Need More Help With Back Pain
These free resources will help you get on the right track to ridding yourself of back pain!
- Find a mattress to relieve you of back pain with Mattress Match
- Learn about all the options with our Mattress Buying Guide
- Experience the REM sleep deserve with our Better Sleep Guide
- Go from Zs to As in college with this sleep guide for students
- Want to conquer sleep deprivation? Check out our sleeping disorders guide
Sleeping On Your Back
When it comes to sleep, the best way to reduce pain and your risk of developing a post-procedural complication is to sleep on your back with a pillow placed under your knees. This provides the cervical and thoracic spine with much-needed support, which may ease your post-surgery pain. Its also important to keep your arms at your sides, if possible. Having your arms under or over your neck or head can put pressure on your shoulders and neck, causing damage. If an incision was made around the cervical spine , you may be required to wear your cervical collar to bed or use an orthopedic pillow to reduce excessive movement. Additionally, it may help to either sleep on a recliner or place a pillow under your low back and shoulders for added support and protection.
Sleep Tips For Back Pain Relief
Your mattress isnt the only factor in relieving back pain while you sleep. How you sleep matters, too. Your sleeping position, sleep quality, and more can make a difference in back pain when you wake up. Consider these tips for improving the way you sleep:
Call any of our offices located in , , or today to find out if chiropractic adjustments can help you wake up pain-free!
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Try A Different Sleeping Position
The easiest adjustment to make to alleviate your low back pain while youre sleeping is to try changing your sleeping position. This change can be implemented immediately, so its a great place to start when looking to get better sleep. The medical experts at the Mayo ClinicVerified SourceMayo ClinicRanked #1 hospital by U.S. News & World Report and one of the most trusted medical institutions in the world. The staff is committed to integrated patient care, education, and research.View source suggest the following for the best sleeping positions.
The best sleep position is lying flat on your back, with your neck supported by a single pillow. This position enables your spine to be in total alignment, which helps reduce pressure points from forming at night.
The second recommendation is to sleep on your side. In this position, youll put the weight of your body on one of your sides, and its recommended you sleep with your knees slightly bent, like a relaxed version of the fetal position. This position can help your lower back pain by preventing pressure from forming in any one area of your back. Just make sure you have a soft enough mattress for side sleeping, or you can worsen your morning aches and stiffness.
What Causes Lower Back Pain
While we feel back pain over a wide area from the neck to the hips, the most common form of back pain is a pain in the lower back .
Lower back pain manifests in various ways. But its usually felt as a dull ache or throb that is there most of the time, or its a stabbing sensation that comes and goes in sharp waves.
As a result of lower back pain, everyday activities become challenging particularly movement and exercise or sitting or standing for long periods. For this reason, statistics often cite lower back pain as one of the main reasons why Americans take sick days. Fortunately, though, we can do many things to treat lower back pain especially after we find the root cause.
But, for many people who dont seek treatment, its a hugely problematic issue that keeps them awake at night.
So, what can cause it?
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How Are Sleep And Lower Back Pain Related
Researchers have long seen an association between lower back pain and sleeping problems, and growing evidence points a two-way relationship in which they can be mutually reinforcing.
Discomfort from pain can be a major barrier to sleep. Lower back pain makes it hard to get comfortable enough to fall asleep or may provoke nighttime awakenings when pain surges.
At the same time, people with sleep problems are more likely to start having pain or to have pain get worse. Experts arent certain why this happens, but there are several potential explanations. Sleep deprivation may impair healing, affect mood in a way that heightens pain sensitivity, or disrupt chemicals in the brain that are involved in how we experience pain.
What To Do If Youre Waking Up With Back Pain
Back pain is a common complaint for adults. About 80 percent of adults will experience lower back pain at some point in their life. More than a quarter of adults report experiencing low back pain within the last three months. Low back pain is the most common cause of job-related disability and a major contributor to missed workdays.
If youre waking up with back pain, chances are youre not getting the restorative sleep you need at night. Common causes of back pain include getting into an accident and lifting something heavy. Sometimes back pain can develop over time with age. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to low back pain, especially if you have a burst of activity your body isnt prepared for.
Most low back pain is short-term, lasting just a few days to a few weeks. Often, it resolves on its own or with a treatment of the underlying cause. However, chronic back pain persists for 12 weeks or longer. Sometimes, a medical or surgical procedure can relieve the pain, but sometimes, pain persists despite treatment.
