Chiropractic Care and Rest
One of the most pressing reasons people seek chiropractic care is that they’re having trouble resting. Even if they find joint dysfunction manageable throughout the day, they may be waking up in pain throughout the night or find that they suffer from soreness in the morning. Since chiropractors take a holistic view of the body, we understand that sleep deprivation and inflammation feed into each other. However, this also works in reverse, and reducing one may also reduce the other. This month, we’re going to explore some common problems and what people can do to fix them at home while also getting chiropractic treatments.
Arthritis and Restlessness
Arthritis literally means inflammation of the joints, and it is a term used to describe lots of different diseases. Some of those have measurable connections to sleep. At night, the body releases less of the anti-inflammatory hormone cortisol and more pro-inflammatory cytokines. We also know that lack of sleep drives more extreme inflammation responses, including in people with osteoarthritis, the disease in which the cartilage that lines the joints is wearing away. Insomnia also makes pain feel more intense. However, getting better rest makes people more resilient to inflammatory reactions. This is one of the reasons why chiropractors say that getting aligned so your joints are under less pressure can improve your immune response.
There are some simple lifestyle changes we can make to give ourselves a better chance at rest regardless of any other treatments we’re getting. Among those are making our bedrooms places that are only used for sleeping. Just as we shouldn’t be doing anything that makes us anxious or excited before bed, we shouldn’t be doing those things in the space we want to associate with rest, either. We may also want to review the bedding itself. Your chiropractor can give you more specific instructions if you have a particular problem, but for general wellness purposes, having a firmer mattress is usually better for spinal alignment and joint support. A mattress that is too old to be firm may need to be replaced, although its life could be extended with a firm mattress topper.
We shift position in our sleep, and it’s necessary to do so to prevent soreness, but it may be easier to fall asleep if we try a different position. Chiropractors often recommend that patients hold a pillow between their knees if they sleep on their sides. Lying flat on your back may be a problem if you have obstructive sleep apnea, which means that the soft tissues of your throat sag into your airway and disrupt your breathing while you’re asleep, but sleeping on your back is helpful for your joints. The worst sleep position is on your front, since this forces your head back and turns it sideways. Some professionals recommend using lower-friction sleepwear and sheets to make changing positions at night easier. It may also be helpful to use a heated blanket, although for many people, the problem is that they have the thermostat on too high.
Common Treatments for Sore Muscles and Joints
For many conditions, chiropractors will recommend stretches to do at home to help connective tissues regain their strength and flexibility. Doing these before bed can reduce the risk that they will tighten while one is inactive in sleep.
Chiropractic adjustments put joints back into place, but many chiropractic offices also offer services that work on inflamed tissues directly. These include low-level laser therapy, which induces soft tissues to release more energy they can devote to healing. Other physical modalities include various methods for breaking up scar-tissue adhesions that are preventing muscles from stretching as far as they should. Chiropractic treatments often work better the more they are done, so as they reduce inflammation, the patient’s rest improves, creating a positive feedback cycle.