We know that certain sleeping conditions can cause back pain at night and throughout the following day. For example, back pain can occur if our mattress is not the correct firmness, our pillows are too stiff or too soft, or if we fall asleep in a position where our joints stiffen into place. In all of these cases, we can wake up with a sore neck or back that can be difficult to recover from.
But what about when we have a pre-existing condition or chronic back pain? The position we sleep in can make things better or worse, leading to more or less pain throughout the day.
So let’s take a look at a few specific and painful back and spine conditions, and talk about the best sleep position for each of them.
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This is a relatively common condition that occurs when the small spinal canal becomes compressed. The canal contains the spinal cord and its nerve roots, which become pinched when it is compressed. This leads to pain, cramping, weakness or numbness.
The best sleep position for spinal stenosis is the fetal position — on the side with knees curled. This will provide relief to the spinal canal and spinal nerve.
The most common form of arthritis which affects millions of people, this condition describes when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones wears down over time. Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body but is commonly found in the spine.
The best sleep position for osteoarthritis is to sleep on the side with knees curled up. This relieves pressure on the spine and other joints.
Herniated lumbar disc
This painful condition happens when a disk in the spine is either bulging, protruding, or ruptured. It is one of the most common causes of lower back pain, and is also a source of “sciatica” or leg pain.
The best sleep position for a herniated disc is either on the stomach or the side. If sleeping on the stomach is uncomfortable or difficult, it is recommended to support oneself with pillows until comfortable. Sleeping on the side can also relieve pressure from the affected discs.
Degenerative disc disease
This condition happens as people age and occurs when the discs between the vertebrae of the spinal column, which act like shock absorbers, deteriorate or break down. This condition affects the back’s flexibility and mobility.
The best condition for degenerative disc disease is to sleep on the stomach. While this position can be difficult for people, it can be helped by acquiring a firm mattress and using a flat pillow under the stomach and hips to help create space between the discs and relieve pressure on the lower back.
This condition occurs when the body’s bursae, the small, fluid-filled sacs that cushion the bones, tendons and muscles near the joints and spine, become inflamed.
The best sleep position for bursitis is less important than the firmness of the mattress. Anything too stiff or firm can aggravate the condition so it’s important to consider either purchasing a softer mattress to cushion the body, or a mattress topper that adds some softness that will reduce the pressure of the joints and spine.
As you can see, while a bad sleep can lead to a sore back, chronic back pain can also be made worse when we don’t make our sleep conditions as best as possible. If you suffer from a painful back condition, do yourself a favour and make sure you are creating the best conditions for pain relief.