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What's the best sleeping position for back pain?

When you suffer with back pain, it can often feel like there’s just no respite. The simplest daily tasks can become time-consuming and even lying in bed can lead to aching and stiffness. Regularly waking throughout the night due to pack pain can leave you feeling fatigued too.

That’s why we’re looking at how to sleep with back pain, and the kinds of positions you should try. Because we want to help you get as much pain-free sleep as possible.

Suggested sleeping positions for back pain

Whether your back pain is brought on by bad posture, strain from an injury, an awkward movement or something else entirely, finding a sleep position that can give you temporary respite will make the world of difference.

Try these tonight and see whether they help ease your back pain while sleeping:

1. Lay on your back with a pillow under your knees

Why it works

Simply lying flat on the bed can put pressure on your spine as it must extend to accommodate your legs being out straight. Consider the difference between your posture when you’re standing and when you’re lying down. You’ll feel your spine bend back slightly when your legs are out perfectly straight. This can exacerbate certain symptoms, causing back pain from sleeping in this position. However, the simple addition of a pillow under the knees creates a little curve at the bottom of the spine allowing your back to relax in a more natural state.

How to do it

Lay on your back with a pillow under the backs of your knees. If you find it comfy, this is the best way to sleep with back pain as it distributes your weight across your pelvis - the widest part of your body, aligns your spine and reduces pressure on your internal organs.

2. Lay on your side with a pillow between your knees

Why it works

This is one of the most common sleeping positions for back pain sufferers, using a pillow between the legs for back pain relief. It works by aligning your hips and pelvis and keeping your spine nice and straight. When you lay on your side without a pillow, your top leg naturally tends to reach down further to rest on the bed for balance, this causes a slight twist in the spine, which can be uncomfortable if you suffer with back pain. Placing something between your knees can even this up. You don’t need a special pillow for back pain, any cushion will do just fine.

How to do it

Choose which side you prefer to lay on and then slip a pillow between your slightly bent knees. You should feel your spine straighten out. This is one of the best sleeping positions for lower back pain.

3. Lay on your side curled up in a ball

Why it works

If you find that stretching your back out generally helps it to feel a little more comfortable, this may be the position for you. In between the vertebrae of your spine you have discs or soft cushions that act as shock absorbers. These discs become stiffer and begin to degenerate with age. By curling your spine round, you are helping to open up the spaces and remove pressure from the discs.

How to do it

Tuck your knees up to your chest and curl your torso round as if you are laying in the foetal position. You may find you need to switch sides from time to time for comfort. Many sufferers report that this position provides them instant relief from back pain while sleeping.

4. Lay on your tummy with a pillow under your abdomen

Why it works

If you are a stomach sleeper it can be a relief to know that there are comfortable sleeping positions for back pain that still allow you to roll onto your tummy. The problem with stomach sleeping generally is that it puts pressure on your spine for two reasons. As your torso collapses into the bed, your spine is forced to curve downwards to accommodate it. You’ll also tend to turn your head either one way or the other onto the pillow creating a twist in the neck.

How to do it

Place a pillow under your pelvis and abdomen to help lift it slightly. This will take some of the pressure off your back by creating a nice relaxed shape in your spine. As with the pillow between your knees, this is one of the best ways to sleep with lower back pain. Consider using only one thin pillow for your head to prevent exacerbating the twist in your neck.

Other ways to combat back pain from sleeping

Find the best bed for lower back pain

Research from the British Chiropractors’ Association suggests that the best bed for lower back pain is a ‘supportive’ one. This will mean different things to different people, but generally someone who weighs more will benefit from a firmer bed than someone who weighs less. For the best back support while sleeping, all parts of your body should be touching the mattress but not sinking right into it.

What’s the best mattress for back pain?

One of the best ways to ease your back pain is to invest in a mattress that supports you effectively. What you really want is a mattress that supports all of the pressure points that can lead to back pain. It’s really useful to find a mattress where the points behind your knees and your back that would usually leave a small gap when lying down are actually supported by your mattress. Our wool mattresses are structured using high quality HD springs for optimum support and filled with 100% British wool for breathability, so that you get all the support you need with a natural solution.

Many people suggest that memory foam is the best mattress for back pain. While its true memory foam is designed to support your body by moulding to your shape and thus reducing pressure on your spine and muscles, it does tend to hold you in one position for a long period of time. For some sufferers, this could lead to a feeling of stiffness, exacerbating back pain in the morning as their body has not been able to easily adjust itself during the night.

When you choose a wool mattress you get all the levels of support that you need, without the chemicals used to produce memory foam.

Not ready to invest in a new mattress? Check out our wool mattress toppers for an additional layer of support.