forced twisting that such a fall can cause is dangerous. So to insure a safe and restful evening, use this technique in reverse to get back into bed.

Just because you've managed to get out of bed without injuring your back doesn't mean there aren't a thousand other ways to strain or pull a back muscle. In the next section, we will show how to go about your morning routine while putting minimal strain on your back.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.