It's fairly common that at the end of the day, lower back pain can start to flare up and become difficult to ignore. You might notice that your symptoms become more acute or nagging, your aches become amplified, and you have trouble getting comfortable while you're winding down for bed.
It can seem to be a big mystery when- almost like clockwork- your low back pain gets worse every time the sun goes down... Especially after you were seemingly managing ok earlier on in the day.
Back pain, especially in the lower back, is familiar for many. When that pain doesn't just stay localized in your lower back, but also radiates down into your legs, it's known as lumbar radiculopathy. And the bad news for sufferers is that it's known to get worse at night.
Here, we discover some things you might have been unknowingly doing to contribute to your lumbar radiculopathy symptoms becoming more bothersome at nightfall.
But first, let's have a quick refresher on Lumbar Radiculopathy...
Lumbar radiculopathy is certainly less prominent than standard lower back pain, and this lower back pain doesn't always lead to lumbar radiculopathy. The difference that sets it apart is that lumbar radiculopathy is actually a pinched nerve in the spine.
Combined with the pain you'd experience as a result of other spine issues, with lumbar radiculopathy you can also experience numbness, pain, and even weakness in your legs and feet.
Essentially, when an injury takes place, intervertebral disks in your spine can become affected and then may place pressure or compression on a nerve root in the back.
If a specific nerve in your back becomes compressed, pain and unpleasant sensations can also be experienced in your legs.
Radiculopathy can result from injuries, and sometimes has a deeper cause. Some conditions that may lead to lumbar radiculopathy include:
- Bone Spurs
- A Herniated Disk
- Compression Fractures
In most cases of lumbar radiculopathy, symptoms can become more aggressive in the evening, precisely when you're trying to settle down and get ready to have a restful night's sleep.
So, why is your lumbar radiculopathy pain worse at night?
There are many things that can influence this. Perhaps one of these 5 factors might be contributing to your nighttime discomfort and exacerbating your pain...
5. Your Sleeping Position
The position you fall asleep in may be playing a part. If you're a side sleeper or tend to sleep curled up, this could be placing extra strain. Bending your spine in this unnatural curvature for several hours while you're asleep causes the vertebrae in your lower back to pinch that irritated nerve even more.
Our shoulders and hips come into contact with the bed surface first when laying down. Curling up in a ball changes this normal, neutral position our spine is designed to tolerate and causes more compression and pressure on the nerve.
Try Instead: Sleeping on your back, or if you absolutely have to sleep on your side, try hugging a pillow between your knees and keeping your head straight, to hold your spine in its most natural position.
4. Your Back is Tired
After a long day spent standing or sitting, the pain can take hold and just catch up with you by the time it comes to wind down and relax.
Oh, the irony... Right?! If you are able to switch up your routine and incorporate some time to stretch and exercise, you may be able to break this vicious cycle.
Try Instead: Doing some gentle stretches throughout the day and in the afternoon to keep all your muscles well limbered and supple, to avoid fatigue at nightfall.
3. You've Got No Other Distractions
Sometimes, the attention that you give to something can affect how your pain is perceived. Throughout your day, with your attention directed away from your lumbar radiculopathy and focused on your work, family, errands, and chores, you may not be focusing on the pain.
When it comes time for nightfall and the day’s work comes to a close, you may find that you notice the pain more.
Try Instead: Schedule something enjoyable to take your mind off things in the evenings. Keeping your mind engaged in a fun conversation or an enchanting book will keep your brain in the activity you're doing, and not on your pain.
2. The Temperature Drops
It is theorized that fluctuations in temperature may impact our nerves. As you're sleeping, your body temperature drops as your body goes into its rest cycle, and cooler temperatures at night can make your body feel colder overall.
When this occurs, your damaged nerves can possibly misinterpret the temperature change that they pick up on. In this case, the tingling sensation can lead to pain in the nerve and worsen your lumbar radiculopathy symptoms.
Try Instead: In the cool of the evenings, bundle up in plenty of warm clothing if you'll be going in and out of hot and cold environments, and try to regulate your body temperature as much as possible.
1. Your Sleep Quality is Lacking
Pain perception is heavily impacted by your sleep quality and sleep patterns. If you are not receiving an ample amount of “good” sleep, your perception of the pain in your lower back and legs may feel worse than during the day.
Stress can wreak havoc on your physical health and may also make pain worse for you. Managing your stress and sleep can make all the difference.
Try Instead: Establish a good bedtime routine to ensure you have a relaxed mindset and your body can easily drift off for a restful night's sleep. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and try to eat an early dinner, then dim the lights an hour before you go to bed for your best possible sleep.
Above all else, remember to be gentle with yourself. It can be frustrating that your symptoms get worse at night, precisely when you'd love more than anything to have some comforting relief from pain and relax after a long day. Be sure to carve out plenty of well-deserved time for self care, and also take some measures to nurture your spine to avoid the dreaded pain creeping in at sundown.
Making a few changes to address the above contributing factors will help take some of the stress out of the equation, and help you ease your radiculopathy pain from becoming more troublesome at night.
Wishing you comfortable, pain-free nights...
Slabway Wellness Consultant