Best Sleeping Positions to Avoid Back Pain

Advice from our experienced Osteopaths and Physiotherapists in Camden on the best sleeping positions for avoiding back pain.

Back pain is incredibly common - studies show that around 80% of us will experience back pain in our lifetime). If you suffer from back pain, you may be looking into what adjustments you can make throughout your day to keep your body in better alignment and avoid unnecessary strain on muscles and ligaments. Perhaps you’ve even started seeing an Osteopath or Physiotherapist for help with correcting your posture at your desk or during your commute.



An experienced clinician can help you consider the way you carry yourself in your daily life might be contributing to aches and pains – but they’ll also ask about the way you sleep. The position you sleep can often contribute to or exacerbate back pain, so read on for some advice on the best sleeping positions to avoid back pain.


Why do I need to adjust my sleeping position?


Whatever position you sleep in, you’ll adopt this pose for (ideally!) 8 hours every night, so why not give as much thought to your alignment while you’re sleeping as you do to your waking posture? At our Camden clinic, our team of Osteopaths see countless patients who complain of waking up with aches and pains in their neck and back. While this could be caused by an underlying condition, we find that it’s often due to incorrect sleeping positions, which can put muscles under stress and strain when they should be resting and recovering.


While there are a range of different sleeping positions that are the most common (and many of us will cycle through a few during the night), these vary in how they affect neck and back health. The best sleeping positions support the natural curve of the spine, with head, shoulders and hips aligned. We explore our recommendations below:


Sleeping on your back


Our Osteopaths find that this is generally the most comfortable position for clients with back pain, as lying on your back means that your weight is evenly distributed over both sides, and across the widest surface area of your body.


When sleeping on your back, try placing a pillow under your knees so that they’re slightly bent to a comfortable degree, to take the pressure off your lower back.


Sleeping on your side

When sleeping on your side, putting a pillow between your knees will keep your hips, pelvis and spine aligned. Keep your knees slightly bent to support your body and stop you rolling over, but try not to bend knees excessively as this could overstretch muscles in your lower back and compress your diaphragm, restricting breathing.


While sleeping on your side is a healthy position, you should try to alternate which side you’re sleeping on as much as possible, to maintain balance for muscles and ligaments on both sides of your body.


When sleeping in either of the above positions, always use a pillow under your head, but not under your shoulders. The best pillow thickness will keep your head level with your spine, so that your head isn’t tipping backwards or being pushed forward.



What if I sleep on my front?


Avoid sleeping on your front if you can. While this may feel like the most natural position for some people to drift off in, front sleeping puts most of your weight in the middle of your body, pulling your torso downward and arching your back, as well as keeping your head turned to one side so you can breathe. If you simply can’t get comfortable in any other position, place a small pillow under your lower abdomen to keep your spine level, use a flat pillow for your head (or no pillow at all), and vary the way you turn your head.


Following the advice above will not only help you avoid waking up with aches and pains, it may also improve the quality of your sleep in general which will have a knock on effect on your health and wellbeing. Followed this advice but still experiencing back pain? There may be an underlying cause such as a health condition or physical imbalance – try booking a session with our team of licensed Osteopaths and Physiotherapists in Camden for a full examination.


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