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Back pain is often a product of various sleep disorders, doc says

Published: Saturday, Dec. 10 2011 3:33 p.m. MST

Practicing good sleep hygiene, or getting to bed at the same time each night and getting enough sleep, is a first line approach to combating any type of chronic pain.

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SALT LAKE CITY — A variety of contributing factors can make back pain worse, according to a doctor and physical therapist who participated in the Deseret News/Intermountain Healthcare Health Hotline Saturday.

Among those are smoking, depression and anxiety, sleep disorders and carrying unnecessary extra weight.

Dr. Scott Swasey, an orthopedic physician at Intermountain Medical Center's Physical Medicine and Rehab Clinic, said he tries to eliminate each factor before determining how to treat varying back pain.

"If you're not getting that good, cleansing sleep at night, there's not much I can do for you," he said Saturday, adding that practicing good sleep hygiene, or getting to bed at the same time each night and getting enough sleep, is a first line approach to combating any type of chronic pain.

It is unknown why each has a compounding effect on the body, but there are multiple schools of thought, including that smoking decreases blood flow and good sleep habits lead to healthier lifestyles.

More than a dozen individuals from areas along the Wasatch Front and one from Parowan called the hotline, asking doctors questions about side effects and residual pain from previous surgeries, about nonsurgical treatments and temporary relief measures, as well as about exercises that can be done to alleviate pain. Also, about 10 individuals participated in the exchange via the Deseret News Facebook page Saturday morning.

Some even had questions regarding the mattresses they sleep on and Intermountain WorkMed physical therapist Brad Dalton said it all depends on personal preference as to which is best. However, he mentioned that memory foam mattresses could help but would require a period of two to three weeks for the body to adjust appropriately. Softer mattresses, he said, could be problematic.

"Exercise is good," Dalton told one caller, adding that it should be only comfortable movements and not any that cause further pain.

Some individuals were already seeing physical therapists or participating in treatments for their pain, but were seeking additional relief.

"Chronic pain patients have a hard time getting better, that's why they call it chronic," Swasey said. Both Swasey and Dalton referred several callers to their offices, where they can properly provide a full evaluation and more assistance.

The health hotline is offered to readers through a partnership between Intermountain Healthcare and the Deseret News. It covers a different health topic the second Saturday of each month.

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com, Twitter: wendyleonards

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