Millions of people around the world suffer from chronic lower back pain – a common symptom of several conditions that affect the lower back, sometimes in the form of referred pain. Surprisingly, though, low back pain is more often caused by factors that are unrelated to medical conditions. These include various lifestyle habits, poor posture, and bad sleeping positions.
Low back pain can make everyday activities feel like a challenge, inhibiting one’s ability to function normally and perform optimally at their place of work. If that isn’t bad enough, chronic pain in your lower back also disrupts your sleep which, in turn, takes a toll on your overall health.
While there are several treatments for lower back pain such as chiropractic care and physiotherapy, individuals can take various measures to help relieve persistent or chronic back pain. Among the many different stretches for low back pain, posture tips, lifestyle changes, and so on, experts suggest changing your sleeping positions to minimise stress and strain on the lower back. Not only will this reduce chronic pain but it will also improve the quality of your sleep.
So, if you are looking to gain some relief from persistent back aches, here are the top 5 recommended sleeping positions for lower back pain.
1. Fetal Position
This sleeping position is particularly recommended for people who have a slipped disc. Read the instructions below to get into a proper fetal position when sleeping:
- Start by lying flat on your back.
- Slowly roll or turn to one side (whichever side you are more comfortable sleeping on).
- Bend both your knees and bring them closer to your chest; the top of your knees should be raised above your stomach but below your chest.
- Lastly, curve your torso slightly inward.
NOTE: It is important to switch sides every 2-3 hours to avoid discomfort and stiffness from maintaining a single sleeping position for too long.
2. Pillow Between Your Legs
Proper alignment of your spine, pelvis, and hips is very important when sleeping on your side. Misalignment of the same leads to added stress on the lumbar spine which increases lower back pain. To counter this, you can maintain proper alignment in the following way:
- Start by sleeping on your side.
- Bend your knees as much as you would like until you are in a comfortable position.
- Place a thick enough pillow between your knees (3-4 inches thickness is recommended).
- For added support, use a small, thin pillow under your waist if your hips are creating a gap between the mattress and your body.
3. Pillow Under the Knees
Sleeping on your back is great for even weight distribution which, in turn, reduces the load on pressure points in the body. However, this sleeping position does take a toll on your lower back if the right support is not provided to alleviate strain in the region.
Follow the instructions below to relieve low back pain while sleeping on your back:
- Lay on your back with your legs flat down.
- Choose a pillow that is at least 3-4 inches thick and put it under your knees. This will help maintain your spine’s natural curve in the lumbar region, thus eliminating any strain in this area.
- For additional support, roll up a small towel and place it under the small of your back.
4. Pillow Under the Abdomen
While sleeping on your stomach is typically not advised for anyone with low back pain, if you do prefer this sleeping position from time to time, the best way to alleviate pressure on the lower back is as follows:
- Position a thin pillow under your lower abdomen and pelvis area , and lay flat on your stomach over it.
- To reduce strain on the neck, avoid using a pillow for your head. If, however, this is uncomfortable for you, consider using a thin pillow instead.
- Try out pillows of different thicknesses until you find one that is most comfortable to sleep with under your abdomen.
5. A Reclined Position
This is particularly effective in alleviating low back pain while sleeping if you have isthmic spondylolisthesis. However, a reclined sleeping position is only comfortable if you have the right bed; it is not advisable to prop up pillows or cushions to create a recline as any unevenness can cause more back pain. Instead, an adjustable bed or simply resting on a recliner is advised.
Bear in mind that your body should be reclined from the hips and pelvis region, and needn’t be too angled in order to benefit from this sleeping position.
Key Tips to Keep in Mind When Sleeping With Low Back Pain
- Understand the natural alignment of your spine and maintain it by keeping your hips, shoulders, and ears aligned
- Regardless of which sleeping position you are in, if there are gaps between the mattress and your body, use a pillow or rolled up towel to fill it up; this ensure proper spinal alignment
- Avoid twisting your body when changing sleeping positions; instead, turn your whole body at the same time when rolling over
- Always move your body slowly as opposed to jerking motions
Lower back pain is typically made worse when you sleep in awkward positions that do not support the spine’s natural alignment. Any added stress to the lumbar region will increase chronic lower back pain; therefore, it is highly recommended to choose the right sleeping positions for all-round improvements in sleep quality and back pain.
For non-invasive treatments to get rid of chronic lower back pain, MSK Therapy offers a wide range of chiropractic services, as well as related therapies which include massages, physiotherapy, and needling. We are a team of fully licensed and experienced healthcare professionals who are committed to providing patients with the best chiropractic care for lower back pain and other medical conditions.