A good night’s rest is important to restore and revive you for the next day. If you are grappling with back problems, that sleep becomes more vital than ever. Unrestful sleep could leave you more exhausted and in pain than ever before. Finding a good sleeping position and the right kind of support for your spine and back can ease your upper, middle, or lower back pain and even prevent it from worsening. That’s aside from helping you get a better night’s rest. Here’s what could work best for you.
Sleeping Positions Can Impact Back Pain And Comfort
Depending on how you sleep, you may actually worsen your pain or alleviate it. Each position places pressure on different parts of the body. For instance, lying on your side with a lot of pressure on the arms can interfere with circulation and pinch your nerves, resulting in a numbness or pins and needles type of feeling. Overall, the more neutral your spine is, the less pain you are likely to experience, the more comfortable you are going to be, and the less fitful or restless your sleep will be.1
Lie On Your Side Or Back For Easing Upper Back And Neck Pain While Sleeping
If you are plagued by upper back, shoulder, or neck pain, always sleep on your side or back to reduce strain. This puts less pressure on your spine and keeps the back more relaxed. Also, support yourself with a rounded pillow that takes the natural curve of the neck along with a flatter one to cushion your head.2
Side Sleeping Is Best For Reducing Lower Back Pain
If you are prone to lower back pain, nothing beats the side sleeping position. It is also good for a lot of people with hip pain. If you are a back sleeper, know that it is not ideal. But you could manage to keep the neutral curvature of the spine with the help of some pillows. Sleeping on your stomach, however, is a strict no-no. You are likely to have fitful restless sleep as you struggle with neck and lower back strain.3 This position causes you to strain the neck and compresses both muscles and nerves in the area, bringing on further pain and tightness.4
Get Middle Back Pain Relief By Sleeping On Your Back or Side
If you have a middle back pain, chances are it is a result of your posture. Postural pain can begin when you sit or stand badly or because you’ve had an injury or accident of some kind that’s altered your posture. So, find a sleeping position that doesn’t cause stiffness or strain your back. A sleep position that’s good for the other parts of the back – like sleeping on your side or back – should work fine here too.
But remember, it is just as important to ease the strain of your daytime posture by sitting tall with your shoulders pulled back a bit. One trick is to pull them back as much as you can and then bring them forward a third of the way to find the optimal position. Massage, foam rolling, chest stretches, and back strengthening exercises can all help ease the pain and get you a better night’s sleep.5
Use Cervical Pillows To Ease Pain Whether You Sleep On Your Side, Back, Or Stomach
One time-tested method to ease strain on the back when sleeping is to use pillows. They can keep your spine neutral and supported and ease postural problems. If you have upper back or neck pain, try using a neck roll in the pillowcase of your flat pillow. Most people find this less unwieldy. You’ll also find pillows that have built-in neck support with indentations for the head. Feather pillows work well but need replacement annually. Memory foam is another option.
Cervical pillows are designed especially for neck and back problems and can help you find a comfortable position to sleep regardless of whether you have upper, middle, or lower back pain. You could invest in a pillow designed to help those with sciatica or back pain. Ergonomic pillows don’t look like normal pillows and are usually made out of foam to lend greater support.6
Place Pillows Strategically For Optimal Support While Sleeping
Whether you’re using a combination of regular pillows to provide added support or relying on ergonomic or cervical pillows, here is how you should place them.7:
Pillow position for side sleepers: Lie down on your side and bring your legs in the direction your chest at a bit of an angle. Place a pillow between your knees to take the pressure off your back and also keep the spine itself from rotating. A full body pillow may also be good for you.
Pillow position for back sleepers: Keep pillows below your knees to help cushion joints and ease pressure on the back.
Pillow position for stomach sleepers: This position that isn’t recommended for anyone with back pain because it really can put a lot of pressure on the back. However, if you are unable to change to another position or in the interim while you try and learn a new sleep position, give yourself some added support by using pillows below the abdomen and lower pelvis. Avoiding the pillow below the neck and head altogether may also be comfortable for some people to avoid neck strain.
Look Beyond Sleeping Position: Other Sleeping Tips To Reduce Back Pain
Use these tips to help yourself get a better night’s rest and ease some of the back pain you’ve been experiencing by sleeping wrongly.8 9 10
- Get a good mattress that eases the pain you experience. Take time to test and try out different mattresses until you find one that reduces your back pain. Firm mattresses come recommended for those who have back pain, but some people actually find a softer option works for them – so, listen to your body.
- Use the right pillows correctly: We’ve said this already but can’t say it enough!
- Flip mattresses regularly: Flip your mattress over and around every few months to keep the load on it even and the wear and tear balanced.
- Don’t put off replacing worn pillows and mattresses: If you feels bumps, lumps, or even the springs in your mattress or find you can only sleep on some sections of it comfortably, it may be time for a change. Most mattresses do fine for 5 to 7 years after which they need to be replaced. Replace pillows before they feel completely worn down. Wash it every 6 months or so to keep it in good condition. About 12 to 24 months is a good average life for a pillow.
- Get out of bed carefully: Rise slowly and gently, rolling to one side first and then pushing up slowly with the hands as you swing your legs to the side of the bed and onto the ground. Never bend at the waist because this strains the back as you get off the bed.
|↑1, ↑4, ↑7||Sleep Ergonomics | Wake Up Pain-Free and Energized. Canadian Chiropractic Association.|
|↑2||Say “good night” to neck pain. Harvard Health Publishing.|
|↑3||Starfish or Freefall? What Your Sleep Position Can Tell You. The Better Sleep Council.|
|↑5||What’s the Deal with Middle Back Pain?. Fitness Magazine.|
|↑6||Proper Sleep Ergonomics. American Chiropractic Association.|
|↑8||Proper Sleep Ergonomics.American Chriopractic Association.|
|↑9||Tips to Maintain Good Posture. American Chiropractic Association.|
|↑10||When Should You Replace Your Pillow?. National Sleep Foundation.|