Best sleeping position for back pain

If you’re like me then you have probably been suffering from back pain for a long time. You’ve been to the seen the physical therapist, tried lots of different exercises and in the end probably gone to your doctor for some pain medication. Sound Familiar? Well I tried just about everything and was still in pain until I spoke to a guy at a sports therapy clinic who told me about the best sleeping position for back pain.

Could it really be that simple?

At first I thought yeah sure, I’ve already tried everything and now this guy tells me I’m sleeping wrong. Hey it’s not like I even get any sleep since my back is usually irritating me so much I just toss and turn until its time to get up.

Anyway as you can probably imagine I was desperate for any solution so I decided to try it. I figured it would be worth a shot either way.

So what is the best sleeping position for back pain ?

My favorite position to sleep in is on my front. I haven’t been able to sleep like that for a while now as it puts too much pressure on my back. The first thing I learned was to sleep on my side. Let me explain.

best sleeping position for back

According to the University of Rochester it’s all about Alignment when your sleeping. Here is what they say to avoid:

  1. Sleeping on your stomach can cause your spine to be moved out of its natural position. This can put undue stress on your back and lead to pain in the long term.
  2. If you sleep on your back you are straining the natural curve of your lower back. Often the pillows we use are also too large and strain the neck.

So that leads us the recommended best sleeping position for back pain, drum roll please….. Your side.

Before I tell you about my experience of changing my habit to sleeping on my side here is the science bit.

Let’s Start with your head and neck

So the first thing I did was change my pillow. I jumped online and ordered an orthopedic pillow. The idea behind them is they are contoured to match the shape of your neck. Now you can spend a lot of money on fancy ones but they all do basically the same thing so I grabbed this one on amazon.

Sleep Innovations Contour Memory Foam Standard Size Pillow, Cervical Support Pillow for Sleeping, Made in the USA with 5 Year Warranty
  • ADVANCED NECK SUPPORT: Our contour pillow is specially designed to relieve neck and shoulder pain....
  • MEMORY FOAM: The contour design of our memory foam pillow adapts to your head, neck and shoulders...
  • COMFORT YOUR WAY: Choose between the higher or the lower contour for personalized comfort and...
  • MADE IN THE USA: Our foam is proudly made in the USA and you can rest assured the comfort lasts with...

I tried it for the first three nights and I have to say it was pretty good. I did feel like my head was supported and sleeping on my side did seem to be a lot better. For me, my left side seemed to be most comfortable but that might be different for you depending on your particular problem.

The Downside

So apart from just getting used to sleeping on my side (which was unusual for me), the other thing I had trouble with was the pillow between my knees. I tried a thin pillow and a thicker one. I even tried a rolled up bath towel.

But they always slipped out after an hour or so and I would wake up in pain a while later. So I asked my therapist again and he suggested I try a knee pillow or leg positioner pillow. Which was also pretty cheap on amazon.

Cushy Form Knee Pillow for Side Sleepers - Sciatic Nerve Pain Relief Leg Pillow - Best for Sciatica, Pregnancy, Hip, Back and Spine Alignment - Memory Foam Orthopedic Contour Wedge with Washable Cover
  • CONTOUR KNEE PILLOW - This contoured superior memory foam knee pillow with washable cover allows for...
  • SCIATICA PAIN RELIEF - Eases back, leg, knee, ankle and hip joint pain by providing proper spinal...
  • ESSENTIAL CUSHION - Improves circulation for side sleepers, use as knee spacer during pregnancy or...
  • TRUSTED - Recommended by Physical Therapists, Doctors, Sports Trainers and Chiropractors. Can be...

After about four days of sleeping on my side with the two pillows in the right spots, I was getting a full nights sleep. This alone was a huge thing for me as I had been so tired from restless nights and my doctor had said the lack of sleep was making my pain even worse so it ended the vicious circle.

Has it helped?

As you can probably guess getting a full nights sleep on a regular basis has helped a lot. I feel better during the day. Also, I have noticed my movement is better and I don’t slouch at my desk to try and avoid back pain. After a few weeks I even managed to get back to doing some exercise which I hadn’t been able to do due to back spasms.

The exercise is improving my back pain issues further and my posture is improving. All round I’d say it made a huge impact and all I had to do was buy a couple of pillows and stick with it.

Anything else to think about?

The only other thing when it comes to sleep that I would probably consider is to make sure you have a great mattress. You spend a lot of time in your bed and it’s not something a lot of us think about.

A good mattress can be expensive but consider it an investment in your health. It will pay for itself in the long run with fewer trips to the doctor, the Chiropractor and just the discomfort of being in pain after a bad nights sleep.

If you are considering it I would look at an orthopedic mattress and for your backs sake have someone deliver it to you.

Full Mattress, Live & Sleep 10-Inch Cool Memory Foam Bed in a Box, Medium Firm, Includes Premium Pillow, Better Pressure Relief & Support, Certi-Pur Certified, 20 Year Warranty, Full Size.
  • BEST REVIEWED FULL MATTRESS - Top rated medium firm full-size mattress at the lowest price is ideal...
  • COOLING INNOVATION – Breathable memory foam mattress with comfort that cools your body, not cheap...
  • PERFECT CONTOUR – Air-flow infused visco memory foam plus thick layer of our Advanced High Density...
  • NO RISK - Over 96% of LS Classic customers on Amazon keep their mattress and refer it to others....
  • HIGH QUALITY - Soft cover is easy to remove, comfortable with cloud like feel. Works on any home...

And that’s it. It worked for me. Give it a try and see if it helps you. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. Just wish I had tried it sooner.

If you have a desk job like me you might also want to check out some options for helping with your posture by choosing the best office chair for your situation.

Finally, if you do like to exercise, or even if you don’t you might want to consider strengthening your core which will help you prevent back pain in the long run and maybe even get fit in the process.