What Is a Herniated Disc?
A herniated disc refers to an intervertebral disc tear that causes the nucleus pulposus (central portion) to rupture and irritate surrounding spinal discs and nerves. This medical condition can develop anywhere in the spine, including the cervical (neck), thoracic (middle back), and lumbar (lower back) regions.
Spinal discs act as cushions between vertebrae, helping the spine bend and move more fluidly. Over time, discs may become dehydrated, less flexible, or injured, causing them to herniate or bulge. Sleeping comfortably is often a concern for individuals suffering from a slipped disc, so the pain management specialists at TriState Pain Institute investigated how these patients could sleep more comfortably.
Don't Try This at Home: The Worst Sleeping Position for Herniated Discs
Many specialists agree stomach-sleeping is the worst for spine health because it strains the muscles, ligaments, and vertebrae in your neck. Moreover, sleeping on your stomach could result in a deeper arch of your low back, causing increased pain. Stomach-sleeping alters the natural curve of the spine, so it’s important patients limit sleeping on their stomach. If you must sleep on your stomach, consider placing a pillow under your hips. For an added bonus, place another pillow under your knees as well. Making these sleeping adjustments can relieve pressure off your spine and keep your back in a natural position.
Best Sleeping Positions for Herniated Discs
The best sleeping positions for herniated discs are ones that allow the spine to keep its natural curvature. As we mentioned previously, sleeping on your stomach may cause more harm than good, so it's best to avoid that position altogether. Still, if you prefer to sleep on your stomach, it may be easier to break the habit by sleeping on your side to reduce herniated disc pain at night.
While side-sleeping isn't ideal, it's still better than sleeping on the stomach. If you are going to sleep on your side, our back pain experts recommend placing a pillow in between your knees to reduce tension on the hips. If you can commit to a more drastic change, the best sleeping position for your herniated disc pain may be your back. Sleeping on your back helps keep the spine in neutral alignment. If your pain is still relatively intense, try placing a pillow under your knees and low back for added comfort. This maneuver helps keep the spine flat. For patients with a herniated disc in the cervical spine, try to avoid using too many pillows for support, as this could cause more pain.
Still Not Getting a Good Night's Sleep? Blame Your Mattress
Apart from your sleeping position, you may be able to sleep more comfortably with a newer mattress. Mattresses that are over 10 years old may not adequately support the spine. While there hasn’t been much research on the firmness of a mattress for back pain, some studies suggest super-firm mattresses do not allow the spine to relax and really soft mattresses cause your spine to curve unnaturally. So, just like Goldilocks and the three bears, it’s important to find a mattress that’s just right – one that is supportive, yet comfortable.
While we can't claim to be mattress experts, there is something to be said about the benefits of memory foam for people with herniated discs. Traditional, innerspring mattresses are usually an ideal option right after they're purchased because they're firm and supportive. Over time, however, innerspring mattresses become increasingly susceptible to wear and tear and early sagging. If you own an innerspring mattress and don't have the funds to replace it just yet, consider purchasing a memory foam topper. They're relatively inexpensive and can make your mattress feel brand new.
Waterbeds are not as popular as they used to be due to their maintenance, but regardless, we have to say that these beds should be avoided at all costs. It's true they can be comforting, but they're not very supportive. Opt for a classic or memory foam mattress if you want to reduce back pain associated with your herniated disc. These mattresses are often the best options for your herniated disc.
TriState Pain Institute Tip: Want to go above and beyond for your spine? Cervical support pillows and heated pads may provide some added comfort and keep your pain under control at night!
Treatments for Herniated Disc Pain
These sleeping tips may complement your treatment at TriState Pain Institute. Talk to your TriState pain management physician if you are having difficulty sleeping due to your pain. Dr. Benjamin Venger may suggest the following herniated disc pain treatments for long lasting pain relief:
- Pain Medicine & Medication Management
- Epidural Steroid Injection
- Percutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (PENS)
- Radiofrequency Neurotomy
- Spinal Bracing
Depending on the location and severity of your pain, Dr. Benjamin Venger may recommend a combination of the above-mentioned treatment options. Call the office today to learn more about interventional therapies for pain associated with herniated discs.
If you are suffering, please do not hesitate to call us here at TriState Pain Institute. Located in Fort Mohave, we serve patients in Arizona, Nevada, and California. Dr. Benjamin Venger, our pain management expert, is here to help. Call us now at (928) 788-3333 and don’t live another day with chronic pain!
The advice and information contained in this article are for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.