Whether you suffer lower back pain from sleeping or need to find relief once you retire for the day, this post on sleeping positions for lower back pain is here to help. It’s not easy finding the best way to sleep with lower back pain. So we’ve collaborated with a writer who’s had spinal surgery not once but twice, for an informed opinion on how to sleep with back pain in the lumbar region.
The Best Sleeping Positions for Lower Back Pain
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The best sleeping position for lower back pain will vary from one person to another. Some will get a sore lower back when sleeping on their stomach. Others, meanwhile, will find that the relationship between lower back pain and sleeping is worse when lying on their back.
The good news is that there are various ways to sleep with lower back pain. Discovering the best position for lower back pain is really as simple as finding out what works for you. Our “spiney” friend, for example, finds that shifting positions for lower back pain throughout the night can work best.
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If you want to settle on the best way to sleep with a sore lower back, read on. According to medical experts - and someone who’s gone through two very painful spinal surgeries - the best position to lay for lower back pain is likely to be one of the following. Or even a combination of them.
5 of the best sleeping positions for lower back pain
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1. Side sleeping
Top tip: Add a regular pillow between the knees or a full body pillow for extra support
Our spiney says: “This one was the absolute best for me when I was going through pregnancy with chronic back pain. I used a pillow between my knees for extra support. Side sleeping also works best for me when my back pain is particularly bad. It’s also a position I shift into during the night for positional relief.”
You can reduce lower back pain in bed by sleeping on your side. For many, this is the number one best way to lay down with lower back pain. You may need a little extra support to minimise the strain on your lumbar region, however.
Placing a regular pillow under the knees for back pain in the lower spine can help to align your spine correctly. Alternatively, invest in a sleeping pillow for lower back pain and you can tuck a section between your knees. The rest can be placed in front of or behind you for added support.
If you find there’s a gap between your mattress and your waist, try placing a small pillow there for extra support. Side sleeping also works best when you alternate between left and right on a regular basis.
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2. Stomach sleeping
Top tip: Try using your pillow under your pelvis and abdomen instead of under your head
Our spiney says: “Sleeping on my stomach has actually been my default position since childhood. However I’ve found that it isn’t the best for my back, and for me can mean waking up in more pain than I went to bed with.”
In general, this isn’t seen as the best way to sleep to relieve lower back pain. However, finding a pillow position for lower back pain that works can be the key here. Tuck a pillow beneath your lower abdomen and pelvis, as this will help to open up the gaps between your spinal discs. This can work well for those with degenerative disc disease.
It may sound odd, but this position can also work better if you don’t use a pillow for your head. Again it’s all about finding what works for you, but it’s got to be worth a go, right? Another trick is not to sleep wholly on the stomach, but slightly to one side as well. This can also reduce the strain of lower back pain.
3. Back sleeping
Top tip: Add a pillow beneath your knees to retain the natural curve of your spine
Our spiney says: “This one has never worked for me - personally I just can't fall asleep when lying on my back! However it definitely works for other back pain sufferers I know. This is also a good position for me when I need to rest my back, and was in fact recommended by my physiotherapist. This is because the back muscles do relax properly in this position. For me, bending my knees makes all the difference here.”
If you get lower back pain from sleeping on your side or front, then sleeping on your back has to be worth a shot. Again, the clever use of pillows can improve your sleep and help to alleviate lumbago.
Sleeping on your back with a pillow beneath your knees can work. This is the case because the pillow helps to retain the natural curvature of your spine. A slimline lumbar roll or rolled-up towel under the small of your back might also improve your comfort level.
4. Recliner sleeping
Top tip: Sleeping on a bed or even a recliner chair can work for isthmic spondylolisthesis
Our spiney says: “Though I was diagnosed with spondylolisthesis, this one doesn’t work for me at night. Sitting this way on a recliner chair or sofa during the day or evening, however, can mean I’m able to sit for longer periods of time.”
If you have isthmic spondylolisthesis, an angled position can work best. Isthmic spondylolisthesis is when a spinal vertebra slips forward over the one beneath it. For people with this condition, the angle can provide positional relief.
Top tip: This one’s good when you have a prolapsed, herniated or slipped disc
Our spiney says: “This one worked for me when I had a prolapsed disc before spinal surgery. The key for me was tucking my knees right up, which made it far more comfortable.”
A variation on the regular side sleeping position is to curl your knees up like a foetus. This helps to stretch out the vertebrae, reducing the pressure caused by any herniated discs. Swap sides regularly to balance things out.