The Best Sleeping Positions to Alleviate Back Pain

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Back pain is an extremely common medical issue that has been known to affect 8 out of 10 people at any stage in their lives, regardless of how fit they are. This condition is often caused by strain from unhealthy sleeping positions, poor posture, and other bad habits. The general feelings associated with this condition are either a dull, throbbing pain or a sharp, stabbing pain. Although most back pain symptoms subside over the course of a few days or even weeks, pain that persists for over three months is considered chronic. Back pain mostly eases up on its own, but more severe cases are treated with hot and cold packs and pain relievers.

By far, the most effective back pain treatment is taking precautions to prevent it from happening in the first place. This can be done by simply correcting bad sleeping and lifestyle habits. Here are the best sleeping positions to adopt as well as some helpful tips to ward off back pain.

On your back

Sleeping on your back is by far the best stance to sleep in to avoid putting stress on your spine and neck. This is because your weight is evenly distributed when lying in this position, thanks to your spine, neck, and other limbs being evenly aligned. However, some people may feel uncomfortable and may experience difficulty sleeping this way. In this case, a pillow, rolled-up bath towel, or night roller can be placed under the knees or under the base of the back for support.

It also helps to sleep on an adjustable bed that you can slightly recline or a memory foam pillow that molds specifically to the base of your neck. As long as the spine and neck are aligned, not completely flat, and have a slight curve to them, then there’s less chance of pain-inducing strain developing due to the lack of pressure placed on these areas.

On your side


If you feel more comfortable sleeping on your side, you can do so, but always remember to place a pillow, a rolled-up bath towel, or a night roller between the knees for support. These can also be placed under the hip or the waist to keep the whole body aligned. Try to shift your weight to different sides, and avoid sleeping on just one side every night. Favoring only one side when sleeping may lead to scoliosis or muscular imbalance.

You may also want to try sleeping on your side in a fetal position with a small pillow or rolled-up towel between your legs. This position allows the discs in your vertebrae to open up and stretch out, which prevents herniation on the discs and relieves pain for those already suffering from a herniated disc. Don’t forget to keep switching sides with this position, as well.

On your stomach

Sleeping on your stomach is considered the worst sleeping position to be in if the goal is to prevent back pain from developing. This is because it places a lot of unnecessary pressure on the neck, particularly if you sleep with your head turned to one side, which puts the shoulders, neck, and spine in an unnatural position. If you can’t help sleeping on your stomach, then there are still certain things you can do to make this position less detrimental to the health of your spine, shoulders, and neck.

To relieve the pressure on these areas, the trick is to keep your head face down with just a small pillow or rolled-up hand towel placed under your forehead to allow you to breathe. You should then put a pillow or rolled-up towel underneath your stomach and hips to keep your neck, mid-section, and spine leveled.

Besides fixing your sleeping position, the following are some other good habits to pick up that can help with preventing back pain:

  • Choose the right mattress and pillow. Lumpy, low-quality mattresses and pillows aren’t just uncomfortable to sleep on, they’re also bad for back health. It’s important to purchase a firm pillow that can sufficiently support your neck, head, and spine. When it comes to the mattress, it may be worth it to invest in a firm or medium-firm memory foam mattress, especially if back pain is a recurring issue for you.
  • Strengthen your core. Your core is composed of the muscles found in your lower back, hips, abdomen, and pelvis. A strong core can support all these areas without any problem which means less risk of muscle strain. Planks, yoga, and crunches are just some exercises you can do to strengthen your core.
  • Visit a chiropractor. A chiropractor can fix the alignment of your spine and neck by making a few adjustments. This can be done in conjunction with adopting good sleeping position habits for maximum health benefits.

These tips will not only relieve and prevent back pain, but also ensure the health of your neck, spine, and back and stave off more serious health issues in the future such as scoliosis, impaired lung function, and poor blood circulation.

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