We all have different preferences when it comes to sleeping. Some of us are side sleepers while others may prefer to sleep on our backs. But there may be a few things to consider about your sleeping position that may be contributing to your back pain. Here are three ways to sleep to help prevent back pain and get a good night's rest.
Sleeping on your side.
When laying on your side. Be sure to first support your head and neck. This can be done by placing as many pillows or supports as needed to keep the cervical spine neutral and the muscles surrounding it relaxed. These pillows or supports should be placed in the gap between the neck and the head, until the head is upright. Try to avoid raising your arm above your head as this may cause additional strain in the neck and shoulders. To keep the lumbar spine as neutral as possible, place a pillow between your knees. You may need to find a pillow that has enough support to hold the leg. This prevents the hips from rotating forward toward whichever side you are leaning on and helps to prevent rotation in the hips.
Sleeping on your back.
The recommendations for sleeping will be the same with slight adjustments for positioning. You must support your head and neck while sleeping on your back. This can be accomplished by placing your pillows in the gap between your neck and the bed while ensuring the top of the head is also lifted. This prevents an over extension of the cervical spine. Secondly, place a pillow under your knees to raise them slightly above the pelvis. This tilts the sacrum and the spine to neutral position.
Sleeping on your stomach/front.
A study on the relationship between sleep posture and spinal symptoms found that the prone sleeping position or sleeping on your front is the largest contributor back pain and poor quality of sleep. Although this sleeping position is not recommended for extended periods of time. If you need to sleep on your front, place a pillow under your hips to prevent curvature in the lower back. Additionally, a pillow should be placed under the ankles to provide comfort for the knees and avoid hyper extension of the hamstrings. Although it may be comfortable in the moment, raising a knee to either side may cause additional rotation in the sacrum and over time cause strain on the hip flexor muscles and muscles surrounding the spine.
To summarize, here are some ways you can avoid back pain while sleeping:
– Support your head and neck
– Avoid curvature in the back and rotation of sacrum for an extended period of time.
– Use pillows when necessary for additional comfort.
Cary D, Briffa K, McKenna L. Identifying relationships between sleep posture and non-specific spinal symptoms in adults: A scoping review. BMJ Open. 2019 Jun 28;9(6):e027633. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-027633. PMID: 31256029; PMCID: PMC6609073.
Cary D, Jacques A, Briffa K. Examining relationships between sleep posture, waking spinal symptoms and quality of sleep: A cross sectional study. PLoS One. 2021 Nov 30;16(11):e0260582. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0260582. PMID: 34847195; PMCID: PMC8631621.
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