Sleep is one of the three pillars of good health. Experts say that we need between seven and nine hours a day to get the most benefit, but if you’ve tried to get that much sleep while suffering from lower back pain, you know that it’s more easily said than done.
Even if your back didn’t hurt when you first laid down, there’s a good chance that upon waking you’re going to be stiff and sore – it’s a natural outcome of lying in the same position over an eight-hour period.
Back pain in the morning is especially common if your sleep position aggravates problems that already exist, so it’s important for people who are already struggling with lumbar spine issues to know both the healthiest sleep positions, and the ones that are most likely to exacerbate your discomfort.
To that end, here is some guidance for the best sleep positions for people with back pain, as well as the positions that you should avoid at all costs.
Healthiest Sleep Positions for Those with Back Pain
Our spines are designed to be in a neutral position, and that’s true whether we are walking around or lying down. When you’re getting into bed, neutral means that your head and hips should be neither higher nor lower than the rest of your spine: otherwise, you are putting your spine into an uncomfortable and unnatural position.
The best way to accomplish that is by sleeping either on your side or on your back, and whichever position you choose should be accompanied by strategically placed pillows.
If you’re on your back, you want a pillow behind your knees, propping them up just enough to keep your spine in a straight position rather than a curved position. If you choose to sleep on your side, the pillow should be between your knees so that the leg that is closer to the ceiling is lifted up, again with the goal of maintaining a neutral position for your spine.
Unhealthiest Sleep Positions for Those with Back Pain
Since we’ve already addressed the side and back sleeping position as healthy choices, it should be immediately obvious that what’s left is unhealthy: if you sleep on your stomach, you are making back pain worse – and if you don’t have back pain now, your sleep position is inviting it in the future.
Sleeping on your stomach forces you to turn your head far to the side, creating stress on the cervical spine, while at the same time creating an unnatural arch in your lower back.
Some people proclaim themselves unable to part ways with a position they’ve slept in since they were children.
If this describes you, experts suggest making sleeping on your stomach uncomfortable by taping tennis balls to the front of your pajamas. Doing so will definitely force you back onto your side or back, no matter how sleep you are. And a little discomfort in learning a new position is well worth avoiding back pain now or in the future.
If a new sleep position doesn’t help, it is probably time to visit our lumbar spine specialist in New Jersey for a diagnosis and relief of your back. Contact us today to set up an appointment.