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Try Easy Mobility Routines Before You Go To Bed And When You Wake Up
Today, theres a lack of separation between work and home for many due to COVID-19, so its easy for people to go right from the computer to bed. This is why its important to build in behaviors and habits, like a gentle mobility routine, into an intentional nighttime wind-down routine, says Dr. Grimes. The motion is lotion concept means youre bringing nutrition and blood flow to the tissues in your spine when you move. Here are simple stretches and exercises that you can do before bed to loosen up your back.
When you wake up in the morning, if youre lying on your back, squeeze your abdomen down into the bed to engage those core muscles. This is called abdominal bracing, says Dr. Smith. Or bring your knees to your chest to loosen up your hips a little bit. If you can tolerate it, try some supine knee twists, where you lie on your back and turn your knees to one side. Like the Tin Man with no oil, the spine and other joints can feel stiff and creaky after a period of immobility when you get up, so just giving yourself a little bit of extra time in the morning can also help. Often symptoms will improve once you get moving.
What To Look For In A Pillow
Your pillow should cradle your head and neck and help to support the upper portion of your spine.
If you sleep on your back, your pillow should completely fill the space between your neck and the mattress. If you sleep on your side, try using a thicker pillow to keep your head in line with the rest of your body in this position.
Whatever you do, dont place your pillow under your shoulders.
For back sleepers: You may do best with thinner pillows and those that have extra padding in the bottom to support the neck.
Memory foam is a good material that molds specifically to your own neck.
A water pillow is another option that gives firm, all-over support.
For stomach sleepers: You should aim to use the thinnest pillow possible or no pillow at all. In fact, you may try sleeping on your side while holding a body pillow. The body pillow will give you the feeling of something against your stomach while helping to align the rest of your body.
For side sleepers: You may want to look for a firm pillow. Better yet, try to find one that has an extra-wide gusset that will help with the space between your ear and shoulder. And dont forget to place a firm pillow between your knees. You may even substitute a rolled towel.
While youre at it, remember to change your pillow every 18 months or so. Those pillow protectors can be a good barrier, but pillows still hold lots of allergy triggers like mold and dust mites.
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Takeaway: Prioritize Your Comfort And Sleep
Often sleep deprivation is a sign that pain may get worse. And since sleep debt takes a long time to recover from, youll want to start making tweaks to your sleep hygiene and bedtime routine ASAP. Whether thats trying new sleep positions or engaging in nighttime self care, your efforts should focus on maximizing comfort and relaxation before sleep. This could also mean giving your bedroom a small makeover that noise and light are blocked from waking you up at night.
Its the small steps that help you feel more fully restored overnight.
How Do Sleeping Positions Affect Lower Back Pain
Another link between sleep and lower back pain is tied to how sleeping position affects spinal alignment. Although posture is typically associated with sitting and standing, its also critical when lying down.
A sleeping position that involves twisting, contorting, or otherwise putting pressure on the lumbar spine can cause pain and stiffness. This pain is often worse in the morning but may persist throughout the day.
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What Can I Do
Do you deal with lower back pain? Youre not alone.
The Global Burden of Disease study named lower back pain the leading cause of disability across the globe.
Whats even more interesting is that most back pain isnt caused by serious medical conditions, like cancer or arthritis. Instead, its often brought on by stress or strain from bad posture, awkward sleeping positions, and other lifestyle habits.
Here are the best sleeping positions to try if you have lower back pain, as well as some other things you can do to get a better nights rest.
If lying flat on your back feels uncomfortable, try shifting over to your side:
Whether you use one pillow or opt for two, you should resist the urge to always sleep on the same side. Doing so many cause issues like muscle imbalance and even scoliosis.
How does this position help? Sleeping on your side alone wont make you feel better. Its using the pillow between your knees thats the trick. The pillow will keep your hips, pelvis, and spine in better alignment.
If you have a herniated disc, you may want to try sleeping on your side curled in a fetal position:
What Can I Do To Relieve Lower Back Pain In The Morning When I Wake Up
It can be a little tough on your back to start moving again after seven or so hours of sleep. In general, doctors say stretching your hamstrings can help loosen things up. They tend to tighten up when we have back issuesits a protective mechanism, Dr. Womack says. Stretching the area will help take the pressure off your back, he adds.
Wall slideswhere you stand with your back up against a wall, and slowly raise your arms up and down on the wallcan also help get you in alignment in the morning, Dr. Anand says.
