How to Sleep with Back Pain

If you are lucky than the position you sleep in has more to do with comfort than health. However, your sleeping position is important to either avoid back pain in the future or deal with the back pain you are currently experiencing. It’s important to know whether or not your sleeping position is a good one. Should you sleep on your back, side or stomach and what is the point of the pillow? What if you have a disc herniation or another spinal condition and you are stuck sleeping in a chair?

Sleeping on Your Back

This is one of the most common positions people sleep in, however they are usually missing that secret weapon…the PILLOW! The pillow should be put under the knees and this helps keep that nice curve in the low back. If a pillow is too big for you a rolled up towel can work just as well.

Sleeping on your back is ideal to minimize back pain and discomfort because the body is straight, maintaining the alignment of the spine and organs.

Sleeping on Your Side

Some of us can never get comfortable lying on our backs. That desire to sleep in or get up when we want to, is over shadowed by the aching pain that gradually gets worse the longer you lay in bed. Before you let your discomfort deter you try a different position like rolling over to your side.

If there is a space between your waist and the mattress add a small pillow for support. Also, add a pillow between your knees. You are probably asking what the purpose of the pillow is and the answer is to help keep your hips, pelvis, and spine in alignment. And as we know, proper alignment will allow for proper function and less pain.

Change up the sides you sleep on. Balance is the key, even when lying down! Always sleeping on the same side can create added soreness or health problems.

Sleeping on Your Stomach

Most people have been told to never sleep on their stomach but for some this position is the only way to fall asleep. It is true that sleeping on the stomach can put stress on the neck and low back if there is no support.

If this is your position of choice add a pillow under your pelvis to relieve pressure on the low back and add another pillow for your neck, if needed.

People who suffer from degenerative disc disease may find sleeping on their stomach gives them some relief as this position takes pressure off the nerves in the back.

Sleeping With a Herniated Disc

The fetal position will be your friend and this is different than sleeping on your side because you need to tuck your knees up to your chest and curl your torso toward your knees.

This position helps alleviate the pressure on the discs that are between your vertebrae. A disc herniation is when the disc, which is essentially a sac filled with water, gets pushed out and then puts pressure on the nerves it comes in contact with. When the body is put in the fetal position the area between the vertebrae opens up creating space, decreasing pressure on the nerve.

Sleeping in a Chair

The majority of people unintentionally fall asleep in a chair watching TV; however there is that small percentage of people who have severe back pain and lying flat in bed is not an option.

If you have found yourself confined to a chair for sleeping consider investing in an adjustable bed so you can sleep in this upright position with the best alignment and support a bed can offer and a chair cannot.

Reclining in a chair or bed may be useful for your back because it can create a certain angle between your lower half and top half of your body. This angle helps reduce the pressure on your spine. This is usually the case for people who suffer from spondylolisthesis, where the vertebrae can slide over one another.

Ultimately, a good night’s sleep is more important to our health than we think. Lack of rest can result in frequent illnesses, memory loss, inability to focus and the development of serious conditions, such as heart disease, hypertension, stroke or diabetes.  Therefore, focusing on increasing your quality of sleep through establishing healthy positions and maintaining them can contribute to good health – and a better night of rest.

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