Too many pain patients find that sleeplessness and pain levels can create a vicious cycle: with less sleep comes more pain, and with more pain comes less sleep. While the development of lower back pain has many risk factors, the quality and age of the mattress you sleep on, as well as your sleeping position, can dramatically influence your pain levels. If you’re wondering how to get rid of lower back pain while sleeping, we’ve got 12 quick and easy tips, including:
- Taking a good, hard look at your mattress to make sure it’s the best mattress for lower back pain, for you
- Checking out your sleep position to find one that promotes healthy alignment in your spine
- Adding pillows under your knees and back while sleeping to encourage natural spinal curves
- Getting out of bed the correct way
How to get rid of lower back pain while sleeping: The basics
To start, the following suggestions are only that — suggestions. Figuring out the best way to relieve lower back pain while sleeping will depend largely on your personal sleep habits and the cause of your pain. We recommend trying out a few of these to see if they help. If they don’t, or if you experience even more severe lower back pain, you should absolutely talk to a back pain doctor. They can help you figure out what’s causing your back pain. From there, they can suggest some treatments to help relieve your pain.
For a quick overview of how sleep issues can affect lower back pain, check out the following video.
What causes lower back pain while sleeping?
As WebMD points out, many things can cause nocturnal back pain. These include:
- Mechanical or muscular issues
- Disc degeneration
- Trauma due to a sprain or fracture
- Conditions such as scoliosis, spinal stenosis, or arthritis
- Related conditions, such as pregnancy
For many people, stress and tension in the muscles causes lower back pain while sleeping. For these milder cases of pain, try the following suggestions for relieving pain.
1. Check out your mattress if you have lower back pain while sleeping
It might not be immediately apparent that your mattress is all or partially to blame for your back pain, but there are a few telltale signs to look out for. The most important thing to evaluate is how you feel after waking. Feeling any sort of stiffness, numbness, or achiness in the joints could be a sign that you need a new mattress.
Secondly, how old is your mattress? If it’s several years old and looks lumpy or has springs poking out, it may be time to invest in a new one. While many mattresses are rated to last ten to 20 years, they don’t always last that long. The Better Sleep Council recommends people examine their mattresses every five years or so to identify excessive wear and tear, and buy a replacement if necessary, according to WebMD. On Prevention.com, they also mention a study from Oklahoma State University that found that “most people who switched to new bedding after 5 years slept significantly better and had less back pain.”
2. Find the best mattress for lower back pain, for you
If it’s in the cards financially for you to buy a better mattress, follow these suggestions:
- The best mattress for lower back pain is the one that feels best for you — people may debate over hard mattresses, soft mattresses, or the perfect sleep number, but the truth is that whatever feels good is the best option for you, as long as it encourages proper alignment
- Make sure the mattress you select allows the spine to rest in its natural alignment, as if you were standing straight
- Overall, most suggest a medium-firm mattress for reducing lower back pain; but side sleepers tend to prefer softer mattresses and back sleepers tend to prefer firmer mattresses
- Try different types of cushioning and support, from solid foam mattresses to memory foam to those that use steel coils
Try out several mattress options out at the store and see which one you like. Consider ones that you don’t think you’d like. Be adventurous. And don’t be shy: take your shoes off and hop on for a few minutes while relaxing in your usual sleeping position. Considering most people sleep for one-third of their lives, investing in a good, comfortable mattress is critical to not only improving quality of sleep, but also helping to reduce back pain.
3. Ask for recommendations to find the best mattress
If you’re wondering how to get rid of lower back pain while sleeping, and you’ve decided to spring for a mattress, you can also rely on reviews to help.
Ask the salesperson which ones he or she would suggest for back pain. Also look towards the internet for online reviews and testimonials. We suggest checking out these mattresses that were created specifically for people with back pain.
4. Don’t forget that it’s a mattress for your body
Yes, read reviews. Yes, try out and test as many mattresses as you can. But, as the Cleveland Clinic points out, the mattress you pick also depends on your body shape:
“If your hips are wider than your waist, a softer mattress can accommodate the width of your pelvis and allow your spine to remain neutral. If your hips and waist are in a relatively straight line, a more rigid surface offers better support.”
5. “Try it before you buy it” when looking at new mattresses
Even if you’ve found what you think is the best mattress for lower back pain relief, you may want to spend on a few nights on it before swiping your credit card. This is especially true if you’re making the switch to a significantly softer or harder mattress. If you can, ask to do a trial run on the new mattress. If that’s not a possibility, EverydayHealth.com has a few recommendations. From their expert, Santhosh Thomas, DO:
“He suggests spending a night in a hotel that offers options for guests to purchase pillows and mattresses so that you can try before you buy. Or, see if your mattress store lets you try out a bed overnight or even longer. ‘If that is not an option, perhaps sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag may mimic a firm surface, and sleeping on a couch may mimic a softer surface.'”
6. If a new mattress isn’t in the cards, make adjustments to your bed
Buying an entirely new mattress may not be economically feasible for you right now. You can make small adjustments now, though, if you’re still trying to figure out how to get rid of lower back pain while sleeping.
