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How to Sleep with Lower Back Pain

How to Sleep with Lower Back Pain

Does your lower back pain make it hard to fall asleep? Or, when you roll over at night, does lower back pain wake you up? Pain of all types can interfere with your sleep. But until you feel better after visiting a therapist at Physical Therapy Advantage, you will need to find some ways to get some rest. 

Tips for how to sleep with lower back painWoman suffering from back pain when trying to sleep

  • No one sleeping position works for everyone but try out sleeping on your side to see if it makes you feel better. 
  • Don’t curl up too tightly, as pulling your knees toward your body can stretch out injured muscles, which won’t reduce the pain. Instead, slightly elongate your body.
  • Put a pillow between your knees that supports the natural curvature of your spine. You can buy pillows specially designed for this or use one you already have. One with a slim profile is usually best, but try different thicknesses to see what works best for your back. 
  • When on your side, if there’s a gap between your waist and the mattress, insert a small pillow for more support.
  • Don’t always sleep on the same side because it may cause a muscle imbalance that could worsen your pain. 
  • Watch the thickness of your head pillow. Your pillow should hold your head midway between your shoulders. Consider having someone else take a picture as you lay on your side. Examine it to see if your neck is bent at an angle.
  • Consider a heat wrap to help the pain at night. Disposable muscle-relaxing wraps last several hours, which might help you fall asleep and stay asleep. 
  • An ice or a cold gel pack can reduce pain and inflammation before you get into bed. Take 15 to 20 minutes before bedtime to rest and apply the cold pack for the best results. 

Sleep on Your Stomach 

Sleeping on your stomach is often bad for back pain because it stresses your neck. But some people are more comfortable on their front, especially when coping with lower back pain. 

If you are someone who is otherwise comfortable on your stomach, put a pillow under your pelvis to relieve the pressure from your back. Many people choose to use a pillow under their head, but many others find it more comfortable to simply place their head right on the mattress.

People with degenerative disc disease often benefit from stomach sleeping by using the pelvis pillow to lessen stress on the spaces between discs.

Sleep on Your Back  

You may find that lying flat on your back reduces the stress and pain best because your weight distributes evenly across the widest area. If so, place a pillow under your knees to keep your spine in a neutral position. The pillow keeps the natural curve in your lower back. A small, rolled-up towel can provide extra support under the small of your back.

How Old is Your Mattress?

When did you last replace your mattress? The years fly by, making it hard to remember when it is time to replace a mattress. Check the tag on your mattress for the warranty period, and if it is older than that, it is usually better to replace it. If you sleep better on a hotel mattress, you likely need a new one at home. 

  • An old, or too soft, mattress can worsen back pain, and for some people, it can even cause it! When you lay on your back, your spine on the right mattress will look like when you’re standing with your best posture.
  • Go down to the local mattress store and try different mattresses. Spend some time. More time than you think! It can take 15 minutes or more of laying on a mattress to know if it is right for you. Lay on your back and ask someone to take a picture from the side so you can see the curvature of your spine. 
  • For sleeping with a partner, a larger mattress allows you both the room you need to sleep soundly without waking each other up. 
  • While you’re thinking about the age of your mattress, remember pillows need to be replaced more frequently. Change your pillows every 18 months or so.  

Key Takeaways

Physical therapy will help the underlying condition causing your lower back pain and is proven to reduce pain and inflammation. But, it can take time. A comprehensive assessment at Physical Therapy Advantage will give you a recovery plan, so you’ll feel better soon. In the meantime, use these tips to get some sleep!

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