A SIMPLE guide to relieve lower back pain when sleeping!

Most human beings will deal with lower back pain at some point in life. This pain can affect your quality of life by interfering with your job, relationships, moods, and mental well-being. Experiencing lower back pain when sleeping can keep you awake throughout the night which can result in waking up feeling grumpy and tired the next day. This limits your desire to be active and makes it very difficult to have a productive day. Therefore, it is important to seek solutions to this pain as soon as you can. This article will empower you with information on how to deal with and relieve lower back pain when sleeping.

Types of Lower Back Pain

A large percentage of the people experiencing lower back pain have sustained an injury. Injuries that sprain or strain muscles in the lower back, such as those caused by poor lifting of heavy objects, are the most common causes of lower back pain. The pain can also be caused by diseases, including arthritis, sciatica, cancer of the spinal cord, kidney infections, spinal infections, etc. Usually, acute lower back pain lasts for a couple of days or weeks. On the other hand, chronic lower back pain lasts more than three months. There are different types of lower back pain [1], and we shall classify them below.

Axial/ Mechanical Pain

Axial or mechanical pain usually is confined to a single spot or area, for instance, the lower back. This pain can be sharp or dull, or it can come and go. It can also be throbbing pain or constant pain. Axial pain is mainly caused by muscle strains.

Referred Pain

This type of pain is dull and achy. It is not restricted to one area. Instead, it can move around, and its intensity varies. An example of referred pain is witnessed in degenerative disc disease that causes lower back pain that also causes hip or thigh pain.

Radicular Pain/ Radiculopathy

Radicular pain is searing pain that many people describe as the feeling of electric shock. Usually, this pain follows the spinal nerve, and it exits at the spinal canal. Inflammation or compression of the spinal nerve root causes radicular pain. When this type of pain attacks the lower back or lumbar spine, it may sometimes travel to the legs. This type of pain is also known as radiculopathy.

What Causes Different Types of Lower Back Pain?

Mechanical, referred, or radicular pain is caused by different factors. Usually, lower back pain makes sleeping uncomfortable or, in severe cases, impossible. Therefore, it is necessary to know the possible causes of [2] these types of lower back pain.


Excess or strenuous activity can cause the muscles and ligaments in your lower back to stretch or tear. If you have a strain, you will likely feel muscle spasms, pain, and stiffness in the lower back. Usually, rest and physical therapy resolve the pain.

Disc Injury

The discs at the back of the human body are prone to injury, and the risk of injury increases with age. When the outside of the disc herniates or tears, there is compression of the nerve root. This causes a lot of pain.

Spinal Stenosis

This condition occurs when the spinal column becomes narrow, putting pressure on your spinal nerves or cord. This happens when the discs between the vertebrae degenerate and cause the compression of the nerve roots. Besides causing pain, this situation also causes cramping and numbness.

Abnormal Spine Curvatures

Conditions that cause the spine to have an abnormal curve usually come with a lot of back and lower back pain. Examples of these conditions are lordosis, kyphosis, and scoliosis. Some of these conditions are congenital. They usually cause a lot of pain and poor posture because the curvature puts pressure on the ligaments, muscles, and tendons.

Other Medical Conditions

Some medical conditions are known to cause lower back pain. These include arthritis, spondylitis, fibromyalgia, spondylosis, and others.

Best Sleeping Position for Lower Back Pain

Back pain can make sleeping an arduous task. Fortunately, there are sleeping positions [3] you can adopt to lessen the pain as you sleep. What’s the best sleeping position for back pain?

These positions are discussed below.

Sleeping on the Side with a Pillow Between the Knees

If you notice that lying flat on the back intensifies your back pain, try side sleeping. In this position, you should ensure the right or left shoulder is in contact with your mattress. The rest of the side of the body should also touch the mattress. You should also place a pillow between the knees, and if you notice a gap between the mattress and your waist, you can place a small pillow at the waist for more support. It is essential to change sides when sleeping in this position to prevent muscle imbalance. This position is excellent for lower back pain because the pillow aligns the pelvis, spine, and hips, thus relieving pain.

