The Best Sleep Positions for Lower Back Pain

Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things a person can do to help meet the demands of their daily life. When a person feels rested, they have more energy throughout their day and they are more productive. There is also a long list of health benefits associated with consistently getting a good night’s rest. Those with lower back pain often find getting enough rest a bit more challenging.

Some may have difficulty finding a comfortable position in order to fall asleep, and others find themselves waking up multiple times during the night with painful symptoms. Fortunately, there are some things an individual can do to help minimize their discomfort and enjoy some much-needed sleep.

Who is Vulnerable?

Lower back pain can occur from a number of medical conditions. An individual may have or one more herniated or bulging discs that put pressure on nearby nerves. Some individuals experience the painful condition of sciatica. This is a condition characterized by compression of the main nerve that begins in the lower back, passes through the hip and buttock region, and eventually ends in the thigh area. An individual with a lower back issue may experience only pain while sleeping in certain positions, whereas others may also experience sensations of numbness, tingling, or burning from a pinched nerve.

Conditions for Side Sleeping

Most people have a preference for the position in which they sleep, so it can be difficult to marry an individual’s preferred sleeping position to their particular condition. However, trying a new sleeping position and experiencing reduced pain is likely enough to convince most people to give a new sleeping habit a chance.

Sleeping on one’s side with knees slightly bent, along with a small pillow tucked between the legs is generally a good position for those with pain stemming from degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis of the spine, or spinal stenosis. Sleeping on one’s side can open up the facet joints, the areas where nerves come out from the spine, which helps to reduce the pain resulting from nerve compression.

Sleeping on the Stomach

Some individuals may find lower back pain relief while sleeping on their stomach, along with a pillow underneath their hips. The pillow helps to improve spinal alignment and can help to reduce pressure on disc spaces for conditions such as a herniated, bulging, or protruding disc in the lower spine.

Back or Reclining Position

Some people may find the best way to reduce their lower back pain is through sleeping on their back or in a semi-reclining position.  Individuals with Spondylolisthesis, a condition where one of the vertebrae in the lower spine slips out of place and presses on an adjacent nerve, may find either of these two positions can help decrease the stress on their spinal components. Slipping a pillow underneath one’s legs while either in a semi or fully reclined position may also help reduce pain levels.

What about Mattresses?

There is no such thing as one perfect mattress for all lower back pain sufferers. Different mattress materials offer different sleeping experiences,  and personal preferences for traditional innerspring, memory foam, or perhaps a hybrid of materials, play a notable role in one’s level of personal comfort. In general, a good-quality mattress will have at least a 10-year warranty. If your mattress is older than 10 years, it might be a good time to consider looking into purchasing a new one. Even if your mattress is not that old, if you are experiencing new pain upon rising in the morning, it’s possible that your current mattress is no longer providing the proper support necessary for your particular sleep condition.


If you would like more information on how to find the right sleeping position and/or mattress for your particular lower back condition, please contact Cawley Physical Therapy at 570-208-2787 or email us at: