#BACKPAINBLOGUK, low back pain, sciatica, sleep positions, sleep sunday


This week we are concentrating on how to sleep with sciatica with an article written by Handicare -Stairlifts.

Sciatica is a very painful and debilitating condition, impacting mobility and life quality. I know all too well how disruptive it can be. While wheelchairs and UK stairlifts can make tasks such as getting around the house easier, lying down to sleep is another matter. Unfortunately, sciatica pain, which originates in the lower back area and shoots down your leg, can make even the simplest tasks such as sleeping very difficult. In this article, we discuss some tips and advice for how those with sciatica can learn to sleep better so that night-time becomes a little more manageable.

The key to finding a sleeping position that works with sciatica is lying in positions that maintain the natural alignment of your spine. Sleeping on your side is something that many people find to be the most comfortable as it can reduce pain by alleviating the pressure on your sciatic nerve. Try to lie on the side that isn’t affected by your sciatica.

Many people are natural back sleepers, but this should be avoided if possible. Will Harlow, a sciatica specialist from the site, How to Get Rid of Sciatica, explains why: “When people ask me about the best way to sleep with sciatica, I ask if they usually lay flat on their backs. When we sleep laid out flat, this position can lead to a stretching tension on the sciatic nerve. You should know one thing when it comes to sciatica: nerves hate to be stretched!”

If you sleep on your back naturally, utilise a pillow under your knee to reduce the stretch that Will mentions above. If you lie on your side and there is a gap between your waist and the mattress, consider placing a pillow here to prevent your side from bending when you sleep. You can also consider putting a pillow between your knees when you sleep as this will help your spine and pelvis to retain their natural position and reduce rotation. 

In this article on Handicare-Stairlifts I shared my thoughts and tips when it comes to utilising pillows to combat back pain when sleeping: “Even if you have spent a fortune on the best mattress in the world, there’s a good chance you won’t know true comfort until you’ve purchased a pillow specifically targeting your type of pain — whether it’s in your upper back, lower back, neck, shoulders or beyond. It can also depend on if you are a front, side or back sleepers.

Another good tip if you have sciatica or any type of lower back pain is to avoid sleeping on your stomach if you can help it. This is because when you sleep on your stomach, your spine curves towards the mattress which puts pressure on the area that is causing your pain. To prevent yourself from rolling over onto your stomach while you are asleep, you could try using a body pillow. Body pillows encourage a healthy sleeping position, prevent you from rolling on to your stomach, and supports your back and joints.

While a soft bed might be your preference, if you have developed sciatica, it might not be the best idea. A mattress that is firmer could well help make your nights more comfortable as you won’t be sinking into an overly soft mattress that puts your spine out of alignment. So, try and get yourself a medium-firm mattress or consider putting something firmer under your existing mattress, such as plywood. The Sleep Foundation has put together an article about the best mattresses for sciatica if you decide a new mattress is the way to go.

Unfortunately, even when we manage to drift off to sleep, sciatica pain can cause us to wake up in the middle of the night, making it very difficult to go back to sleep again. Instead of lying there thinking about the pain, something you could try is getting out of bed and walking around the house a little. This is the advice of Fornham Chiropractic Clinic who have made a video with some great tips for those struggling to sleep due to sciatica. Speaking in the video, is advice from one of their chiropractors.

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Sciatica and sitting – can sitting for to long actually cause this problem? The US Pain Society explain that “sitting is another activity that puts a lot of pressure on your glute muscles, lower back, and your sciatic nerve.

The problem is that the pressure inside of our disks, the “shock absorbers” that lie between the bones (vertebra ) in our spine (22 disks in total ) is higher when we sit compared with simply standing or lying down.

The Advertiser writes that in addition to sitting at work, for meals, and commuting to/from work, 36 percent sit another one to two hours watching TV, 10 percent sit one to two hours for gaming, 25 percent sit one to two hours for reading/lounging, and 29 percent use their home computer for one to two hours.

If you break this down it means that the average person sits for 9.5 hours a day and sleep for eight hours. That’s a total of 17.5 hours a day off their feet!

Obviously, this is a massive problem for lower back pain and sciatica. However, although sitting cannot cause sciatica it can almost certainly cause a massive flare up of the condition.

Sciatica is a term that describes symptoms of pain, numbness, and/or weakness that radiate along the sciatic nerve from the lower back to the buttocks and leg. The medical term for sciatica is lumbar radiculopathy. … Sciatica symptoms are typically felt on only one side of the body.

The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body. It starts in your lower back and splits to run through your hips, buttocks, legs, and feet on both sides. Bone spurs and spinal stenosis (narrowing) can also put pressure on the sciatic nerve in the lower back. When that happens, it can cause a lot of problems all the way down the nerve.

The most distinctive sign of sciatica is pain that radiates from your lower back into the back or side or your legs. It can range from a mild ache to sharp, severe pain. You can also get numbness, tingling, and weakness in your leg or foot. There is lots more information on what sciatica is on my post “What Is Sciatica, and What Can You Buy To Help with the Pain,” plus another one I wrote on “How To Cope with Sciatica Pain While Driving”.

One very important thing to remember is to get your posture right if you are suffering from lower back pain and or sciatica. Nichola Adams who is one of “Britain’s most experienced and highly qualified consultants in back pain” has written a couple of articles which covers details on posture and sitting to help avoid back problems,

If, however, you are a long term sufferer like myself and have arthritis in your sciatic joints then you may have to resort to other forms of help for the pain. Health Harvard wrote a great article on Taming the Pain of Sciatica. They say that the good news is that for most (roughly three out of four) people, symptoms improve over a few weeks. Injections can provide short-term relief. Like any procedure, it has uncommon risks including more pain, and it doesn’t seem to decrease the need for future surgery.

Everyday Health actually writes about the relationship between sciatica and arthritis and some causes of sciatica are related to OA. These are:

  • Narrowing of the canal inside the lumbar spine (spinal stenosis)
  • Disc herniation or prolapse
  • Slippage of vertebra in the lumbar spine (spondylolisthesis)
  • Piriformis syndrome (a buttock muscle problem)
  • Injury of the lumbar spine or the sciatic nerve
  • Tumor in the lumbar spinal canal or the sciatic nerve
  • At times no obvious cause can be found

At home treatments for sciatica can include simple over-the-counter painkillers,  analgesics or certain prescription drugs may be tried. The biggest problem with opiates is that they can cause many side effects including constipation where even taking extra fluid, fruit, vegetables and fiber can still not alleviate this.

Regular activitywalking, and physical therapy with a home program of stretching and strengthening of affected muscles is very important, as is good posture. I try and walk every day but every day is different. Some days I can manage around 2000 steps in one walk and have no problems other times I get back and need to lie down straight away. The other problem I have with this condition is standing in one spot which means it bothers me while doing general housework like ironing, and cooking. Standing in a queue is out of the question.

Keeping as flexible as you can, keeping your weight down, keep moving your position often if you are sitting down and generally looking after your lower back will prevent flare ups and more pain.