The 2 Best Positions For Sleeping If You Have Neck or Low Back Pain

Generally speaking, a person needs 6-8 hours of sleep for proper functioning of the human body.  Restful sleep allows your body to destress and to recover and heal from a hard day whether you are a desk jockey, construction worker, at-home dad, pro athlete or growing teenager!

I regularly get asked by my Richmond Hill chiropractic patients what the best position is for them to sleep at night.  My answer is either on your side or back, but not on your stomach.  And here’s why.

There are 3 natural curves to your spine.  When looking at your body from the side, there is the C-shaped curve along the neck area, the reverse-C along the midback and another C-curve along the low back.  As a whole, the spine could be described as looking like an ‘S’.

So basically, whether your are standing, walking, sitting or even sleeping, you want to maintain these natural curves as they are most optimal for us.

Side sleeping most closely mimics the S-shape.  To make it even better, you should place a pillow between the knees to keep the hips aligned.  Also, ensure that your pillow height is neither too low, nor too high…essentially you want to maintain a neutral head and neck position.  So for all those who love using two or three big fluffy pillows, you need to rethink your sleep strategy!

Back sleeping would be the next best position.  However, you really need to add a pillow under your knees and possibly a small pillow under your lower back in order to support your natural curves properly.  The same pillow rule above for the head and neck applies.

I’d say the worst position to sleep in at night is on your stomach.  Yet a surprising number of my patients do so!  No wonder they come in with low back pain and neck pain!  And no, the mattress isn’t the problem…it’s you!  In this sleep position, you are on your stomach with the head turned to one side on top of a pillow and the arms tucked underneath.

Bad point #1: head twisted to one side for the majority of the night is a recipe for a stiff neck.

Bad point #2: head over-elevated with a pillow and arms causes excessive extension of the neck which is a recipe for jammed spinal joints and nerve compression. 

Bad point #3: lumbar spine is hyperextended also, causing joint jamming and irritation.  Get the picture?

Considering we spend a large chunk of our day sleeping, it’s no wonder that sleeping in a bad position for hours at a time can cause the pain and discomfort we feel in our low back and neck.  Often times, it just starts out as pain upon waking up in the morning which eases up once you get up and moving.  But gradually, it progresses to pain that is more longer lasting.

So try to nip it in the bud now before you have to see a chiropractor.  Remember prevention is the best cure!

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