WebMD.com recommends a few quick solutions. Their major one? If you’re looking for a firmer mattress, “try adding plywood supports between the mattress and its base.” This can increase the firmness of your mattress, quickly and easily.
7. Figure out the best sleeping position for lower back pain for you
If you have back pain, the best sleeping position for lower back pain is on your back. As we’ll discuss, pillows strategically placed underneath the knees can further support the body and minimize arching of the back in this position.
Sleeping on your side isn’t ideal, but it’s much better than sleeping on your stomach, which is considered the worst position for people with back pain. While many people have a default sleeping position, trying to change it could be worth the effort if the position you naturally adopt is causing or worsening pain. Our post “The Best Sleeping Position For Lower Back Pain” has more suggestions for how to fix your sleeping habits. And, if you can’t get away from stomach sleeping, we suggest a few ways to alleviate pain from this position.
8. Look past the position
You may think it’s as easy as side, stomach, or back. But, as MindBodyGreen explains, where your legs and arms are while you sleep can also affect pain levels. Having one leg hiked up higher than the other, for example:
“Twists and torques the pelvis for as long as you maintain the shape. People who adopt this pattern often do so to accommodate tight muscles, so changing this pattern can benefit you in terms of the quality of sleep and balance of your muscles. Some people need to tie their legs together in order to make this change. You can use a bathrobe belt or something soft, and there’s no need to tie the strap too tight, but as long as the legs can’t separate you will be doing your body a wonderful service.”
Pay attention to where your legs, arms, and neck are before you go to sleep and work to correct any uncomfortable shapes or patterns.
9. Add a few pillows for an easy fix
Another easy and customizable way to improve your sleeping situation is to use pillows for additional support while sleeping.
For back sleepers, place a pillow under your knees to bring your body back into natural alignment. If you sleep in the fetal position, WikiHow suggests using a pillow in between your knees to relieve lower back pain. Their illustration of this is below. Side sleepers should also make sure to alternate sides during the night.
10. Make sure your main pillow isn’t causing pain
Just like there is no one-size-fits-all option for mattresses, the type of pillow a person uses is mostly personal preference as long as it supports the spine in a healthy way. Typically, side sleepers gravitate towards thicker pillows while back sleepers often like thinner pillows.
When picking a pillow, try to make sure it keeps the spine in proper alignment. For back sleepers, that means there should be a straight line from the ear through the shoulders and hips. For side sleepers, the head and neck should remain level with the mid and lower spine.
If you feel like a pillow is propping your head up too much, causing the cervical spine in the neck to lie at an angle, the pillow is too high and may lead to neck and back pain later. Check out our post “21 Of The Best Pillows For Neck Pain” for our suggestions on finding the best pillow for reducing pain.
It can be difficult picking out a pillow in the store. It’s often hard to tell what it will feel like at home. Consider buying several options and trying them at home, returning the ones that you don’t like. It’s worth the hassle to find a supportive, comfortable pillow because they make a big difference in overall sleep quality.
11. Get out of bed the right way
As SpineUniverse explains:
“Lastly, make sure you are getting out bed properly. Unfortunately, the majority of people will sit up, twist their back to prepare to get into a standing position, and use their back to stand. This method is incorrect. The proper way to exit a bed upon waking is to roll onto your side and use your arm to push up from the side-lying position. From this position, scoot to the very edge of the bed and get up using your legs, not your back.”
12. Don’t think about lower back pain while sleeping only
It’s not just about lower back pain while sleeping only. As DailyHealthPost points out:
“Ultimately, it’s not just about how you sleep. Your posture and activity during the day has a significant effect on muscles that may wind up feeling sore no matter what position you sleep in. During the day, focus on maintaining good posture at work and taking frequent breaks to get up and stretch.”
Lower back pain is a condition that affects up to 80% of people in the United States. It’s a widespread issue, and only tackling it when it comes up at night likely won’t fix your pain entirely. In addition to modifying your bedtime routine, look towards things you can do during the day to reduce back pain. These include:
- Exercising and strengthening your core and back muscles
- Realigning your neck and back when looking at a computer screen during the day
- Using hot or cold therapy for temporary relief of back pain
- Trying out chiropractic care or physical therapy for reducing more severe cases of back pain
- Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications to reduce pain when it flares up
Also, make sure to follow along with the PainDoctor.com blog as we often discuss lifestyle changes you can make every day to reduce lower back pain.
Need more help on how to get rid of lower back pain while sleeping?
If you’re looking for even more information on how to get rid of lower back pain while sleeping, Alexander at ModernHealthMonk.com has put together a post with photos showing the best sleeping positions for lower back pain as well as how to use pillows to relieve pain.
Need more help on how to get rid of lower back pain while sleeping? It might be time to talk to a pain doctor, especially if your pain is severe and affecting your quality of life. A pain specialist can help you learn more about back pain treatments. These can get you back on the right track to managing and reducing your pain.