Why Your Sleep Position May Aggravate Your Back Pain

Posture, heavy lifting, and other factors may contribute back pain. But, did you know that your sleep position can also intensify back pain, especially if you are already experiencing backaches? The way you sleep may increase pressure on your neck, shoulders, hips, lower back, or knees. Lower back pain is the most common area to experience back pain due to sleep, but depending on your health, you may experience additional back and neck aches. 

Certain sleep positions are more supportive than others, but all can benefit from specific adjustments to promote a healthy spine. During sleep, your body is at rest, and you should not have any spine or joint pain because they are not bearing weight during this time. Improving your sleep position, posture, and finding the right sleep accessories can make a positive difference and help you get the rest you need.

What Position Do You Sleep In?

  • Sleeping on your back: This is the optimal position for restful sleep because it keeps your spine neutral. Proper alignment helps distribute your body weight evenly and keep your internal organs comfortable. It may nevertheless cause some stress on your neck or lower back without adequate pillows.
  • Sleeping on your side: This position may cause no pain if you keep your spine aligned. If you twist your spine, this can strain your hips, pelvis, and lower back. It may also lead to shoulder pain if you always sleep on the same side. If this is your favorite position, using small pillows and alternating sides is the way to go. If your mattress does not provide enough support, sleeping on your side may increase spinal imbalance. 
  • Sleeping on your stomach: You should generally avoid sleeping on your stomach because it creates the most strain on your neck and can twist your spine, making this position a common culprit for back pain. This position is unnatural and also puts excessive stress on your shoulders. 

Tips to Minimize Back Pain During Sleep 

Finding adequate pillows can significantly improve your sleep posture and help you get more rest. They can support various body parts to alleviate pressure on your spine and joints and keep them in correct alignment. Replacing your pillows every 12 to 18 months ensures you receive continuous support. 

You can improve any sleep position with a few easy changes:

  • A head pillow can support your neck, but you should be mindful not to elevate your head too much. The pillow should fit between your neck and the mattress for optimal support.
  • If you sleep on your stomach, a small pillow under your hips or lower abdomen can support your pelvis.
  • If you sleep on your side, a small pillow between your waist and your mattresscan offer additional support while sleeping on your side. You can place a pillow between your knees to minimize strain on your joints. Keeping your ribs and pelvis aligned also helps.
  • If you sleep on your back, a pillow under your knees helps keep your spine neutral. You can also add a small pillow or rolled-up towel between the small of your back and the mattress.
  • If you sleep in the fetal position, be careful to avoid tight curling. This could interfere with your breathing and increase back pain. 

Finding a supportive mattress with your preferred level of firmness is a smart investment for your sleep quality and general health. 

When to See an Orthopedic Specialist for Your Back Pain

If implementing changes to the position you sleep in, investing in pillows, or getting an appropriate mattress, do not reduce your sleep-related back pain, you may want to get a medical opinion. While a specialist may confirm that the position you now sleep in is beneficial, they can perform a thorough assessment to determine the cause of your persistent back pain.

Back pain while sleeping can be due to an underlying issue such as:

  • Spinal osteoarthritis
  • A slipped or herniated disc
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Sciatica
  • Spinal stenosis

Consulting an orthopedic specialist can help you receive an accurate diagnosis and explore treatments to alleviate your pain and regain your health. This can in turn prevent flare-ups while sleeping and improve the quality of your rest. Contact us by calling (239) 334-7000 or online by filling out this short contact form.

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