Beat Nighttime Pain

Pain not only interferes with your ability to get a good night’s sleep, it actually disrupts the sleep you do get by encouraging your brain to wake you up throughout the night. Here are tips to help.

Pain not only interferes with your ability to get a good night’s sleep, it actually disrupts the sleep you do get by encouraging your brain to wake you up throughout the night. That’s because pain and sleep share common biological pathways, says Julie K. Silver, M.D., an assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School. So even if your eyes remain shut most of the night, chances are your brain still isn’t getting the deep, restorative sleep it needs. As a result, you wake up in the morning feeling far from refreshed. Also, sleep deprivation actually increases your sensitivity to the pain. Yeah, you read that right. So pain = less sleep = more pain.

Want to escape from that nasty little loop and get some sleep? Here’s what Dr. Silver prescribes.

[step-list-wrapper title=”” time=””] [step-item number=”1. ” image_url=”” title=” LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.” ] When pain first raises the alarm that something’s wrong, pay attention. Precisely where is the pain? On a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being no pain and 10 indicating the worst possible pain imaginable, where is your pain? What makes your pain worse? Do any other symptoms accompany it?[/step-item]

[step-item number=”2. ” image_url=”” title=”TRACK YOUR PAIN.” ] If the pain’s not severe—and remember, severe pain requires a doctor’s immediate intervention—keep a pain log and track the pain for a month, says Dr. Silver. Jot down when it occurs, its rank on a scale of 1 to 10, and what makes it better or worse.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”3. ” image_url=”” title=”MEDICATE.” ] Whether it’s delivered as a pill, patch, cream, or injection, medication can be God’s gift to the hurting. Ranging from acetaminophen and lidocaine patches to low-dose antidepressants and muscle relaxants, the arsenal is awesome. But every one has side effects, and not every one works in every situation. Work with your doctor to find the best approach.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”4. ” image_url=”” title=”ENLIST YOUR DOCTOR’S HELP.” ] There is no virtue in bearing pain. Its your body’s alarm system that something is wrong. So get to the person who can help you figure out what your body’s trying to say: your doctor.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”5. ” image_url=”” title=”DON’T DO ANYTHING STUPID.” ] While you’re waiting to see your doctor, don’t aggravate your pain. If you have hip pain every time you run, don’t run. Walk instead.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”6. ” image_url=”” title=”HEAT IT UP.” ] Try applying a hot pack to the area in which the pain occurs for 20 minutes a day.[/step-item][/step-list-wrapper]

[step-list-wrapper title=”” time=””] [step-item number=”7. ” image_url=”” title=”COOL IT DOWN.” ] Try a cold pack for 20 minutes once a day. Wrap the area in a towel to make sure the outside of the pack doesn’t touch your skin. Cold packs reduce inflammation and provide a temporary numbing effect.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”8. ” image_url=”” title=”HAVE A MASSAGE.” ] Schedule one session a week and see how you feel.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”9. ” image_url=”” title=”OR TRY ACUPUNCTURE.” ] Just keep in mind that it takes six to eight sessions before you’ll notice any effect. This is not a quick fix.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”10. ” image_url=”” title=”MOVE.” ] Have your doctor refer you to a physical therapist who can design a personal movement program that targets the area in pain. Also, work with your therapist to get an aerobic exercise program that works for you.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”11. ” image_url=”” title=”STAY ON TOP.” ] Treat pain aggressively early in the day, says Dr. Silver, and you’ll be more likely to control it more effectively and with less medication throughout the day and evening. Play tough girl and let it remain at a low ebb all day and it’s sure to build. Then, when everything’s quiet and you’re lying in bed trying to sleep, it’ll get you but good.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”12. ” image_url=”” title=”PRAY.” ] A survey by researchers at Stanford University Medical Center found that 62 percent of women under 50 who had pain prayed for relief. Seventy-one percent of women over 50 prayed. The result? Prayer worked in half of those who tried it. Amazingly, it relieved pain just as well as prescription meds.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”13. ” image_url=”” title=”SEE THE PAIN DOCTOR.” ] If you still can’t get on top of your pain, schedule an appointment with a doctor who specializes in treating pain. [/step-item][/step-list-wrapper]

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest