Sleeping with back pain is challenging. You keep twisting and turning throughout the night to get that right position to sleep for a few hours, but all in vain. Although sleep plays a role in the healing process of back pain, you can feel restless and agitated throughout the night due to pain. It affects your day-to-day function and mobility.
Before diving into ways to get rid of your back pain, let’s look at the causes. There are a vast array of causes that lead to backaches, including sciatica, disc herniation, poor posture, a poor ergonomic desk chair, poor lifestyle reducing your mobility, and lifting heavy objects.
Most people tend to experience it in the morning or during working hours. Usually, it’s fine all day until you need to rest, and it starts to show up when relaxing on the couch or bed.
The best sleeping position for you is when your body is comfortable and holds your spine as neutral as possible. Our body has three major curves that we need to take care of. The three curves are our lower back, middle back, and our neck curve.
While sleeping on your back, your neck shouldn’t be flexed or extended. Adding pillows is the best method to give support to your spine and body. Check the pillow’s stuffing; it shouldn’t be too full or have less filling than usual. Always have a pillow that keeps your neck in a neutral position, neither flexed nor extended. It should fill the gap between the neck and the mattress. Add a small pillow to fill in the curvature of your spine or use a wedge pillow. Add another pillow under the knees to keep the legs in a neutral position; this reduces stress on anterior muscles and minimizes anterior tilting of the spine.
When you sleep on your stomach, you have to rotate your neck on either side for breathing. This makes you sleep all night in a rotated neck position. This isn’t the best position to sleep in. This position is better for people with herniated disc pathology. To minimize bow-shaped back and stomach sagging into the bed, you can add a flat pillow under your stomach and your thighs. Consider sleeping with a flat pillow under your head or no pillow at all.
The side-lying position is the most common position most people sleep in. Sleeping sideways might hurt your neck, back, torso and hips. If the pillow is too high, then your neck is too high, causing stiffness in the neck and upper back. Some people find it really hard to maintain a sideways position. At night they sleep in this position but wake up in very unusual positions. Their head might be supine, but their torso is rotated sideways, or their head is hanging down from the pillow, which usually happens when the pillow is too high. To minimize rotation on the spine and support your body in this position, take a thick pillow that keeps your neck and upper back inline, add a slim pillow under the spinal curvature, or add a pillow between your legs. You can add it by either flexing the top leg or keeping both legs straight.
Joseph Rendina is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and owner of Iron Health in Briarcliff Manor, Peekskill, and Ardsley. You can reach him at 914-488-5763 or at www.ironhealth.co.