Best Sleeping Position for Lower Back Pain


The position in which we sleep is very important as we spend about a third of our lives in our beds. Holding your neck or back in a prolonged twisted or awkward position can lead to ongoing postural issues, which in turn can lead to the onset of back pain. Back pain itself also has the potential to influence our posture; therefore it is important to have an appropriate bed, as well as being aware of the potential impact poor sleeping posture can have on our overall spinal health and function.

So what is the best position to sleep in?

  1. Laying on your side is the optimal sleeping position. A pillow that keeps the spine in a neutral position whilst sleeping, and a quality, firm mattress that yields to the contours of your body are essential. Switching from the left to right side during the night is important to ensure balance, and the addition of a pillow between your knees can be more comfortable for some.

  2. Laying on your back is not ideal because there is no support for your lumbar lordosis (lower back curvature), and your head is often shifted to one side. If you prefer sleeping on your back, it is recommended to add a pillow under your knees which will result in flattening your lumbar spine and help to reduce the stress. Although we don't normally recommend feather pillows, they may be the most effective pillow for back-sleepers, as your head will sink into the pillow and limit the range of motion.

  3. Laying on your front is the worst position for your spine as your lumbar lordosis is exaggerated, and your head will be twisted to one side. If you are already a tummy sleeper, then it may be better to use a feather pillow or none at all.

NZ Chiropractic Association recommends the Sleepyhead Chiropractic range. Their beds are very well designed and tested.

For those suffering with back pain, lying on your side is usually the best position with your thighs at 90-degrees. Some people with intervertebral disc injuries prefer to lie on their back with 1-2 pillows under their knees.

If you have injured your lower back don't rush getting in or out of bed as this can aggravate your back injury. Sit on the side of the bed, lower and support your upper body down onto the bed as your legs swing up.