Poor posture when sitting and standing isn’t the only lifestyle contributor of back pain. If you’re waking up with pain, or if you find that your pain is worse in the morning, it’s possible that your sleeping position has something to do with it.
At The Spine Institute of Southeast Texas, board-certified orthopedic surgeon Dr. Thomas Jones II treats a full range of spine conditions that result in back pain. While many spine conditions are the result of age-related changes, factors like sleeping position cause or contribute to back pain in some cases.
The spine’s 33 bones are quite tough, but they aren’t indestructible. The supporting muscles, joints, and tissues are also vulnerable to strain. It’s not uncommon to experience back pain as a result of increased muscular stress and spinal misalignment from sleeping in a position that doesn’t support your back. Here’s how your sleeping position affects your spine health.
Worst position for spine health
Lying on your stomach is the least spine-friendly sleeping position. It flattens your spine's curvature and causes your back to flex unnaturally, which leads to additional strain.
Stomach sleeping makes maintaining a neutral spine difficult, throwing your spine out of alignment for the entire night. Instead of resting, the structures that support your spine are tense and strained.
If you can’t fathom the idea of giving up sleeping on your stomach, position a pillow beneath your stomach and hips to help improve spinal alignment. This simple modification can alleviate strain on your spine.
Inadequate spine-neck alignment
Your choice of pillow also affects your sleeping position. Choosing a supportive pillow keeps your neck (cervical spine) in alignment and alleviates pressure points. If you sleep on a pillow that isn't supportive or if you use a stack of pillows, you're throwing off your spine-neck alignment, paving the way for neck and back pain.
A mattress that doesn’t provide adequate spine support puts extra strain on structures of the back. Medium firm mattresses are optimal for back sleepers, while extra softness helps cushion the shoulder and hips if you’re a side sleeper.
Best sleeping positions for spine health
By maintaining a neutral and relaxed body position, your spine keeps a healthy posture. A neutral spine keeps your muscles long rather than flexed, reducing the chance of pain or tightness throughout the body.
A neutral spine posture is also symmetrical, keeping your body in balance by preventing the muscles on one side of your body from working harder than the ones on the other side.
Here are the best sleeping positions for spine health:
Sleeping on your back is an ideal position for spine health, especially if you’re dealing with back pain. Lying flat keeps your spine neutral and distributes your weight evenly.
Some people with lower back aches may need an additional pillow beneath their knees to reduce pressure and stress on the lower back muscles. A small lumbar pillow may be useful as well. Some people benefit from slightly raising their feet.
Though sleeping on your back is ideal for spine health, it’s not for everyone. If you’re unable to switch to sleeping on your back, the next best option is to sleep on your side — but be sure to stretch out your legs to preserve a neutral spine.
It’s important to select a supportive pillow so you don’t strain your neck in this position. Choose a pillow that keeps your neck aligned with the rest of your spine rather than flexing downward toward the mattress or awkwardly upward.
Get professional evaluation and advice
If you have a spine condition, it’s even more important to adopt spine-friendly sleeping habits. We invite you to come in for an evaluation if you’re dealing with any type of neck or back pain that doesn’t go away.
Schedule a visit with Dr. Jones today! You can call the nearest office or request an appointment online. The Spine Institute of Southeast Texas is your premier spine care provider, with locations in Pearland, and Lake Jackson, Texas, and we’re here to help you keep your spine healthy and strong.