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Sleeping Positions that Help with Pain

Mar 15, 2022 | Prevention

Sleep positioning and supports are an important consideration for restful sleep. Experiment with the following options so you can get your best rest.

sleep positions graphic

Mattress & Pillow Support

  • Mattress should be firm to prevent sinking, yet soft enough to conform to the normal curves of your spine.
  • Pillow should support your neck and allow it to rest in a balanced position. A contoured neck pillow is often a good choice.
  • A neck roll may be added for extra support. Consider using a feather pillow with a cervical / towel roll along the length of the pillowcase to support the natural curve of the neck.

Sleeping on your Back

  • Pillow under the knees to keep neutral position in the lower back.
  • Avoid using thick / multiple pillows under your head.
  • Lumbar support or towel roll as needed to support the lumbar spine.
  • If you have arm pain, prop a pillow under arm from shoulder to elbow (allow elbow to bend, rest hand on pillow).

Sleeping on your Side

  • Pillow should support the head and neck, which may require doubling it if thin or made of feather.
  • Keep head and shoulders in line with hips.
  • Keep hips bent to less than 90 degrees or bend the top leg and keep the lower leg straight.
  • Pillow used between the knees to align the hip and knee.
  • If you have arm pain, support arm on pillow propped between arm and rib cage with elbow bent for neutral shoulder position.

Sleeping on your Stomach

  • Do not use a pillow under the head.
  • Place pillow under lower legs to keep spine in neutral.
  • A firm mattress is recommended.
  • If you have neck or arm pain, avoid sleeping on stomach.

Previously posted June 3, 2013, updated March 2022

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