Why sleep position matters for people with lower back pain
Back pain is a thief – it can rob you of your all-important zzz’s. The pain/no-sleep cycle is a vicious one and all too common for the millions of adults who experience low back pain.
Low back pain can be short-lived (lasting four to 12 weeks) or chronic (lasting 12 weeks or more), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are many possible causes, from fractures and muscle spasms to underlying diseases. And the pain may also travel with numbness or weakness if there is pressure on your nerves.
Whatever the cause, low back pain can make it hard to get comfy at night. And there are times when your pain will wake you – especially if you don’t snooze in the best sleeping position for lower back pain.
This lack of sleep makes the pain worse, says sleep medicine expert Dr Raj Dasgupta, an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
“Your sleep is less restorative,” he says. “If you get poor sleep, the pain will feel worse.” Sleep loss may impair healing or affect your mood, heightening pain sensitivity, or disrupting chemicals in the brain that are known to be involved in pain.
The best sleeping position for lower back pain
Finding the best sleep position for lower back pain may help you get a better night’s rest and relieve your pain, Dr Dasgupta says.
This takes some trial and error. In general, “it is best to try to keep the normal curvature of your back when you sleep,” says pain management specialist Dr Yili Huang.
Here’s the best sleeping position for other health problems.
That said, there is no one-size-fits-all sleeping position for lower back pain, adds physical therapist Dr Jake Magel, a research assistant professor at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. “The best sleeping position is one that feels most comfortable for you,” he says.
Back sleeping and low back pain
When sleeping on your back, try placing a pillow under your knees or a small pillow under your lower back, Dr Huang suggests. This will support the natural curve of your spine and reduce pressure on your lower back.