Last updated: January 26, 2017
If you suffer from back pain, you know how difficult it is to find a comfortable position when you sleep. It is a vicious cycle because you need to sleep to heal your back, but you cannot sleep because of the pain.
So, what is the best sleeping position with back pain?
In this article, we will review the best sleeping positions when you have back pain. We will also explain how to get even more comfortable in bed, offer tips on what you can be doing to help get rid of that pain, and offer some products that will reduce your back pain.
Best Sleeping Position With Back Pain
There isn’t necessarily one sleeping position that is best for everybody that has back pain. Instead, find what position you prefer, and then follow the tips I am about to provide to modify your position.
Getting rid of your back pain means getting adequate rest but, to rest, you need to be comfortable.
If you sleep on your back, you should have your knees elevated to help your lower back keep it’s natural curve. The angle of your knees depends on your comfort level. You can use a wedge pillow to give you the support you need and help alleviate your pain.
The downside to this is that you can change positions. If you are already a back sleeper who doesn’t shift positions at night, this won’t be much of an issue for you.
If you sleep on your side, draw your legs up closer to your chest into a fetal position. This will keep your back curved.
In addition, your hips need to be aligned to keep your discs apart. Putting a pillow between your legs will keep your knees apart and your hips lined up with your spine. The best pillows for that purpose are sciatica cushions that keep your legs and ankles separated.
Another great way to alleviate and prevent back pain for side sleepers is to sleep with a full body pillow. Pregnancy pillows work great for those suffering from frequent back pain.
These pillows prevent the neck from being too high or too low. The contours will help maintain your neck in the right position whether you sleep on your side or your back. You can also get orthopedic pillows that are designed specifically for a specific sleep position.
What’s the worst position to sleep when you have back pain?
Whether you experience back pain or not, the best way to sleep is in a position that keeps your spine in a neutral position.
The absolute worst way to sleep when you have back pain is on your stomach. If you are on your stomach, your spine is flattened which puts strain on your back muscles. When those muscles flare up and become inflamed, that puts pressure on your sciatic nerve. The pain from the nerve will radiate from your lower back all the way down your legs.
You can also put significant strain on your neck when you sleep on your stomach. Your head is usually rotated so your face isn’t buried in your pillow. This could have you suffering from neck and shoulder pain.
If you are a stomach sleeper, it is a good idea to train yourself to sleep on your back or side. Even if you don’t often suffer from back pain, sleeping on your stomach will catch up with you and lead to back problems down the line. Prevention is the best medicine
How can you train yourself not to sleep on your stomach?
The first step is to prepare your mind for transitioning to sleeping on your back or side. During the day, you should imagine yourself sleeping on your side or back. Think about it often, as foolish as it might sound. The reason you sleep in any prefered position tends to be mental, not physical. Put your mind in a place that will normalize your new sleeping position.
Get yourself an orthopedic pillow. They are contoured and are very comfortable when you sleep on your back and side. When you sleep on your back or side, the pillow will help keep your neck aligned with your spine and will reduce and prevent back pain.
The pillow is really uncomfortable to sleep on when you’re a stomach sleeper. You will find yourself avoiding stomach sleeping since you won’t rest well in that position.
You can also ask your partner for help. If you share a bed, ask your partner to wake you up and tell you to change positions when they see you sleeping on your stomach.
If you have tried to force yourself to change positions, but to no avail and simply have to sleep on your stomach, here are a couple of tips:
Try to sleep without a pillow to keep your neck and spine aligned.
Put a pillow under your abdomen. This will keep your spine from flattening and reduce pressure on your muscles.
Other tips for how to sleep with back pain
There are things you can do before you get yourself tucked into bed that will help you sleep better with back pain.
The most obvious thing you should look into when you are suffering from frequent back pain is your mattress. How old is it? Is it more than five years old? You may need to get a new mattress as it could be the biggest contributing factor.
There are many new mattresses on the market that will help prevent back pain. Most notable are the bed-in-a-box mattresses that are sold online and are made of latex alternatives or foam.
We used to think that firm beds were best for your back. It is now understood that a medium firm bed is actually best. A firm bed doesn’t allow your pressure points to sink into the mattress leading to a misaligned back. A medium firm bed that allows for your shoulders and hips to sink in while still providing enough support to keep your back aligned is best.
Getting in and out of bed properly when you are suffering from back pain can also help. You can hurt your back further just by getting into bed. When you get into bed, sit where you want your backside to be when you sleep. While on your side, lower your upper body onto the bed. Then, roll your legs onto the bed, and adjust your position.
When you get out of bed, do the opposite and roll your legs over the side of the bed, slowly lift your upper torso, and come to a sitting position. Then, gently stand up.
Prepare your back for sleep by helping your muscles relax.
Take a hot bath with some essential oils for sore muscles. Sit for at least10 minutes to allow the muscles to relax.
You could also use a heating pad on the area of your back that’s giving you pain for 10-15 minutes before bed.
If you are able, try to do some simple stretches to loosen up the back before you go to bed. Here are a few easy stretches for your back that will get you loose and make it easier to fall asleep.
Final thoughts on how to sleep with back pain
Back pain can make it difficult to sleep, but no sleep also contributes to back pain.
The National Sleep foundation has concluded that people that sleep poorly are usually more susceptible to back pain than those who sleep well.
The best way to prevent back pain, then, is to make sure you get a good night’s rest.
Use some of the tips that I mentioned on sleeping with back pain to help get you started. Of course, if you continue to have severe back pain and find it getting worse, you should see your doctor right away.
Do you have any tips on the best sleep position for back pain you would like to share? Leave a comment below. Your comment might just help a fellow back pain sufferer.