The Physical Therapy Doctor - September 2023

THE BEST SLEEPING POSITION for Preventing Neck and Back Pain

Have you ever awoken from a night’s sleep, ready to take on the day, but instead of feeling rested, you notice your neck or back is killing you? Then, for the next few days, you try to avoid turning your head or bending over, resulting in funny stares from coworkers or strangers. While this happens to everyone now and again, it’s not normal and should be a cause for concern if it occurs often. More likely than not, how you sleep is the culprit. Most of us sleep in whatever position feels most comfortable when we lie down, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best position for our bodies. So, if you frequently start your morning with neck or back pain, here are the sleeping positions you should avoid and the position most likely to provide much-needed relief. Sleeping Positions That Cause Neck or Back Pain No. 1: Sleeping on Your Stomach By sleeping on your stomach, you extend and compress your spine abnormally, leading

This causes the muscles and tendons that connect to your top side (the side of your body pointing toward the ceiling) to become shortened. Meanwhile, the connections to the side of your body against the bed become lengthened. This can leave you feeling imbalanced and tight, especially near the anterior or oblique muscles on the side of your stomach. How to Sleep to Prevent Neck and Back Pain If you want to avoid waking up with neck or back pain, the best way to sleep is on your back. By sleeping flat on your back, you promote the natural curve of your spine and avoid putting excess pressure on your organs. Sleeping on your back also allows the muscles and tendons on each side of your spine to balance appropriately without one side becoming longer or shorter than the other due to compression. Tips for Changing Your Sleep Position If you’ve slept on your stomach or side for many years, it may be difficult to adjust to back sleeping, even though it’s the healthier option. Fortunately, you can easily retrain your body using pillows. When you’re ready to try back sleeping, grab four pillows before you crawl into bed and place them in these four positions.

to pain and tightness in your lower back. If you can picture it, sleeping on your stomach forces your spine into a “U” shape, with your lower back (where your spine attaches to your pelvis) at the bottom of the “U.” When you hold this position for hours while asleep, the muscles at the junction of the “U” become incredibly tight, irritating the nerves in that area. On top of that, sleeping on your stomach also puts significant pressure on the abdomen and internal organs.

• Pillow 1: Under your knees.

• Pillow 2: Beneath your lower back.

• Pillow 3: On your left side, against your hips and stomach.

• Pillow 4: On your right side, against your hips and stomach.

These cushions should help make back sleeping more comfortable and prevent you from rolling into your previously preferred position while you sleep. If you have trouble dozing off, try different pillow sizes and densities until you find the best fit. After sleeping this way for a while, back sleeping will become a habit!

No. 2: Sleeping on Your Side When you sleep on your side, you still force your spine into that same “U” shape, but instead of the lower part of your back being at the bottom of the “U,” the middle of your back sags toward the floor.

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