Sleeping positions can contribute to back, neck pain

Jun 16 2011
Americans who experience recurrent or chronic back pain often consult a physician and take painkiller medications. However, before spending money on expensive medical treatments, it may be useful to try adjusting a few everyday habits to see if this can bring about pain relief.

While physical exercise is a good idea whether or not one has back or neck pain, sometimes the road to a pain-free life may start in the bedroom.

For example, do you like to sleep in the fetal position? If so, you may be at risk for back pain. It turns out that as cozy as it may sound, sleeping curled up may actually aggravate back pain problems, especially in individuals who have arthritis or other joint disorders, said Eric Olson, MD, co-director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Sleep Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota, quoted by Fox News.

In fact, the article on the news provider's website lists the worst and best sleep positions, and the former also includes stomach sleeping. The experts cited for the story mentioned pressure on joints and muscles - which can irritate nerves and cause pain, numbness, tingling and stiff neck - as some of the reasons why this position may be detrimental to spine health.

By contrast, sleeping on one's back is the optimal position for overall health. Some of its benefits include acid reflux reduction and fewer wrinkles, in addition to making it easy for the head, neck and spine to maintain a neutral position.

The news source also reported that side sleeping is good for reducing snoring and keeping the spine elongated and comfortable.

Hopefully, readjusting one's sleeping positions will relieve some of the pain and tension in the back that so many Americans experience daily. However, if this fails, it is a good idea to consult a healthcare provider to see whether conservative treatments with physical therapy, hot and cold compresses, or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications may be more effective.