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Change Your Sleep Position and Wake Up Without Back Pain

by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

You are exhausted from sitting at your desk all day and awakened with a throbbing pain in your back. It doesn’t matter how often you stand up throughout the day, you’re always left with that dull ache and back pain. It seems like you’re doomed to have body aches for the rest of your life. But wait! There is a remedy to end back pain forever. And we can start by determining what sleep position is causing you pain and which would be a better position for you.

Many people have solved their back problems by switching their sleep position. Your mood, ability to function, and pain are all intertwined. In a study published in the November 2016 issue of the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, it was found that back pain and mood improved after a good night’s sleep.

In this article, we are going to discuss some tips that may help you to switch over to your best sleep position to hopefully end your back pain once and for all.

What Sleep Position Can Lead to Back Pain?

Back pain is a common complaint among adults, and it can be caused by many factors, from posture to injury to genetics. But in general, your sleep position plays a big role in how much pain you wake up with. The two worst positions for back pain are sleeping on your stomach and on your back. Here’s why.

  • Sleeping on your stomach may seem like the best way to ensure your spine stays straight and aligned, but it actually puts more pressure on it than almost any other position, which can cause everything from a stiff neck to a lower-back ache. If you need to sleep on your stomach, put a pillow under your pelvis and lower abdomen so that the natural curve of the spine doesn’t get flattened by the mattress (you should feel like there’s a “J” shape in your body).
  • The second worst position for back pain is sleeping on your back with no support for your spine. This straightens out the spine’s natural curve and puts strain on muscles and ligaments that need to be braced against gravity all night.

The Best Sleep Position to Help Relieve Back Pain

Sleep position is a frequently overlooked factor when it comes to back pain. However, in many cases, the way you sleep is a key contributor to your back discomfort. This doesn’t mean that you have to change the way you sleep entirely — you may just need to make some slight adjustments to your current position. Here are the best sleep positions that will help relieve your back pain:

Lying on your side with your knees bent

This position can be helpful for people with lower back pain because it puts the least amount of pressure on the spine. To use this sleeping position, place a pillow between your knees and pull them up toward your chest, keeping your hips and shoulders aligned.

Sleeping on your back with a pillow under your knees

For people with lower back pain or sciatica, sleeping on their backs with their knees elevated can relieve pressure on the spine and reduce nerve irritation. You can also place a small pillow or rolled-up towel under your lower back for added support.

Stomach sleeping but with a pillow

Stomach sleeping, also known as “face down,” is not recommended by doctors because it puts pressure on the upper spine and can cause pain in your neck or shoulders while you sleep. If you’re used to this position and have trouble changing it, consider using a pillow under your chest at night so that your head is elevated while you sleep.

6 Hacks for a Goodnight’s Sleep and Relief from Back Pain

Back pain can get in the way of a good night’s sleep. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help alleviate back soreness while you’re sleeping. Here are some tips:

  1. Invest in a good mattress and pillows and keep them clean.
  2. Sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees or on your back with a pillow under your knees to keep your spine in alignment.
  3. Try sleeping on a soft surface rather than a hard one, like a memory foam mattress pad or a feather bed.
  4. Make sure your bed has enough support at all points along its length, not just the middle, so it doesn’t sag when you lie down. This is especially important for people who are overweight or pregnant.
  5. If possible, choose a non-spring mattress that won’t give way under pressure (like latex). It will be more comfortable than coils because it won’t push back against you as hard.
  6. Use low-profile sheets and bedding to avoid strain on the neck while sleeping (especially if you have neck problems).

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