A guide to sleeping properly when you have back pain

Stuck with back pain? sleep easier with these tips

If you’ve ever experienced back pain, you probably know about one of the most irritating side effects: sleep troubles. Not only is all the tossing and turning totally frustrating, but it stops you from becoming well-rested. As a result, it might be even harder for your back to heal.

For those reasons, you should take action against back pain and the sleep-related challenges that come with it. Seeing a massage therapist, chiropractor, physiotherapist could help – and we’ve provided plenty more tips for you below.

How sleep position and back pain are linked

Sleep issues and back pain have a stronger connection than you might think. In fact, studies prove that there’s a link, including this 2011 study from the European Spine Journal.

Specifically, the spine sends your brain signals noting that it is in pain. When you are trying to sleep, these signals can be particularly distracting.

Fortunately, trying out different sleeping positions can help limit those signals and give you a better chance at achieving a comfortable sleep.

READ MORE: How to find the right chiropractor

Important elements to consider

Pick the right mattress

If you tend to face back pain frequently, you might want to choose your next mattress carefully. There is no ‘one size fits all’ rule for mattresses, though some are made specifically for customers with back pain. Otherwise, you may consider the material, thickness, and coil arrangement.

Pick the right pillow

A pillow could be your best secret weapon against back pain. By considering qualities like softness, size, and position, you can eliminate tension and help your spine heal. Many place pillows near their body, like between their legs or under their back, to help reposition their spine.

Be careful getting in and out of bed

You might not realize it, but the way you get in and out of your bed can affect the healing process. By moving too quickly or aggressively, you might increase the pain you feel. Instead, stretch before getting into bed, and move slowly.

Stretch before bed and in the morning

Stretching can improve your mobility, comfort, and flexibility, and can even help reduce stress. If your back pain leaves you unable to sleep, stretching is the perfect strategy to give thought to.

Make sure you give yourself time to sleep

No matter what you do to assist your sore back, you’ll need to get enough sleep for your approach to work. A full rest is particularly necessary when your spine or muscles are sore or worn out. Most experts recommend aiming for eight hours of sleep, so if you give yourself less time, you might not see the results you’re looking for.

Effective sleep positions and how they can help

No matter how you choose to sleep, your #1 priority should be keeping your spine aligned. Consider one of the options below.

Sleep on your side and put a pillow between your knees

When your back is sore, lying face-up can feel particularly painful. That’s why the most popular strategy is to sleep on your side – however, this alone isn’t the most effective way to find comfortable sleep. Experts recommend placing a pillow between your knees as you lie on your side. This will help your hips, spine, and pelvis align in a comfortable way.

Fetal position

To sleep like a baby, why not curl up like a baby? The fetal position is a helpful way to sleep for patients who suffer from conditions like a herniated disc. Make sure to gently curl up, rather than harshly fold inwards.

Face downwards and put a pillow under your stomach

This approach might seem strange – especially if you’ve never slept on your stomach before. However, if you have a condition involving degenerative discs, you may want to try this. Just make sure you don’t stretch your neck out in a way that adds to your discomfort.

Sleep on your back with a pillow in between your knees

If you’re used to sleeping on your back and you don’t want to change your position, try simply placing a pillow in between your knees. You may also choose to sleep in a reclined position. By doing this, you’ll be able to sleep in your normal position while distributing weight evenly.

How a chiropractor can help

Visiting a chiropractor is the best thing you can do to find relief from back pain. Chiropractors are experienced professionals who are trained to understand your back pain and treat it appropriately. Upon visiting a chiropractor, you might receive customized instructions for how you should sleep, as well as methods of healing throughout the rest of the day.

READ MORE: Side effects of chiropractic treatment


When your back is sore, sleeping comfortably might feel impossible. Have no fear – you can achieve a good night’s rest by considering the tips we’ve included above. Make your bed comfortable, find a position that works for you, and visit a chiropractor as soon as possible.

Alex Tieu

Dr. Alex Tieu is a chiropractor with a passion for helping others achieve their health goals. Dr. Tieu wants to help his patients achieve optimal health and feel their best. He firmly believes that chiropractic care can make a significant difference in people's lives.

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