How to sleep better for back pain

BSc in Health Studies, Dip.Nut
Ask Earle

05 February 2015

Sleeping position and back pain

If you suffer from back pain, the last thing you need is terrible sleep. And yet some people tell us that the only time they find relief is when they go to bed, so what are they doing right?

You may have seen people walking about with a bent posture, perhaps with the aid of a stick or frame. They’ll have a degree of Spinal Stenosis. Stenosis means ‘choking’ and when the discs, or the supporting muscles, tendons or ligaments of the spine deteriorate, the nerves that run through the spine can become compressed (or ‘choked’). People with Spinal Stenosis tend to lean forward because doing so opens up the joints in the spine, relieving their lower back pain.

It’s this clue that tells us what to do at bedtime.

You don’t have to have Spinal Stenosis to benefit from these simple bedtime measures, as they may relieve other causes of back pain, such as a bulging disc from over exertion or compression after a long car journey, so do give them a try.

The best sleeping positions for back pain

Her's my advice on how to sleep better for back pain. Don’t think that the position you choose must be strictly adhered to all night long though. You’ll toss and turn anyway and remaining in one position too long will cause joints to stiffen up. However, these positions are a good way to start the night.

  • Sleep on your side with your legs pulled up into a foetal position and pop a pillow between your knees. This opens up the spine and can relieve any strain on the back and pelvis.
  • If you prefer to sleep on your back, place a couple of pillows under your knees to raise the legs. This has the same effect as curling up on your side.
  • If you like to sleep on your front, try to change it. It ‘chokes’ the spine and causes you to twist your neck unnaturally too which could cause neck or upper back strain. However, everyone has a favourite sleeping posture and if you have to sleep on your front, place a pillow under your tummy and pelvis to raise the lower abdomen and open the spine up a little.


What else can you do for back pain?

Just like you shouldn't maintain the same position all night, you also shouldn't spend to much time in the same position during the day. If you’re committed to a desk chair, a car seat or the couch, get up and moving for better mobility, perhaps taking the time to perform some daily back strengthening exercises.

Keeping active may be a better back pain remedy than taking paracetamol, which was found to be no more effective than dummy pills according to a recent report. I recommend swimming as an excellent step and other hydro therapies are also helpful if you’re not swimming-fit or need the support of the water to protect your back. Our local leisure centre has “£1 Wednesdays”, perhaps yours has something similar?

Applying some Atrogel arnica gel before getting into bed can also help to ease pain as you go to sleep, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Atrosan® – Devil’s Claw tablets for muscle and joint pains

30 tablets

£ 10.99

find your local stockist

Relieves muscle & joint pain, backache and lumbago. Also available in 60 tablet size.
More info

What's being asked

I have very bad back pain any advice on how I can reduce the pain?

Bad backs are equally likely to be due to strains, caused by lifting heavy weights, as they are ...
Read more >

I have lower back pain and a burning sensation in my hips. Could this be caused by stress or lifting heavy objects eg my grandson!?

It sounds as if you might have trapped a nerve or blood vessel in the lower back. Tingling, ...
Read more >

I have chronic lower back pain. I have had chiropractic help but to no avail. What do you suggest?

I'm afraid all we can offer is the usual advice of some Atrosan® Devils Claw taken internally, ...
Read more >

Just how healthy are your muscles and joints?

Answer our questions and find out if your flexibility is compromised.

Find out how flexible you are

Here's what I recommend

As the A. Vogel Muscles and Joints advisor, I recommend Atrogel® for the effective relief from aches and pains.

Learn more

Healthy & nutritious dinner ideas

Get new recipes in your inbox every week. Sign up now

Free Cough Spray (worth £10.99) with your order

Fight colds & flu with Dr. Jen Tan


Fight colds & flu with Dr. Jen Tan

Join now to fight colds & flu