Sleep Positions for Specific Painful Back Conditions

A poor sleeping posture can aggravate your already existing back pain. It could also be the main reason why you’re having back pain issues. Sleeping in poor positions puts unnecessary pressure on the spine, back, and neck, thus making the pain worse.  

Back pain and sleep problems are both interconnected, and the severity of one ailment can majorly impact the other. Pain affects the quality of your sleep, and sleep deprivation negatively affects mood, functional ability and performance throughout the day, and also makes the pain worse.

This is why it is essential to adopt a proper sleeping position for back pain. The right sleeping posture will help you maintain the natural curve of the spine, relieve back pain, and help you sleep better. You may have a favourite sleep position, which you feel gets your body the desired rest. But, there are high chances that the same position might be the cause of your underlying pain.


Here are a few sleeping positions for back pain you could try, and see if these help you sleep better.

1.     Sleeping on the side with a pillow between the knees

Some people only fall asleep when they sleep on their sides. And this position is not the best one for back pain. However, you can simply correct it by placing a pillow between the knees. Also, if you feel there is a gap between your waist and the mattress, try putting a small pillow there as well, for added support.

One thing to keep in mind is that you should try alternating the sides you sleep on, instead of sleeping on the same side every night. This might cause a muscle imbalance.

How it helps: Placing a pillow between the knees raises the upper leg, thereby helping your body to maintain the natural alignment of your hips, spine, and pelvis. 


2.     Sleeping on the stomach with a pillow under your abdomen

Sleeping on the stomach is the worst position to sleep in. It straightens your spine, putting additional pressure on your back, neck, and hips. This position can be corrected.

If you find yourself resting in this position more often, all you have to do to make this a sleeping position to reduce lower back pain is add a pillow under your abdomen and pelvis. This will support your spine. Also, as you rest, you can decide if you require a pillow under your neck or not. 

Opt for the thinnest pillow or no pillow at all for your neck, when sleeping on your stomach.

How it helps: People sleeping on their stomach with a pillow beneath can benefit tremendously if they have degenerative disc disease. The position relieves stress which is there on the spaces between discs.

Sleeping on your back with a pillow under your knees

Sleeping on your back, hands down is the best sleeping positions for upper back pain

and the most comfortable one for many people. It distributes the body weight uniformly and does not put pressure on the back, head, or neck.

Place a pillow right below your knees for added support. You can also place a small rolled up towel right below the small of your back, which will add to the support and provide comfort.

Opt for a thin pillow or one with memory foam that adjusts the shape according to the weight.

How this helps: This position allows your spine to remain in its natural curved position and helps relieve upper and lower back pain.


3.     Sleeping on the side in a fetal position

If you suffer from a herniated disc and like sleeping on your side, this has to be the best position for your back. It is one of the most comfortable positions to fall asleep in, and a little alteration to posture can help ease back pain.

To sleep in this position, lay on your bed and then roll over to your favorite side. Now, curl up your torso, and bring your knees closer to the chest. This is the fetal position. However, you have to keep changing your sides to avoid anybody imbalances.

How this helps: This position, along with helping in easing out the pain, opens up the joint and allows your spine to remain in a rested position.

A few tips to Sleep Better

  • Avoid caffeinated drinks post dinner.
  • Limit your screen time and avoid cell phone use 40 to 60 minutes from bedtime.
  • Turn off all the lights; this will help your brain relax and understand that it’s time to sleep.
  • Try to sleep at the same time every night and also try to wake up at the same time. This puts the body in a habit.


Proper alignment of the muscles is important

When you lay on your bed, any gap that exists between your body and the mattress strains the muscles, resulting in pain and discomfort. It also prevents you from falling in a deep sleep. To avoid these gaps, consider placing a pillow or rolled up towels which will fill these spaces and provide support.

Alignment is the key to a proper rested body. Sleeping in positions that curl up your neck, shoulders or hip can be very straining. And, whichever position from the above list you choose, ensure that you always align your spine in the right direction. Follow these tips even if you don't have a back problem. Being careful and cautious is the key to preventive health.