In my experience as a physical therapist, one of the most common reasons patients seek out physical therapy is due to pain of the spine. Although certain factors related to neck or back pain are outside of our control (such as aging or arthritis), there are many factors that we do have influence over – including sleeping position.
Side sleeping or sleeping on your back are typically the two best positions for the neck. These sleeping positions are recommended because they are the easiest for maintaining good spinal alignment. In either position, you want a pillow that supports both the head and the neck (ie: fills in the gap between the neck and the bed). This can be achieved by either using a pillow that conforms to the shape of the neck, such as a feather pillow or memory foam pillow, or using a rounded pillow with a neck roll.
Stomach sleeping is not recommended due to the stress placed on the cervical spine in the fully rotated position. Related to this, positions with an arm overhead or under the head/pillow can place increased pressure on the nerves leading to numbness or tingling in the arm or hand upon waking.
Also remember these tips:
Similar to the neck, the best positions for the lower back are usually lying on your back or your side. Both of these positions support the natural curve of the spine. Proper support of the low back is key and can be achieved with correct pillow support.
Stomach sleeping is not recommended as it can place increased stress on the low back due to the arch that forms in this position. Gravity pulls on the lower back, forcing it into a flattened position when lying prone on your stomach.
Use these tips to decrease low back pain during sleeping:
Remember these tips are guidelines, and individual factors may affect the best position for each person including sleep apnea, snoring, reflux, pregnancy and more. If you have specific concerns, contact your physician or stop by an Athletico for a free assessment to discuss posture tips.
Physical therapy is usually the thing you are told to do after medication, x-rays or surgery. The best way to fix your pain is to start where you normally finish – with physical therapy at Athletico. Schedule a free assessment in-clinic or virtually through a secure online video chat where our team can assess your pain and provide recommended treatment options.
The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.