If you have a condition like spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spaces in your spine that can put pressure on your spinal cord and the nerves in your spine, touching your toes will feel great on your back, Dr. Anand says. Just keep this in mind, per Dr. Anand: If you feel pain when youre stretching, stop.
The bottom line: If you struggle with lower back pain, focus on keeping your spine straight and your knees, hips and neck in alignment.
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Other Rules For Low Back Pain Relief While You Sleep
- Sleep with only one pillow under your head. Sometimes we see an increase in pain symptoms with more than one due to the neck flexion that occurs, which can ultimately put a painful stretch on the paraspinal muscles, he explains.
- Sleep on a middle-of-the-road mattress. Sleeping on an extremely soft mattress wont help with alignment, while extremely hard mattresses may be so uncomfortable you dont sleep well, Giordano says. Find a happy mediummaybe one that leans more toward the firmer side.
- Do everything you can to get better sleep. Better sleep can mean less back pain. Ideally, we want the most undisturbed sleep in order to get into deep sleep to help with hormone release, anabolic state and muscle repair, Giordano says. That means following the usual sleep hygiene rules about making sure your room is cool and dark, closing down screens 30 minutes before bedtime, and keeping pets out of the bed . When they move around, they disturb your sleep, leaving you less refreshed.
Best Sleeping Positions For A Person With Lower Back Pain
Lying on your side with a pillow between your knees
Research³has shown that side-lying is the most protective sleeping position for most people with lower back pain. However, its important to know this can vary from person to person.
While lying on your side, placing pillows between your knees helps with better body alignment and pain relief. Depending on what is more comfortable, you can use one or two pillows.
Try to resist the urge to always sleep on the same side, which may cause imbalances and additional pain.
Lying on your stomach and placing a pillow underneath your stomach
If you find lying on your stomach a comfortable sleeping position, you can try these techniques that may allow you to sleep in a safer and more protected way.
Place a pillow beneath your lower abdomen to take some of the pressure off your aching back.
You can opt to add another pillow beneath your head, depending on how comfortable you feel. The pillow for your head is optional but can help with improving comfort.
Lying in the fetal position
When your lower back pain is causing you a lot of restlessness during sleep, you could try adopting the fetal position. This position can be achieved by gently rolling onto your side, bringing your knees up to your chest, and gently curling your torso towards your knees. Remember to regularly switch sides to prevent any muscle imbalances.
Placing pillows under your knees while laying on your back
Lying on your back in a reclined position
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Learn How To Sleep With Lower Back Painmattresses And Positioning Are The Keys
The best mattress for back pain walks you through the research showing how a medium firm mattress has been PROVEN to reduce chronic lower back pain.
Well, what if you have a medium firm mattress and still have back pain after sleeping? What if you dont want to invest in a new mattress at the moment? Then at the very least, you MUST make certain youre sleeping in positions that are spine friendly.
Lifestyle Factors That Prevent Back Pain
Aside from being conscious of how you sleep and where you sleep, there are a few daytime habits that can help reduce back pain as well. Much of the recommended habits for prevention go hand-in-hand with leading a generally healthy lifestyle. TheMayo ClinicVerified SourceMayo ClinicRanked #1 hospital by U.S. News & World Report and one of the most trusted medical institutions in the world. The staff is committed to integrated patient care, education, and research.View sourcesuggests the following for minimizing back pain risk:
Back pain is not a small or insignificant problem, but for many people the side effects and severity can be minimized with fairly simple changes to habits. Awareness of ideal sleep positions and the relationship between mattresses and backs are essential for keeping pain at bay during the night, and paying attention to posture and movements improves comfort throughout the day.
What do you find helps reduce back pain most for you? Do you notice differences between sleep positions?
About the author
Rosie Osmun regularly contributes to the Amerisleep blog writing about topics including, reducing back pain while sleeping, the best dinners for better sleep, and improving productivity to make the most of your mornings. She finds the science of sleep fascinating and loves researching and writing about beds. Rosie is also passionate about traveling, languages, and history.
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Sleep With Pillow Under Stomach
Sleeping on your stomach is not recommended for backache because it adds more strain on your neck region.
But you like to sleep on your stomach, and there is a trick to make it easy and comfortable.
1. Lay on your front with the stomach.
2. Place a pillow under your lower abdomen to avoid more pressure on your back.
You dont need Pillow under your head for this Position. If you need Pillow, then use a thinner one.