The 5 most suitable sleeping positions for lower back pain

Last Updated on March 30, 2022

Getting a good night’s sleep can be a challenge when you are experiencing back pain. It is a vicious cycle in which you need rest to heal, but your back hurts, so you can’t sleep, and so on.

The non-restorative sleep that is a typical feature when you’re in pain prevents the relaxation of your muscles while impeding the healing which normally occurs when you are sleeping. 

Whereas, if you are able to get some restful sleep, the heart and blood pressure slow down, while your brain can release the hormones that stimulate tissue growth and repair blood vessels. That makes more white blood cells, and your immune system is boosted.

That’s why you can’t help but wonder if sleeping is that important to healing a bad back, how do you do it? Lower back pain doesn’t necessarily have to be caused by serious medical conditions such as arthritis.

Rather, it’s often conveyed by stress or strain from bad posture at work or school, awkward sleeping positions, and some other lifestyle habits.

Here are the best sleeping positions for lower back pain you can try, as well as some other things you can do to get a better night’s sleep.

the ideal sleeping positions for lower back pain

What are the ideal sleeping positions for lower back pain?

Everyone is different, and there is no exception when it comes down to our sleeping position. Generally, the most suitable position for lower back pain is considered to be sleeping on your back. However, that doesn’t mean that every other option is the wrong answer since you can find a position that works specifically for you and your preferred needs.

Side sleeper with a pillow between the knees

Side sleeper with a pillow between the knees

If lying flat on your back feels uncomfortable for you, try shifting over to your side while allowing your shoulder (left or right) to make contact with your mattress, along with the rest of your body. You can also try to place a pillow between your knees and if there’s a gap between your waist and the bed, consider using a small pad there for added support.

Whether you use one standard pillow or opt for two smaller ones, you should resist the urge to sleep on the same side at all times. Switch it up! You want to keep changing sides to prevent issues such as muscle imbalance and even scoliosis.

Overall, the trick with sleeping on your side is using the pillow between your knees. This will keep your hips, pelvis, and spine properly aligned.

Side sleeper in the fetal position

Side sleeper in the fetal position

4 in 5 adults in the UK have suffered from a bad back at some point in their life, but if you have a herniated disc, you might want to try sleeping on your side curled in a fetal position.

Start by laying on your back and then rolling over gently onto your side. After that, you should tuck your knees toward your chest while gently curling your torso toward your knees. Lastly, you have to remember to switch sides from time to time to prevent any imbalances, as we’ve mentioned above.

A herniation happens when part of your disc pushes out of its normal space, which causes nerve pain, weakness, and other issues. Thus, curling your torso into a fetal position will open up the space between the vertebrae and ease your discomfort.

Stomach sleeper with a pillow under the abdomen

Stomach sleeper with a pillow under the abdomen

Most people have heard that sleeping on your stomach is actually bad for your back at some point in their life. This is partly accurate because it might add stress to your neck and back, but truth be told, if you find yourself resting on your stomach, you don’t have to force another position upon yourself. 

Instead, try to place a pillow under your pelvis and lower abdomen in order to relieve some of the pressure off your back. Depending on how that position feels, you might need to use a pillow under your head, or you may not. It’s totally up to you!

Back sleeper with a pillow under the knees

Back sleeper with a pillow under the knees

Sleeping on their back might be the best position for some individuals to relieve back pain. However, they should lay flat on their back. 

Also, placing a pillow underneath your knees and keeping your spine neutral will be beneficial to your overall comfort. The pad is important because it works to keep that curve in your lower back, which relieves some of the stress.

Another thing you may want to try is placing a small, rolled-up towel under the small of your back for added support. Generally speaking, when you sleep on your back, your weight is evenly distributed and spread across the widest area of your body, which results in less strain on your pressure points. Plus, you’re also able to keep your spine properly aligned.

Back sleeper in a reclined position

Back sleeper in a reclined position

Last but surely not least, if you feel most comfortable snoozing in a recliner or some sort of adjustable mattress (or specialised pillows), you benefit from it if you have isthmic spondylolisthesis. Investing in an adjustable bed isn’t a bad idea, as it can help you sleep with the best alignment and support.

Reclining may benefit your back because it creates an angle between your thighs and your trunk. And this angle helps reduce the pressure on your spine.

Bottom line

Few tricks can minimise lower back pain, such as putting a pillow beneath your knees because it will maintain the spine’s natural curve. You can even roll up a towel and put it under your back for additional support.

If sleeping on your back isn’t your thing and you’re more of a side sleeper, you should try tucking a pillow between your knees, which will keep your hips, pelvis, and spine better aligned. Another thing you can try is curling into the fetal position, tuck your knees toward your chest and don’t forget to switch sides so that you avoid imbalances.

If you’re a stomach sleeper, you should try using a pillow beneath the pelvis and lower abdomen. That will give you extra support, which may relieve some of the build-up pressure in your lower back. 

However, if you are experiencing backaches, you can’t forget about the mattress you are sleeping on, as it plays a significant role in your rest. If you’ve been sleeping on your bed for over 7,8 years, chances are it’s not providing you with the right amount of comfort and support, which means it might be time for a replacement.

If you don’t know where to start and how to pick one, make sure to check our guide on the best mattresses for low back pain.

We hope we were able to answer the how and why when it comes down to ‘What are the ideal sleeping positions for lower back pain?’, and now it’s our turn to hear from you if any questions regarding the subject were left unanswered. If you want to share some information, we would gladly hear about it in the comments below.

Isabelle Harris
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