Low Back Pain and Sciatica – Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

When you’re suffering from low back pain or sciatica, the last thing you need to be doing is lying awake for hours with only the pain for company. Unfortunately, that’s how it is for a lot of people, particularly in the early days when there is still a high degree of inflammation present which is contributing to the pain.

However, it does not always need to be that way. I shall address this very frustrating issue of sleep, or lack of it, to try to help you obtain a good nights sleep and also to try and prevent you falling into the trap of thinking you need to replace your bed. Although this can sometimes be the case, it rarely is.

More often than not, if you’re struggling to have a good nights sleep, it’s likely to be a result of either what you have been doing before you went to bed or the position you have been sleeping in while you’re in bed, which is the problem. I shall be discussing the latter.

It’s difficult to go into great detail, as a lot depends on what is causing you to have low back pain or tenderness in the first place. Nonetheless, there are two postures or activities which will tend to aggravate your pain, those being Extension based activities (e.g., leaning backwards) and Flexion based activities (e.g., leaning forward ).

If, when you go to bed, then you tend to lie on your stomach and it’s an extension based activities that aggravate your pain, it’s likely your pain will be aggravated further through the night. This is because lying on your stomach encourages an extension of the lower back. Under these circumstances, I would suggest you try lying on your back of a night (If you do attempt this, I would also encourage you to place a pillow or two under your knees, because if you keep your legs straight this could also aggravate your pain) or alternatively, place a pillow or two under your stomach if you feel you can only lay on your front.

Alternatively, if its flexion based activities that aggravate your pain and you’re lying on your back of a night, this could also lead to a poor nights sleep. This is because of lying on your back encouraging flexion (this is not strictly true since there are exceptions to the rule. However, for the time being, we shall take it as true). Under these circumstances, I would recommend you try lying on your front of the night (this time, you might wish to place a small pillow underneath your tummy ). Both of them should help you to get a better night’s sleep.

However, if your pain is still quite sensitive, neither of these positions might be very comfortable. When this is true, I will encourage you to try lying on your side (whichever side you find the easiest) BUT make sure your upper leg is bent slightly at the knee and hip and also supported by a cushion or two. Using this method, it enables your upper leg to stay parallel with the bed, therefore, preventing your leg from falling.

It is this ‘falling down’ activity of the greatest leg which tends to have a twisting/stretching effect on your lower back and sciatic nerve and will undoubtedly aggravate your pain.

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