Sleeping on the Side in a Fetal Position

This position is ideal for people with a herniated disc. It entails laying on your back then rolling over gently to the side. Once you are in this position, tuck the knees towards the chest. Slowly curl your torso towards the knees as well. You should switch sides to prevent causing muscle imbalances. This position increases the space between the vertebrae, thus relieving pain. A herniated disc is pushed out of the normal position, thus causing pain.

Sleeping on the Stomach With a Pillow Underneath the Abdomen

Sleeping on your stomach is bad for back pain because it adds stress to your neck. However, if you feel more comfortable sleeping on the stomach, you can do it, albeit with caution. This position can alleviate pain if you use a pillow under the abdomen. Simply place a pillow under your lower abdomen because it helps to relieve pressure on your back. You can choose to use a pillow under your head if it feels more comfortable. Always make sure you use high-quality pillows, such as Chiroflow and Mediflow Pillows, for the best results.

Sleeping on the Back With a Pillow Under the Knees

In this sleeping position, you lay on your back and place the pillow under the knees to align the spine. If you feel the need for extra support, you can also set a small rounded towel underneath the small of your back. Your body weight will be evenly distributed in this position, so there will be no unnecessary pressure on the lower back.

Sleeping on the Back in a Reclined Style

If you are the type of person who enjoys dozing off in a recliner, this may work for you. However, you must note that sleeping in a chair is not recommended for people with back pain. Instead of using a recliner chair, you should consider buying an adjustable bed to get the same position. Sleeping on your back in a recliner can be done for people with isthmic spondylolisthesis. The reclined position creates a good angle between your trunk and thighs, thus reducing pressure on the spine.

How to Relieve Lower Back Pain when Sleeping

Did you know that getting adequate sleep is instrumental in the recovery of lower back pain? For this reason, you should analyze your sleep habits and come up with a good sleeping schedule or routine. You can relieve lower back pain [4] when sleeping by applying the following techniques:

Find a Suitable Sleeping Position

Although we have discussed five different sleeping positions that may help alleviate lower back pain, different people prefer different options. For this reason, you should also find one that best works for you. The goal is to keep your spine well-aligned to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on the aching part. You can use extra pillows if you need more support.

Regulate Alcohol and Caffeine Consumption

Alcohol can assist you in dozing off, but it can also affect the quality of your sleep. On the other hand, caffeine makes it very difficult to fall and stay asleep.

Apply Relaxation Methods

Being in the right state of mind before you go to bed helps you focus less on the pain. Asa result, you will sleep more peacefully at night. Some of the relaxation methods you can use include meditation, music and art therapy, deep breathing, aromatherapy, among others.

Get Rid of Potential Sleep Disruptors

If you tend to wake up randomly in the middle of the night, you already know that getting back to sleep can be difficult. You can avoid waking up inadvertently by removing any potential sleep distractors. These include blocking excess light and noise from your bedroom. It is also crucial to ensure the bedroom temperature is comfortable before sleeping.

When to See a Doctor

Lower back pain affects numerous Americans. Usually, it goes away after a short period. However, you should always see a qualified and licensed doctor [5] if:

  • The lower back pain is a result of a particular injury.
  • The pain worsens or lasts more than a couple of days.
  • The pain is debilitating.
  • The pain is radiating to other parts of your body.
  • You have a history of cancer.
  • You notice symptoms of infections, e.g., warmth, fever, swelling, redness.
  • You notice other unexplained health issues e.g., unexplained weight loss

If you have one or more of the above symptoms, explain them to your doctor. The doctor will conduct tests, make a diagnosis, and treat you accordingly.


Lower back pain can make sleeping comfortably an extreme sport. Different factors cause lower back pain. Fortunately, you can try one of the tried and tested sleeping positions discussed in this article to relieve lower back pain. You can also ensure you have a good sleep schedule that promotes restful sleep. If the pain persists, it is crucial to seek the intervention of a qualified medical doctor.


  1. https://www.spine-health.com/blog/understanding-different-types-back-pain
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/low-back-pain-acute#causes
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-sleep/best-sleeping-position-for-lower-back-pain#
  4. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-health/how-to-sleep-with-lower-back-pain
  5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/back-pain/symptoms-causes/syc-20369906
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