Good Sleep Posture is Good for Back Pain

by Christina Lasich, MD Health Professional

Hey you, sitting at your computer: Sit up straight and don't slouch. The importance of having good posture at your desk, at your dinner table, and in school has been drilled into your head by the posture police. What about your posture while sleeping? Your body position and alignment during the sleeping hours is just as important as during the waking hours. Heck, you can spend up to half of your day sleeping, so of course sleep posture is important. Poor sleep posture can cause back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain and hip pain. Improving your posture while sleeping can help to alleviate many types of pain. You need to know if your sleep posture is poor and ways to improve it.

If you wake up with pain, if your pain is worse during the night while trying to sleep, or if your pain is worse in the mornings when you get out of bed, then chances are that your sleep posture is contributing to your pain experience. If your pain is one-sided and you tend to sleep on one side primarily, then your sleep posture may be a problem. Why does all this pain result from poor posture? First of all, poor alignment while sleeping can cause stress in all the wrong places. Besides misalignment, certain sustained, bad positions can also lead to sore pressure points, particularly over the "hips." Finally, all the tossing and turning from being uncomfortable repetitively strains joints, ligaments and muscles. Sleeping in an ergonomically correct position can eliminate all this unnecessary pain.

One strategy to improve the ergonomics of sleep posture is to use strategically placed pillows. A pillow between the knees helps to align the hips. A pillow at the small of your waist while sleeping on one side helps to align the low back. A supportive pillow for the head can relieve tension on the neck and shoulders. You may get buried in pillows, but less pain and more restful sleep is worth being lost in pillow land.

Another way to improve sleep posture is to get a better mattress. A properly built sleep platform has a firm foundation and gradually gets softer towards the top. The softness at the top allows for the curves of your body to be maintained instead of your body conforming to the mattress. In my opinion the best mattress available on the current market is the Tempur-Pedic Cloud Supreme.

Bottom line: Mattresses can relieve pain or cause pain.

Now, take a moment to ponder about your sleep posture. Think about your pain, the timing of your pain, where the pain is, and your sleep habits. Do you have the right pillows? And, what about your twenty year old mattress? Maybe it is time for corrective action to improve your sleep posture? Take action now because you might be surprised about the huge impact that sleep posture can have on the pain that you feel 24/7.

Christina Lasich, MD
Meet Our Writer
Christina Lasich, MD

Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.