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sleep / wellness

How to Sleep with Upper Back Pain

by BetterSleep
Nov 24 2022 • 7 min read

Upper back pain is less prevalent compared to chronic low back pain. However, while it is less prevalent, the burning or pulling sensation can make most people uncomfortable.

The discomfort may cause difficulty in falling asleep. If you suffer from back pain, you may resort to trial and error to find a comfortable sleeping position that will allow you to fall asleep despite the pain.

In this article, we’ve compiled information about the common causes of upper back pain. We also present information about the best sleeping positions and tips on how to sleep despite having back pains.

Common Causes of Upper Back Pain

Medical practitioners refer to upper back pain as thoracic spine pain. Some of the common causes of thoracic spine pain include:

Poor Posture and Muscle Deconditioning

When you sit or stand with poor posture, your muscles have to work harder to support your spine in its proper alignment. Misalignment of the spine can cause muscle tension and inflammation, leading to pain.

Muscle deconditioning can also contribute to upper back pain. When the muscles in your back are weak, they do not support your spine and absorb shock as well.

Muscle Overuse

Overusing the muscles in your upper back can lead to a condition called myofascial pain syndrome(MPS). MPS is a type of chronic pain caused by trigger points, or knots, in the muscles. Repetitive motions, such as typing or lifting heavy objects, may trigger pain, especially shoulder pain.

Herniated Disc

Disc herniation is one of the causes of degenerative disc disease. It triggers pain in the upper back, causing symptoms such as numbness and radiating pain.

Pinched Nerve

Pinched nerves can cause upper back pain by irritating or compressing the surrounding tissues. Compressed nerves may not send signals efficiently to the brain, which can cause muscle weakness and numbness.

Traumatic Injury

Traumatic injury may strain the muscles and ligaments in the upper back or the misalignment of the spine. Injuries may lead to pain in the upper back and other body areas.

Spinal Infection

Although rare, a spinal infection is a serious condition that can cause severe pain. The infection may develop after an injury or surgery, spreading to other body parts if left untreated. Symptoms of a spinal infection include fever, chills, and general ill feelings.

5 Best Sleeping Positions to Relieve Upper Back Pain

Pain in the upper back can be debilitating, making it hard to get a good night’s sleep. We recommend the following sleeping positions for pain relief and getting the rest you need:

1. On Your Side in a Fetal Position

You can sleep by lying on your side and bringing your knees up to your knees. You can curl your arm under a pillow to support your head while in this position. This sleep position relieves the tension on your discs by preventing the spine from curving backwards.

2. On Your Back in a Reclined Position

Lying on your back in a reclined position can help alleviate pain in the back by reducing pressure on your spine. This position helps support your back by creating an angle between your torso and thighs. It also helps to place a pillow between your knees to reduce pain in the lower back and maintain proper spinal alignment.

3. On Your Side with a Pillow to Support Your Knees

If you are experiencing upper back pain, lying on your side with a pillow supporting your knees can help to alleviate the pain. Side sleepers who want to relieve back pain may use a thicker pillow to provide enough support. Keeping your pelvis and spine in a neutral position while you sleep will help to reduce the tension in your upper back.

4. On the Side with Legs Straight

When you sleep on your side with your legs straight, it encourages good spinal alignment. This sleeping position also helps to keep your airways open, preventing snoring and other breathing problems

5. On Your Belly with a Pillow Below your Pelvis and Lower Abdomen

Lying on your stomach with a pillow below your pelvis and lower abdomen can relieve pain in the upper back. This position helps reduce stress on the space between the discs, which can cause pain in the upper back. Placing a pillow under your abdomen can also help keep your spine aligned, reducing pain.

6. Flat on Your Back with a Pillow Underneath

This sleep position relieves pain and helps maintain the spine’s natural curve. It also allows the even distribution of body weight, reducing stress on the back.

7 Tips to Improve Sleep Quality Even with Upper Back Pain

1. Understand the root of your upper back pain and address it. There are many different causes of upper back pain, so it’s essential to understand the source of your pain to find the best treatment. Knowing the cause of the pain may allow you to begin treatment and take steps to prevent future episodes.

2. Get a good mattress and pillow that support your spine. Your mattress and pillow can have a significant impact on your back pain. If you don’t have proper support for your spine, it can cause upper back pain.

