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May is Better Sleep Month

Woman waking up with back pain

How Your Sleeping Position Can Lead to Back Problems

It's not always easy to narrow down the cause of early morning back pain, particularly if you don't remember doing anything that could trigger the pain. If you haven't fallen, lifted heavy items, or exercised intensely recently, your sleeping position may be to blame for your pain. Focusing on improving your sleeping position during National Better Sleep Month in May just may help ease your back pain.

The Way You Sleep Can Stress Your Back

Your preferred sleeping may be the same one you used when you were five. Back then, you could easily fall asleep in any position and not experience any consequences. Unfortunately, wear and tear in addition to the natural effects of aging can make your back more susceptible to aches and pains if you continue to sleep in certain sleeping positions.

Positions that fail to keep your head, neck, and back properly aligned and supported are more likely to trigger back pain. Stress on your joints, muscles, and ligaments increases if you don't maintain the natural curvature of your back as you sleep.

Exploring Common Sleeping Positions and Their Effects on Your Back

Do you fall asleep in one of these positions? Here's how they may affect your back:

  • Stomach. Sleeping on your stomach may be comfortable, but it's not very good for your back. Stomach sleeping forces you to arch your lower back, which may cause morning pain. Turning your head in this position may also strain the muscles in your neck and shoulders. If you can't fall asleep unless you lie on your stomach, try placing a pillow under your hips to prevent your lower back from arching too much.
  • Fetal Position. The fetal position is a favorite of many people. In fact, 47 percent of people prefer sleeping curled in the position, according to The Better Sleep Council. Although this position isn't bad for your back, it can lead to aches and pains in other parts of your body as you age. If you wake up with aching knees or hips, try to open up your position a little, if possible. Putting a pillow between your legs may help with knee or hip pain.
  • Side. Sleeping on your side can reduce your risk of back pain, as long as you alternate sides. When you consistently sleep on the same side, muscle imbalances that contribute to back pain can occur. Using a pillow between your legs can also improve your comfort in this position.
  • Back. Lying on your back is the ideal sleeping position if you want to avoid pain. The position helps preserve the natural alignment of your spine and doesn't stress any part of your body. Adding a pillow under your legs can make the position even more comfortable if you're a back sleeper.

How to Improve Your Sleep and Avoid Back Pain

In addition to sleeping on your back or side, these tips may help you wake up refreshed and pain-free:

  • Choose the Right Pillow. Pillows that are too thick or thin can disrupt the alignment of your neck. Your pillow should keep your head in a natural position and not cause it to droop down or tilt upward.
  • Replace Your Mattress. A worn-out mattress may cause or worsen your back pain. Mattresses typically last 10 years or longer, according to Consumer Reports. It's time to replace yours if you regularly wake up in pain or if the mattress sags or appears lumpy.
  • Select the Best Mattress Type for Your Body. Price shouldn't be the only factor you consider when you buy a new mattress. Saving a little money isn't worth it if your new mattress causes you to constantly wake up with back pain. The perfect mattress should support and cushion your body without creating pressure points. The Cleveland Clinic recommends choosing a softer mattress if your hips are wider than your waist and a more rigid mattress if your hips and waist form a straight line.

Do you suffer from nagging back pain? Your chiropractor offers treatments that can help ease your pain. Contact our office to schedule a convenient appointment.

Sources:

The Better Sleep Council: Starfish or Freefall? What Your Sleep Position Can Tell You

Consumer Reports: How Long Does a Mattress Last?