Upper back pain is a common symptom among adults with a myriad of causes that can stem from lifestyle choices to medical conditions such as pregnancy. One of these factors could be your sleeping position as you spend a third of your day lying down asleep.
So what’s the best sleeping position for upper back pain? The best sleeping position is on your back as it straightens your spine and evenly distributes the weight of your body. If you are pregnant, sleeping in a reclined position or lying down on your left side is an effective alternative.
Upper back pain is usually caused by injury or persistent tension in muscles such as the trapezius and the rhomboids near the shoulders and neck. Hence, the best sleeping position, in any case, should not place pressure on your spine and any muscles in your back.
This is generally considered as the best sleeping position for your back as it maintains the natural alignment of your spine as if you were standing straight. Lying down on your back also alleviates some of the pressure on your upper back muscles as they no longer need to resist gravity to keep your body upright.
Another common sleeping position is lying down on one side of your body. This sleep position is effective not only for pregnant women but for chronic snorers or those who have sleep apnea. Keep your legs stretched out and add a thin pillow between your knees to keep your body level. It’s recommended to switch sides often to prevent morning shoulder pain.
Lying down in a reclined position is also an option for pregnant women or those who are also experiencing neck pain. It can be a comfortable position that can lighten some body weight held by the upper back.
However, this sleep position puts additional stress on the lumbar spine, which may lead to lower back pain, and increases your risk for deep vein thrombosis. Adding a horseshoe pillow for your neck and a firm pillow for your lumbar will help relax those muscles.
It’s important to avoid sleeping positions that will compress the alignment of your spine or place further strain on your upper back. These positions will only increase the likelihood and severity of upper back pain instead of allowing the spine to reset to its natural alignment after a day’s work of stabilizing your body.
While this is similar to lying on your side, this pose will add stress to your upper back, lower back, and joints if done improperly. The more the body curls into a ball, the more the spine bends out of its natural curvature. This places an uneven distribution of weight in the body causing further muscle tension.
However, this position can be beneficial to pregnant women and those with herniated discs. Maintain a straight back, keep the chin level with the pillow, and use a thinner pillow to avoid unnecessarily curling the body.
This position could be the cause of upper back pain and lower back pain in the morning. This posture will center your weight in the middle as your torso sinks into your mattress, preventing the spine from resting into its neutral position causing nearby muscles to suffer additional strain.
Sleeping on your stomach can also tighten your neck muscles because your head must rest on its side to leave your mouth open to breathe. If you’re a stomach sleeper, consider placing a pillow under your chest or hip to relieve some pressure off of it.
Though your sleeping position is an integral factor in upper back pain, there are other measures you can take to ensure your sleep can start relieving you of upper back pain instead of causing it.
As exemplified earlier, adding a small pillow under certain body parts will help achieve a neutral spine alignment and a straight body posture, allowing the other areas in the upper back to comfortably rest.
Where you place your pillow depends on your sleep position, current medical conditions, and what sort of pillow you are using. The end goal is to ensure your back is completely straight with no uncomfortable pressure on any of your limbs, torso, or neck.
Doing yoga or other forms of stretching will help loosen the muscles in your upper back to ease muscle tension in the affected areas. Having a pre-sleep stretching session will also decrease your stress, providing greater quality of sleep which will lessen upper back pain. Attend yoga lessons or hire a trainer to learn how to correctly do these stretches for maximum effectiveness.
Engaging the muscles in your core — such as those in the abdomen and hips — in a regular workout can strengthen them to better support the spine and the upper body. The same can also be said for those in the upper back through exercises such as push-ups and pull-ups.
Training your back muscles will also increase the blood flow allowing for more nutrients to pass through; build protection for soft tissues like the ligaments and tendons, and correct poor posture. Consult a pain specialist if exercising is painful or extremely uncomfortable within the areas of your upper back.
If you have chronic body pain in the morning, then you may need to change your mattress. The National Sleep Foundation suggests changing your mattress every 6 to 8 years. A good mattress should provide a comfortable resting experience as you maintain your spinal alignment.
The best mattress is usually firm to support your resting body in its proper alignment. However, a softer mattress may be preferable for those who are sensitive to low back pain. You may also pair your mattress with specialized pillows like a cervical pillow, a memory foam pillow, or body pillows.
Poor sleep can also affect the presence of upper back pain. The muscles in your body need ample time to rest from the day’s activities. Follow a pre-bedtime routine to help lull the body into a deeper sleep.
Avoid using your phone 30 minutes before you lay down as its blue light radiation affects your sleep cycle. Instead, do specific actions before lying down on your bed like brushing your teeth, light reading, or stretching to signal your body that it’s time to settle in for a good night’s sleep.
Fixing your sleep position can help reduce not just your upper back pain but even your neck pain and lower back pain. However, the upper back pain may remain due to other causes like injuries, spine problems, or even an underlying condition. Thus, further diagnosis and treatment may be required.
With the experienced staff at Gramercy Pain Center, you don’t need to worry any longer. Our team of experts offers a wide range of effective treatments for any sort of chronic pain ranging from physical therapy to radiofrequency neurotomy. Start your journey to pain relief today by contacting us here or scheduling an appointment online.