Which is the best sleep position for spinal stenosis? Will changing the way you sleep help you to rest more comfortably and experience less pain? Sleep position is a topic of much interest to people with chronic pain and spinal stenosis patients are certainly no exception.
Sleep is a fundamental need for humans and quality rest is certainly a major component of good health. If a person can not sleep enough, they are going to suffer a range of problematic cognitive, emotional and physical consequences that will degrade their functionality and overall wellness. Therefore, we take the topic of sleeping with spinal stenosis extremely seriously, since without sleep, there can be no relief or recovery.
This discussion focuses on the best sleep position for spinal stenosis sufferers. We will evaluate the most common anatomical postures for sleep and provide guidance to help patients to get the rest they need with minimal pain and sleep disruption.
Best Sleep Position for Spinal Stenosis Objectives
Spinal stenosis patients might have specific reasons why they want to find the optimal sleep position, including any of the following motivations:
Some patients suffer from insomnia and can not sleep at all. When a person can not get adequate sleep, they will suffer a terrible downward spiral of health, affecting the mind, body and spirit. Changing one’s sleep position might be instrumental to achieving a restful sleep for some patients.
Many patients are awakened at night with pain due to long periods of static posture. Changing one’s sleep position is a possible way of mitigating pain that occurs during sleep.
Some patients have exacerbated pain in the morning when rising from bed, even if they sleep very well. These patients want to reduce this pain and may feel that their sleep position is one of the sources of this early morning suffering.
Many patients simply find that lying down in some positions is much more comfortable than in others. Pain that is experienced immediately upon changing position is usually a good indication that sleeping in that position will not work out well.
What is the Best Sleep Position for Pain?
Spinal stenosis describes narrowing of the central vertebral canal, while foraminal stenosis describes narrowing of the neural foramen. The causes of this narrowing can vary greatly and not all sources will respond positively or negatively to changes in anatomical position. However, since sleep position can influence the alignment of the spinal canal, many positional changes might prove to be beneficial or detrimental to the expression of spinal stenosis symptoms. While there is no universal best position to sleep in, our research has provided the following reports on the most comfortable position for patients with all types of spinal stenosis:
Stomach sleeping is rated the lowest level of comfort and success when it comes to finding restful relief from any variety of spinal or neuroforaminal stenosis. Use of a pillow while stomach sleeping is judged to be worse than not using any pillow at all.
Back sleeping is the most common sleep position and the one that also leads to the most complaints about sleep position. Lumbar stenosis sufferers tend to benefit from placing a small pillow under their knees. Cervical stenosis patients tend to benefit from using a thin pillow to support the head, since thicker pillows tend to exacerbate symptoms.
Fetal position seems to be the most beneficial, as it does not place direct pressure on the spine. The ideal posture includes use of the small pillow to separate the knees, as well as a taller pillow to support the upper arm and shoulder. These pillows also discourage the patient from rolling in their sleep, which can lead to escalated symptomology and sudden awakening with pain.
We never recommend sleeping sitting upright, as this places a huge stress on the cervical spine and surrounding musculature, regardless of whether the head falls forward, backward or sideways.
Best Sleep Position for Spinal Stenosis Guidance
Unlike some diagnosed conditions, there really is no best sleep position for spinal stenosis. There are only relative levels of comfort for each patient and each specific type of stenosis expression. Therefore, we fall short of recommending any one particular position, but tend to encourage patients to try a fetal posture, as outlined above. It does seem to work best for the largest group of patients, with minimal negative symptomatic citations.
We do recommend experimenting with different positions and see what works best for you. A few nights should be sufficient to know whether a particular position is helping or making matters worse, so try out some different things and see what happens. You might also look into the idea of replacing your pillow or mattress, but these are unnecessary expenses for many patients and only necessary for a select few. Trial and error is the best way to know which sleep position will best suit your specific needs and allow you to get the rest you so desperately deserve.