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Best Way to Sleep with Lower Back Pain

Best Way to Sleep with Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is an extremely common condition; in fact, 31 million Americans experience lower back pain at any given time, and according to the Global Burden of Disease, lower back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Lower back pain is usually the result of muscle sprains and strains caused by bad habits such as bad posture, improper lifting, and awkward sleeping positions. If you suffer from lower back pain, you’re probably well aware of how difficult sleeping comfortably can be and you’re likely looking for some tips to get a better night’s sleep.

We’re going to discuss some of the best sleeping positions for lower back pain. It’s important to keep in mind that no single sleeping position works best for every person. Therefore, it make take a little trial and error before you find the position that works best for your lower back pain.

Back-sleeping with a pillow under your knees

This position is ideal if you suffer from lower back pain because it allows your body weight to be evenly distributed across a large surface area. This position places the least amount of stress on the pressure points of your back, and allows for optimal spinal alignment.

  • Position yourself on your back
  • Place a small pillow underneath both knees to maintain the curve in your lower back
  • It may help to also place a small pillow, or rolled up towel, underneath the small of your back to provide additional support

While sleeping in this position is ideal if you suffer from lower back pain, many people find it very difficult to sleep on their back. Below are additional sleeping positions that you can try if you suffer from lower back pain.  

Side-sleeping with a pillow in between your knees

  • Position yourself so that either your left or right shoulder is in contact with your mattress, with your head on your pillow and your knees bent slightly
  • Place a small pillow in between your knees to keeps your hips, pelvis and spine aligned
  • If there is a gap between your mattress and waist, place another small pillow to fill the gap

Alternate sleeping on your left and right sides to avoid developing a muscle imbalance.

Side-sleeping in the fetal position (if you have a disc herniation)

  • Position yourself so that either your left or right shoulder is in contact with your mattress and your head on your pillow
  • Bring your knees up and in toward your chest so that you are curled into the fetal position. This position helps to open up the disc spaces between the vertebrae in the spine and takes pressure off the affected nerve(s)

Alternate sleeping on your left and right sides to avoid developing a muscle imbalance

Stomach Sleeping

If you suffer from lower back pain you should avoid sleeping on your stomach as this position places excess strain on your lower back and can result in a twisting of your spine. However, if this is the only position that you can sleep in, make sure to place a pillow under your pelvis and lower abdomen to help maintain the curve in your lower back. Additionally, avoid using a pillow under your head, as this will place excess stress on your neck and back.

Spinal Alignment

Regardless of the sleeping position you choose, keeping your spine aligned is crucial. Focus on keeping your ears, shoulders, and hips aligned. Ensure that you maintain this alignment when moving in bed, move your whole body together and keep your core tightened during movements to avoid injury.

Mattress & Pillow Selection

In addition to finding a suitable sleeping position, if you suffer from lower back pain, you’ll also want to invest in a good mattress and pillow. As a general rule, you should think about replacing mattresses that are over eight years old because over time the mattress material breaks down and becomes less supportive. In regard to your pillow, invest in a pillow that is suited to the way you sleep (back sleeper, side sleeper, etc.), as an appropriate pillow will help to keep your neck aligned with the rest of your spine. Keep in mind that pillows should be replaced at least every three years.

Improve Sleep Hygiene

Other tips for getting a better night’s sleep include:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
  • Start a bedtime routine so that your body knows it’s time to sleep.
  • Avoid large meals for 3 hours before bed.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine before bed.
  • Avoid vigorous exercise for at least 2 hours before bed.

Conclusion

If you’re suffering with lower back pain, the physical therapists at Blue Hill Sports & Spine Rehabilitation can advise you on small changes that you can make to your sleeping position and environment. These changes may be difficult in the beginning, but if you stick to them, you’ll be on your way towards a better night’s sleep and less lower back pain.

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