Good sleep positions for achy muscles and joints

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S.A.C. Dip (Diet, Exercise & Fitness), Advanced Human Anatomy & Physiology Level 3
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22 July 2020

Which position is best for sleeping?

You may have already considered implementing dietary and lifestyle tips to aid muscle and joint pain but have you looked at how your sleeping position could also have an influence?

In this blog, I will go on to discuss the best sleep positions for the following types of pain:

  • Neck
  • Back
  • Knee
  • Shoulder
  • Muscular

Neck pain


Neck pain is a pretty common occurrence, particularly if you are spending a lot of time looking down at a phone or are working away at a computer all day. Your sleep position and the wrong shape of pillow may make matters worse when you go to sleep at night.

It is best to sleep on your back if you have neck pain as this supports the back and puts less strain on the neck. You should aim to use only one pillow because if the neck is propped up on a high pillow, it can put the neck and spine out of alignment. This may contribute to stiffness and pain in the morning. It is worth trying out a memory foam pillow to give your neck extra support.

Anyone with neck pain should always avoid sleeping on their front as this also puts the body out of alignment and means the neck has to twist at an awkward angle.

Top tip - sleeping on your back is also very good for anyone prone to digestive problems like heartburn or indigestion.

Back pain

Back pain can be triggered by a sedentary lifestyle or an injury to the area. Some common issues affecting the back include a slipped disc, sciatica and cervical spondylosis.

You may find it helps to sleep on your side if you have back pain as this reduces the amount of pressure placed on it.

If you aim to sleep on your side, make sure your mattress provides plenty of support – it shouldn't sag in the middle, or hold any lumps! Equally, though, if the mattress is too firm it may cause aches and pains to develop elsewhere in your body so this should be avoided too.

If this position doesn't work for you, lie on your back with a soft pillow placed under your lower back.

Knee pain

In a recent A.Vogel survey, 28.5% of people said they were affected by joint pain all of the time, whilst 20.2% said the problem got worse at night.

Arthritis, injury and wear and tear may cause knee pain to become problematic. It can become more noticeable at night when you've spent the day on your feet.

Knee pain is another problem that could be eased slightly by sleeping on your back. Placing a pillow underneath the knees will provide extra support and avoids the knees twisting or locking.

My Top Tip:

Keep some Atrogel by your bedside table in case you experience any pain flare ups during the night or in the morning.

Atrogel can bring pain relief from muscles aches and pains as well as joint pain.

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Shoulder pain

Pain in the shoulders may be linked to repetitive movements like typing or driving because these kinds of activities cause the body to hunch over. Sports enthusiasts may also be more prone to this problem as activities like tennis and rowing put more strain on the area.

Sleeping on your back can help this problem – just make sure that your pillow is not too high. This puts less pressure on the shoulders and ensures nothing is knocked out of alignment.

Muscular pain

If you suffer from muscular pain, the best sleep position will really depend on where your pain is concentrated. Generally speaking, though, lying on your back or side is preferable.

You'll notice that, regardless of where your aches and pains are concentrated, it is not advised that you sleep on your front. This sleep position puts your muscles and joints out of alignment and can even worsen digestive issues, as everything inside becomes a little squished!

Key point! It isn’t easy to maintain the same position throughout the night as we inevitably move around whilst sleeping. However, if you can go to bed in the best position for your particular problem, this is at least a good start towards helping to manage your pain.

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

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