Scientists Explain The Best Sleep Postures to Reduce Back Pain

Back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the American Chiropractic Association.  In the U.S alone, around 80 million people experience back pain annually, which results in over 264 days of work missed.

Fast Facts                             

  • Back pain is the third most common reason for doctor visits
  • Lower back pain costs Americans more than$100 billion annually
  • 80 percent of people will experience back pain at certain point
  • Most back pain cases are attributable to sudden mechanical changes to the back`s structure
  • Lower back pain issues often reoccur. For some people, lower back pain progresses into a chronic condition
  • There are various health conditions or situations which may either initiate or worsen back pain, such as poor posture, lifting heavy objects, being overweight, psychological stress, and arthritis

5 Sleep Postures for Back Pain

  • Side Sleeping With a Pillow Between the Legs


  • Rotate the body onto its side so that the entire side of it makes contact with the mattress, except for the head if using a pillow.
  • Rest a small pillow between the knees and adjust it to feel comfortable.
  • If there is a space between the waist and the mattress, place a small pillow or cushion for support.

Sleeping on the side with a pillow between the knees aligns he pelvis, hips, and spine, all of which can irritate any present back pain, especially in the lower back.

  • Side Sleeping in The Fetal Position


  • Lie on the back and roll on the side
  • Fold the knees towards the chest as you lower the torso toward the knees
  • Switch sides to avoid misalignments

Sleeping in this position is preferred among people with a foraminal hernia, a hernia condition in which the enlargement of joint in the spinal canal causes the disc space to narrow.  This position helps by extending this narrowed space, reducing pressure on the nerve root.

  • On The Stomach With a Pillow Under the Abdomen


  • Get on all fours and put a pillow under the abdomen
  • Lower yourself down into a sleeping position

People with a degenerative disc condition or paracentral disc herniation may benefit from this position because raising the abdomen while at rest relieves the tension between the disc and affected vertebra.

  • On The Back With a Pillow Under the Knees


  • Lie on the back
  • Place a pillow under the knees, keeping the spine in place
  • If the lower back is uncomfortable, place a rolled-up towel under the small of the back for additional support

Sleeping on the back redistributes weight and the pillow expands the spaces between the affected discs in the back.  Spreading the weight helps reduce some of the pressure and thus helps to relieve the pain.

  • Lean Back and Sleep


This sleep position requires either a recliner or an adjustable bed.  Sleeping in a reclined position may help to relieve the pain inherent back conditions like isthmic spondylolisthesis.

How does this posture help? Well, resting in recline forms an angle between the torso and the thighs, reducing the pressure on the spine.