If you sleep on a mattress that is too soft, it will sag in the middle and put even more pressure on your back. The same is true for pillows; if they’re too soft, they won’t provide enough support for your neck and head, leading to back pain.

3. Stretch before bed every night. When we sleep, our muscles tend to tighten up, and this can lead to discomfort and even pain when we wake up. By stretching for just a few minutes before bed, we can help loosen our muscles and relieve some tension that builds up over the day.

4. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine before bedtime. Avoiding the consumption of caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine before bedtime can improve sleep quality and duration. Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake, while alcohol and nicotine are both relaxants that can interfere with deep sleep.

5. Establish a regular sleep schedule and stick to it as much as possible. Going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time each morning may help improve sleep.

6. Keep a calm, comfortable environment in your bedroom. Getting a good night’s sleep can be challenging when dealing with upper back pain. Fortunately, you can keep your bedroom cozy and quiet to minimize distractions and promote relaxation for better sleep.

7. Use relaxation techniques before bed. Taking a few minutes to relax before bed can help ease muscle tension and reduce inflammation, leading to better sleep and less pain. You can try some gentle stretching or deep breathing exercises.

Choosing the Best Mattress for Quality Sleep

Sleep quality is one factor that trumps all other factors when choosing a mattress. Here are a few tips for selecting the best mattress for quality sleep:

First, consider your sleep position. If you usually sleep on your side, you’ll need a softer mattress that conforms to your body. A firmer mattress is generally best if you sleep on your back or stomach.

Second, think about your bed frame. A supportive bed frame is essential for a good night’s sleep, so choose one that will provide the stability you need.

Third, take into account any health concerns you have. If you have any medical conditions that could be aggravated by sleeping on a particular mattress, consult your doctor before making a purchase.

Fourth, try out the mattress in person before you buy it. The best way to know if a mattress is right for you is to lie down and see how it feels.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help when choosing a mattress. Sleep experts can offer valuable insights into what type of mattress best suits your needs. With their help, you can find the perfect mattress for quality sleep.

Upper Back Pain FAQs

Can a mattress cause back pain?

If you are experiencing back pain, it may be worth trying a different type of mattress to see if it makes a difference. If you do not experience any relief after changing your mattress, it is essential to consult a doctor to rule out other possible causes of your back pain.

What is the best way to sleep with Rhomboid Pain?

Sleeping with rhomboid pain can be difficult, but finding a position that reduces strain on the affected area can make a significant difference. On your back: This position often supports your spine and neck the most. On your side: If you prefer sleeping on your side, align your head and neck with your spine.

What is the worst sleeping position for your spine?

About 7 percent of the adult population are stomach sleepers. If you are one of them, it may help to consider that sleep specialists consider stomach sleeping as the worst position for sleeping.

Why do some people sleep on their stomachs?

Stomach sleeping strains the lumbar spine and pelvic area, making it one of the worst positions for sleep. However, some people, especially those who suffer from sleep apnea and acid reflux, feel comfortable sleeping on their bellies as it allows them to breathe better during sleep.

Why is back pain at night a red flag?

There are a variety of factors that contribute to back pain, from bad posture to a herniated disc. In some cases, back pain that occurs at night is often a sign of something more serious. For example, back pain that wakes you up from sleep or worse when you lie down is often a sign of inflammation or nerve damage.

If you are experiencing back pain at night, you should see a doctor to rule out any severe conditions. However, over-the-counter medication or home remedies can alleviate the pain in many cases.

Can you strain a muscle while sleeping?

Though it’s not common, you can injure yourself while you slumber. You can inflict injury on yourself when you sleep in an awkward position and put too much pressure on a muscle.

For example, you can injure yourself when you sleep on your arm or with your legs crossed for too long. Another way to strain a muscle while sleeping is by having a nightmare and thrashing around in bed. Though rare, this can lead to pulled muscles or other injuries.

Is your sleep position causing your back pain?

Certain positions can put undue strain on the spine, leading to pain and discomfort. Taking time to find the perfect sleep position can pay off in terms of improved comfort and reduced pain.

Wrap Up

Millions of people suffer from upper back pain, and it can be challenging to get a good night’s sleep when you’re in pain.

Not only is it hard to sleep when you’re in pain, but sleeping the wrong way can make the problem worse.

This article provides relevant information on the best sleep positions for people with upper back pain, along with helpful tips for improving sleep quality.

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