Best Sleeping Position for Sciatica | Guide
Anyone who has suffered from sciatica knows how painful the condition can be and how much it can affect the quality of your sleep. Sciatica is an intense pain that is triggered when the sciatic nerve is irritated or compressed. The pain radiates along the nerve path itself, causing significant discomfort in the lower back. However, it can also radiate further along the nerve and result in severe pain and discomfort in the buttocks and hips. In some cases, this pain can also be felt in each like. Most people will only experience sciatica along one side of their body, although this is small mercy for those suffering from it.
Best Sleeping Position for Sciatica
Sciatica often occurs when a herniated disk partially compresses the associated nerve. However, a narrowing of the spine or a bone spur can also compress the nerve and trigger it. When the nerve is compressed, inflammation occurs and causes intense pain. If the symptoms travel to the leg, you can also experience numbness in the affected limb. Although painful, sciatica can be effectively managed in various ways. If you are having trouble sleeping thanks to sciatica, you can adopt several positions to help overcome the symptoms and enjoy a more restful night.
Best Positions for Back Sleepers
One of the easiest ways to combat sciatica is to sleep on your back and elevate your knees. This position is relatively easy to achieve. Simply lie flat on your back and raise your knees slightly. To maintain this position throughout the night, you will want to place a pillow underneath your knees to provide them with constant support. A regular bed pillow will do, although a bolster pillow is more effective. A wedge support cushion can also be used to ensure your knees are consistently supported and are unlikely to move from the desired position in the night. Whatever pillow you go for, make sure it offers a good level of firmness.
You may also want to think about adopting a reclined position when you sleep. If you are fortunate enough to have an adjustable bed, adjust its head to allow your torso to rest in a reclining position. If you have a regular bed, you can simply use a wedge pillow to elevate your torso so it rests in a reclined position. Make sure you are using a wedge pillow that provides a considerable incline, as you want as much elevation as possible to help alleviate the impact of sciatic pain and inflammation. You may also want to try sleeping in a recliner chair if you have one, with the adjustable incline providing an ideal position for a more comfortable sleep. However, this is not ideal in the long term.
Best Positions for Side Sleepers
If you prefer to sleep on your side, you have a greater variety of sleeping positions to adopt to help overcome sciatica. Lying on your side with a pillow placed between your knees is a particularly effective position. Simply lie down on your preferred side, bend the knees slightly and place a pillow between them. Make sure the pillow you are using is a firm one. You may also wish to place a second pillow underneath the side of your ribs to provide you with additional support and comfort. If you find that this position works for you, look into purchasing a specialist knee support pillow. These pillows are relatively affordable and are perfectly contoured to the anatomy of the knee, ensuring you can achieve a more comfortable position that benefits a full night’s sleep. Full body pillows are another alternative, providing ample support for your knees, ribs and head. They can also be used for a multitude of other sleeping positions.
Another position side sleepers may want to consider is the foetal position. To achieve this position, simply lie down on your side with your knees bent, then curl the spine slightly. You should aim to position your body in a loose curve, although you should ensure that your spine is properly aligned at all times. As with the previous position, you should place a pillow beneath your knees to ensure your body is getting adequate support and the position is maintained for as long as possible. A knee pillow is therefore a good thing to invest in. If your symptoms are particularly intense, you may wish to avoid trying this position. You can run the risk of putting too much pressure on certain areas of the spine, especially if you curl up too much.
Best Positions for Stomach Sleepers
Many people will advise against sleeping on your stomach if you suffer from sciatica, but many suffers swear by it. Although lying on your stomach can alleviate the amount of pressure applied to the lower back and provide immediate pain relief, you need to be careful about maintaining a suitable position and ensure you have ample support to prevent further inflammation and injury. For best results when lying on your stomach, make sure you are placing a pillow underneath your lower abdomen. A firm pillow placed here will ensure that your spine and lower back is properly supported. This position can be quite uncomfortable for those who are not used to lying on your stomach, so you may wish to add additional pillows underneath the neck and head. Ultimately, you will need to experiment with this position to see whether or not it is a good fit for you.
Other Things to Consider
Sleeping positions will only go so far in alleviating sciatica symptoms. Things like sleeping surfaces also need to be considered. Many people tend to think that a firmer sleeping surface is the best option when suffering from lower back pain and sciatica. While there is some truth to this, do not start planning on throwing out your mattress just yet. A mattress with a medium level of firmness should not exacerbate your sciatica, provided of course you are adopting a suitable sleeping position and are using firm support pillows. If you are struggling to get enough sleep during the night, you should also avoid the temptation of sleeping on the floor. Sleeping on the floor can provide instant relief from sciatica, but it can be difficult to get back on your feet afterwards. A hard and uncomfortable sleep surface is also likely to distract you as you try to drift off to sleep.