Mattresses, pillows, and sleeping positions are all factors in a good night’s sleep with back pain, and there are ideal sleeping positions for some of the most common causes of discomfort.
Osteoarthritis is the breakdown and eventual loss of cartilage between the bones in the joints. Patients with osteoarthritis may prefer to sleep on their side with their legs curled up (the fetal position). This alleviates pressure and opens up the spine.
Degenerative Disc Disease
As we age, our spinal discs break down, or degenerate. This leads to loss of fluid in the discs—the cushioned area between the vertebrae—which reduces the ability of the discs to act as shock absorbers. Patients with degenerative disc disease often prefer to sleep on their stomachs to relieve pressure on the disc space. Usually, a firmer mattress is best for patients with degenerative disc disease.
Spinal stenosis occurs when the space around the spinal cord narrows, which puts pressure on the spinal cord and the spinal nerve’s roots. This can lead to pain or even numbness in the legs. People with spinal stenosis should consider sleeping in the fetal position or in an adjustable bed that allows the head and knees to be elevated. This relieves pressure on the spinal nerves.
Herniated Lumbar Disc
Depending on which disc is herniated, patients with herniated lumbar discs are advised to lie on their stomachs or sleep in the fetal position.
Generally speaking, to help alleviate pain and pressure on the back while sleeping, place pillows under the knees or the lower back.