Sleeping Positions to Relieve Back and Neck Pain and Avoid!
It is helpful to understand and know what you can do to alleviate your back and neck pain during the night. Some positions not only help you manage your condition but can actually improve it. While poor positioning will simply aggravate your pain and should be avoided.
Back Pain Sleeping Positions
Back pain can be triggered by a number of reasons such as osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, poor posture, spinal stenosis and nerve irritation, to name some. To determine which sleeping position will work, you need to know what is the underlying cause of your back pain. Our physios have the knowledge and expertise to help ascertain this.
There are no rules when it comes to sleeping, but there are certain guidelines that you can follow to ensure a more comfortable sleep. If you prefer to sleep on your back ( supine), it is advisable to place a pillow underneath your knees, and even another one under the small of your back as in this position, gravity can force the back to arch abnormally.
If you have sciatica as well as low back pain, sleeping in this position can be a challenge and may need to be avoided. Again, you can try to provide support under your back with a folded or rolled towel and beneath your knees with a pillow. This may help alleviate any pressure on the lower back and irritation of the nerves. A variation of this position is to lie on your back but with both knees slightly bent up.
If you prefer to sleep on your side, that’s generally a good thing. Most experts consider this as the best position for people with back pain. However, keep in mind that you will may need pillows for support, one placed between your knees and even under the waist. This position is best adapted by people who are in the inflammatory stage of pain, where even the most minimal movement can trigger pain.
If pain is one sided, sleeping with the upper knee bent and resting on a pillow with the lower leg straight can also help to unload the painful structures of the spine. Generally the most painful side would be best uppermost but either side is worth a try and avoid the one that increases your symptoms more.
This refers to lying on your stomach. In this particular position, gravity forces your back to arch towards the stomach. This can be uncomfortable for people with low back pain especially if there is any canal stenosis and pain with extension. To best accommodate this position, place a low pillow under the stomach. This will effectively prevent your back from arching too much. Alternatively some people with back pain that prefers an extended position may find this actually a position of relief.
Neck Pain Sleeping Positions
Looking for help?- DOWNLOAD our GUIDE on Managing Neck Pain
Abnormal neck posture can lead to a number of complications such as disc irritation, muscle strain, arthritis, and pinched nerves. Sleeping positions can affect as well as trigger neck pains. Abnormal posture of the neck over many hours can result in painful joints, and cause strain to the bones, muscles and ligaments.
The best approach to remedy neck pain is to correct posture, whether during sleep or when in an upright position. Since sleep should allow the neck and back to relax and relieve it from tension, it is beneficial to study the different positions and how to ensure correct positioning of the neck and spine. A correctly prescribe therapeutic pillow can offer great relief.
For people suffering from neck pain, this is the most ideal position since it works well with the normal curvature of the spine. In this position, the head and neck should be supported by a pillow, as well as under the lower back area. Contour pillows, a rolled towel under the cervical curve and supportive feather combination pillows are good choices. We have a range of pillows available for free trial for our patients having physiotherapy treatment. Remember pillows too high can aggravate many neck conditions and should be avoided.
Side Sleeping Position
This is another generally acceptable position but will require additional support if pain persists. A pillow can also be placed between the knees. With this support, there will be no need to provide lumbar pillows. Raising of one or both arms above or under the head is not advisable, as it puts undue tension on the neck and shoulders. This arm position may also irritate the nerves as they exit the spine and should also be avoided.
There are people who are used to and love sleeping on their stomach. If you have neck pain, it is really best to avoid this position as it strongly increases the risk of aggravating any pain from the neck. However, people who sleep in this position usually find it difficult to adjust their sleeping positions and we can give you advice on weaning from this aggravating position. Even if you do not currently have neck pain, this position is a recipe for future pain.
Correct posture at night and during the day are really important starting points for the relief of your neck and back pain. In combination with our manual therapy and correct exercise prescription your pain can be successfully managed by our caring physiotherapists.
If you would like to read our Physio's Guide on helping to avoid and mange your back pain click here : Managing Back Pain