The longest and largest nerve in your body is the sciatic nerve. Your spinal cord is where it begins, and it runs through your hips and buttocks before extending down the back of each leg.
Sciatica is a phrase used to describe sciatic nerve irritation. Your lower back’s herniated disc is the most frequent culprit. The sciatic nerve is the cause of the stabbing pain that is the most prevalent sciatica symptom. It often affects one side and can range from moderate to intense.
When you have sciatica, resisting the impulse to sleep in a particular posture might occasionally make your symptoms worse. Certain lying postures can put more strain on your inflamed nerve and cause symptoms to worsen. Some positions, meanwhile, are more likely to result in pain. Learn the ideal sleeping practices for those with sciatica.
Sleeping positions for sciatica patients
Sleep disturbances might result from sciatic nerve pain and other types of back pain in your body. According to studies, sleep disruptions affect 55% of persons with persistent lower back pain.
Finding the optimal position to relieve sciatica may occasionally require trial and error. But generally speaking, select postures that preserve your spine’s natural alignment.
Sleeping on the back with a pillow under the knees
Pressure on the lower back is lessened and the natural curve of the spine is preserved in this position. Your legs can be slightly elevated by placing a pillow beneath your knees, which can help with sciatica pain.
Sleeping on the side with a pillow between the knees
For side sleepers, place a pillow between your knees to keep your hips and spine in a neutral position. This alignment can help reduce pressure on the sciatic nerve. It’s also advised to sleep on the side opposite to the pain, as this can help minimize discomfort.
For some people with sciatica, sleeping in a fetal position can provide relief. Lie on your side and gently pull your knees towards your chest, creating a slight curve in the spine. This position can help open up the space between the vertebrae, reducing pressure on the nerve.
Sleeping in a reclined position
If you find relief from pain while sitting in a reclined position, an adjustable bed or using pillows to prop yourself up can help mimic this position while sleeping. This position can reduce pressure on the sciatic nerve by slightly opening up the space between the vertebrae.
Slightly elevated side sleeping
In this position, use a wedge pillow or multiple pillows to elevate the upper body at a slight angle. This can help reduce pressure on the lower back and hips. Remember to place a pillow between your knees to maintain spinal alignment.
Sleeping on the stomach with a pillow under the abdomen
Although stomach sleeping is generally not recommended for people with back pain or sciatica, if you prefer this position, you can try placing a thin pillow under your abdomen and hips to reduce stress on the lower back. Also, use a flat pillow or no pillow for your head to avoid neck strain.
Modified fetal position with a lumbar roll
If you find the standard fetal position too restrictive, you can try a modified version. Lie on your side with a small lumbar roll or towel placed under your waist to maintain the natural curve of your lower back. Keep a pillow between your knees to ensure proper hip alignment.
Sleeping on the back with a lumbar roll
This position is a modification of the back sleeping position. Place a small lumbar roll or towel under the lower back to support the natural curve of your spine while sleeping on your back. Keep a pillow under your knees to reduce pressure on your lower back.
What causes sciatic nerve pain to be worse in bed?
People who suffer from sciatica notice that their symptoms worsen when they’re lying down. Lying down can put more pressure on your irritated nerve, especially if you sleep on a soft mattress, which bends your spine while you sleep.
When to see a doctor
The best way to cope with sciatica pain is to consult your doctor, who can determine what’s causing your pain and recommend the right treatment. If sciatica pain has been bothering you for a week or more, you need to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis.
Lying down can be painful for people with sciatica; it’s generally better to sleep on your side or your back instead of your stomach.
For side sleepers, a pillow between your knees and the mattress and/or between your waist and the mattress can be helpful.
You may find it beneficial to put a pillow under your knees and/or lower back if you like to sleep on your back.
What is sciatica?
Sciatica refers to irritation or inflammation of the sciatic nerve, which is the largest nerve in the body. It starts in the spinal cord and runs through the hips and buttocks before extending down the back of each leg.
What are the common causes of sciatica?
The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated disc in the lower back. Other causes may include spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, or piriformis syndrome.
How does sciatica pain feel like?
Sciatica pain can be a sharp, stabbing pain that often affects one side of the body. It can range from moderate to intense and is usually felt in the lower back, buttocks, and down the back of the leg.
Why is it important to find the right sleeping position for sciatica?
Some sleeping positions can put more strain on the inflamed sciatic nerve and worsen symptoms, while others can help alleviate the pain. Finding the right position can help minimize discomfort and promote better sleep.
What are some recommended sleeping positions for people with sciatica?
Some recommended positions include sleeping on the back with a pillow under the knees, sleeping on the side with a pillow between the knees, the fetal position, reclined position, slightly elevated side sleeping, and modified fetal position with a lumbar roll.
Why do symptoms of sciatica worsen while lying down?
Lying down can put more pressure on the irritated nerve, especially if you sleep on a soft mattress that bends the spine.
When should I see a doctor for sciatica pain?
If you have been experiencing sciatica pain for a week or more, it is essential to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment recommendations.
Are there any sleeping positions that I should avoid with sciatica?
Sleeping on the stomach is generally not recommended for people with back pain or sciatica. However, if you must sleep in this position, try placing a thin pillow under your abdomen and hips to reduce stress on the lower back and use a flat pillow or no pillow for your head to avoid neck strain.
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