Getting Out of Bed Can Help You With Your Back Pain - Harvard Medical School Newsletter

Posted on 29 Jul 2015 02:17


Harvard Medical School recommended different sleeping positions and to get out of bed for people suffering from back pain.

Last week Harvard Medical School published a newsletter listing strength training as a form of long term treatment for back pain. I wrote about it in my blog post: Newsletter from Harvard Medical School on Back Pain. It has disclaimers and a link for you to Subscribe to Harvard Medical School's FREE Newsletter titled "Healthbeat". To put it simply, I am not a doctor and I am not licensed to give out medical advice. Whatever tips and thoughts I have on the matter are purely my own and if you feel like trying them out please consult your doctor first.

Despite this being a free newsletter, I am not going to publish the text verbatim.

According to Harvard Medical School, sleeping too much or lying horizontally is bad for you if you have back pain. HMS recommends trying to get back to physical work as quickly as possible - despite the back pain even, because too much time in bed will weaken the muscles used to support the back. If you lie horizontally for too long here are the dangers you are putting yourself into:

  • You weaken the muscles required to brace your back and act as support. Think of your core muscles.
  • You may suffer from constipation or other gastrointenstinal problems
  • If you develop a blood clot (probably in extreme cases of inactivity) it might result in an embolism

HMS recommends using pillows to facilitate better rest and recovery.

  • Use pillows under your head and between your knees while lying on your side.
  • Use pillows under your knees while lying on your back. From personal experience, for those of us who have big backs it is also wise to throw in a pillow supporting your lower back. Sometimes a whole pillow is overkill and you might not have access to a smaller pillow so I suggest you roll up a towel to act as a small size support pillow for your lower back instead.
  • Use pillows under your hips while lying on your stomach. Again, from personal experience, this is a GREAT idea and my go to solution for sleep because I always sleep on my stomach. The pillow under your hips will REALLY alleviate the pain - especially if you've been training after an injury or while in pain and want to recover faster.

One of the options HMS has listed for pain management is choosing the right mattress for you. While admitting that not much research has gone into this process, HMS has listed some guidelines for how to go about your selection process. If you are interested in knowing about these tips, please Subscribe to Harvard Medical School's FREE Newsletter titled "Healthbeat"

From personal experience, I have found that those of us who train and those of us who specifically train through injury: we need to manage our pain very carefully. Because to be honest, there is a lot of pain and it takes time to overcome. So one of the obstacles I have observed with strength trainees is that very often back injuries become worse before they become better (in terms of pain) and somewhere along this time frame (which is different for different people and can range from a few days to a few years) the very action of getting out of bed is extremely painful. I have found that before you get out of bed, if you lie on your side and focus on bracing your core - like you do during planks, for intervals of 20-30 seconds for a couple of sets and then getting out of bed after doing this: the action of getting out of bed is less painful because you have blood rushing into your support muscles already. If you are experiencing pain while getting out of bed after long periods of sleep I suggest you try this out - and remember that I am not a medical professional so if you have any doubts run this by your doctor first. These are my observations from anecdotal experience and helping people with injuries get back to the gym and get strong again. Also, if you are hurting, I suggest you try to consciously brace your core before doing every day activities like leaning forward while brushing your teeth or sitting down at the dining table or bending down to tie your shoe laces, etc. You will be surprised at the diminishing of pain just because you are forcibly using your core. One of the disadvantages to this is that using your core "too much" may make it difficult to brace your core on the heavy workouts you put in - and this goes back to making adjustments based on your individual needs taking in the ground reality of the situation.

© 2018 by Lift BIG. All Rights Reserved. Please contact for permissions.