Back pain can make it hard to get a good night's sleep. But by
experimenting with a few different simple sleep strategies, you can help ease
your back pain and prevent future problems.
"First you have to start off with the understanding that
there is no perfect position for everybody to sleep in," says Joel M.
Press, MD, medical director of the Center for Spine, Sports & Occupational
Rehabilitation at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. "Generally you
have to listen to your body."
Start with your primary-care physician; back pain is so common that most
family docs have seen lots of it. Your PCP is also a good person to return to
if, later, you get conflicting treatment advice from specialists. He or she can
help you evaluate what would be your best next step.
Put a pillow between your legs. For people with back and hip related
problems, this can help take the tension off the low back and hips.
When choosing a mattress, find the hardest bed in the store and then go
down a notch or two. "In general, you want to sleep on a firmer
mattress," says Press, "but it doesn't have to be the firmest
Keep your neck neutral. Use a pillow that fills in the space between your
head and shoulders and allows your neck to lie in a neutral position, not bent
in one direction or the other.
Avoid using heating pads in bed. Lying with your body weight against a
heating pad, even a non-electric one, increases the risk of burns to the
If a pillow top or egg crate on top of the mattress makes your back feel
better, feel free to use it.
Establish a good sleep routine. When you don't get enough sleep, the
muscles never get a chance to relax and you won't wake up feeling
If your back pain is still keeping you up at night, talk with your doctor
about other treatment options, such as medication or physical therapy.