A Chiropractor’s Guide to the Best (And Worst) Sleeping Positions For Back Pain

Sleeping position chiropractic backpain.


A full, proper night of sleep is an essential component to our overall health and wellness. A good night’s sleep is not only essential to maintaining physical energy, but in helping our bodies recover and stay their healthiest.

While many people know that experts recommend adults get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night, there are many people who simply aren’t getting the quality rest that their bodies need. While it is difficult enough to make time for this much sleep every night, if you are struggling with back pain or discomfort at night, it can make getting a night of restful sleep even more of a challenge.

Did you know that the position you sleep in can have a major impact on your back pain—and on your ability to get that important sleep at night?

The best sleeping position is going to support the natural curve of your neck and spine and keep you in proper alignment. The worst sleeping positions are the ones that will put unnecessary stress on your hips, back and neck.

So, which position is the right position for you? Take a look at what your sleeping position may be doing to your spine.

The Best Sleeping Positions For Back Pain

If you wake up in the middle of the night with sharp pain in the back, or if you get up in the morning feeling a dull ache in the low back, then it may be time to switch up your sleeping position.

Lying Flat On Your Back

If you want to give your spine a break from all of the twists and turns of the day, then try sleeping flat on your back. When you sleep in a twisted position all night, your spine is in a twisted position which can put you out of alignment and cause some of those aches and pains.

Sleeping flat on your back will help keep your spine aligned and it allows your body to follow its natural curve so you aren’t putting any unnecessary pressure on your back. To help keep this curve in the most natural position possible, place a small pillow underneath your neck and one under your knees.

Sleeping On Your Side

Sleeping on your side is another way to help keep your spine aligned, so that you alleviate unnecessary pressure in the back, and help your body recover while in its most natural position. However, it is important to remember there is a correct way to sleep on your side.

It is easy to fall into a twisted position while sleeping on your side. This is why it is always recommended that you put a firm pillow between the knees to help keep your hips in line. You should also put a pillow of equal thickness under the head and neck to keep your hips and pelvis in line with your neck and back.

The Fetal Position

Sleeping in the fetal positon won’t keep your spine in that long, natural curve position, but it can be a great option for those with a herniated disc or pain associated with pinched nerves or major subluxations. Your chiropractor or physical therapist may recommend the fetal position if you have conditions like this.

When sleeping in the fetal position, lie on your side with your knees curled in towards your chest. It will help relieve that pressure or pinching pain that you may be feeling. However, this is only recommended with conditions like this when you are dealing with compressed vertebrae or spinal cord pressure. This is because the fetal position does put your spine out of alignment.

If you fine you are sore in the morning after sleeping like this, then it may be time to try a new approach.

Changing your sleeping position can be difficult at first. However, if you are diligent about falling asleep in the correct position, and make sure that you readjust yourself when you wake up in the middle of the night, your body will naturally start to get used to this change.

The Worst Sleeping Positions For Back Pain

It is just as important to know the wrong sleeping positions for back pain, as it is to know the right positions. If you have been dealing with chronic back pain, particularly in the morning, or if you are struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep, then your sleeping position may be to blame.

The following positions may be aggravating an existing condition in your back, or causing misalignments in your spine that may be leading to that pain.

Sleeping On Your Stomach

Sleeping on your stomach can really put a lot of extra pressure on your cervical spine and cause your neck and back to get out of alignment. This puts pressure on your spine cord and may cause headaches, tingling, numbness or pain in the neck. It can also put unnecessary pressure on the lower back.

If you sleep on your stomach and tend to wake up with a stiff neck in the morning, then it may be time for a new sleeping position.

Awkward Leg Positions

If you sleep with one leg higher than the other, or flopped over so your spine is in a twist, it can cause your hip or pelvis to get out of alignment and stay in an aggravated position that may be causing strain in your muscles or trigger existing injuries.

What About Your Mattress?

While many people are quick to blame their mattress for their discomfort while sleeping, a change in your positioning can be a great start to alleviate this problem. However, if you still don’t feel like you are getting the support you need to sleep pain free, it may be time for a new mattress.

While different people will have different preferences, a great rule of thumb is to air on the firm side. When it comes to finding the balance between a medium mattress and an extra firm, your weight, sleeping position and type of back pain are all factors that contribute to finding the right mattress for you.

Typically, the more you weigh, the firmer of a mattress you will need for support. For example, if you are a side sleeper and weigh 130 pounds a medium mattress can still offer you with the support that you need. If you weigh over 200, you will need something a little more firm.

However, there are caveats. At the same time, back sleepers should avoid extra-firm mattresses as they aren’t as flexible, and may not adjust to the natural curves in your spine.

If you are in the market for a new mattress and want to make sure it is conducive to helping alleviate your back pain, here are some of our top tips for choosing the right mattress for you.

If you are considering a new mattress, always consult your chiropractor for more information on what type of mattress is going to work for your particular type of back pain. A doctor of chiropractic is a much better source of information than a salesperson at your local mattress store.

There will be some trial and error when finding the right mattress for you—and there is no one magic mattress that will work for every person’s back pain.

In general, try to avoid soft mattresses, even if they feel comfortable in the moment. A soft mattress will cause the back to get out of alignment, and won’t provide you with that extra support you need for your spine to stay in line.

Other Tips For Getting a Pain-Free Night of Sleep

If back pain is really aggravating you while you try to rest, there are a few other tips that you can utilize in order to get a pain-free night of sleep.

It is so important to get quality sleep each and every night, but if you aren’t sleeping in the right position, it can not only make your existing back pain worse, but actually cause even more discomfort in your back and neck.

The more you know about sleep positions and what they may be doing to aggravate your back pain, the better off you will be. Sleep is so essential to your health.

If you have any questions about what your sleep position may be doing to your back pain, give the experts here at McAuliffe Chiropractic Office a call. We can help you learn new strategies to alleviate back pain while sleeping so that you can start getting the restorative, uninterrupted sleep that your body needs.

If you are experiencing any type of tingling, numbness or shooting pain at night or when you wake up in the morning, call our office right away at 301-776-0755 or make a same day appointment online to get the care that you deserves.

Dr. Terence P. McAuliffe Jr. Family Chiropractor at McAuliffe Chiropractic Office

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