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The Best Ways to Sit and Sleep With a Herniated Disc

When a herniated disc causes you pain it can be nearly impossible to find relief. Sitting down doesn’t seem to help. Neither does laying down. This can make every hour of the day an exercise in pain. Luckily, there are ways you can find relief both sitting and sleeping. Read on to discover the best ways to sit sleep with a herniated disc.

Relieving the pain from a herniated disc, whether while sitting or sleeping, is all about reducing the pressure on the disc. The location of the disc in the spine will affect the ideal position for you. But, no matter where the disc is located, there are ways you can relieve that pressure and the pain it causes.

The Best Sitting Positions for a Herniated Disc

Not all herniated discs cause pain. Sometimes there are no symptoms at all. But, when a herniated disc presses on the nerve in the spine, it can be extremely painful. While many people are concerned with relieving pain from a herniated disc while running or otherwise staying active, we can’t forget about sitting.

When you sit in certain positions, it puts pressure on that disc, causing it to press, or continue pressing, on the nerve. So the best thing you can do is try a few different positions until you find one that relieves the pain. If at all possible, it’s best to avoid sitting as much as you can. This will allow the disc to heal quickly. But, since that’s not always possible, here are some of the best ways to sit with a herniated disc.

1) How to Sit in a Car With a Herniated Disc?

Sitting in the car can be very painful with a herniated disc. Not only does sitting in a car tend to put pressure on the discs, but every bump and vibration can also send a painful twinge up your spine. The key to sitting in a car with a herniated disc is to maintain the natural s-curve of the spine. Here’s how.

Avoid a vertical seatback. 

    • This may seem counter intuitive, but you’ll want to allow the seat to recline a bit. With the seat reclined, keep your upper back pressed against the top of the seat. This will help you keep a hollow at your low back, therefore helping maintain the s-curve of the spine.

Use a rolled-up towel or pillow.

      • Placing a towel or pillow between your low back and the seat can also help you maintain the structurally-sound s-curve of the spine. This is best if you’ll be driving for 30-minutes or more. Simply adjust the towel or pillow until it feels comfortable. This is usually just above belt-level.

Use the footplate.

        • Nearly all vehicles have a footplate on the very left of the driver’s side footwell. When you press into the footplate with your left foot, you can leverage your hips back against the bottom of the seatback. This also helps keep the pressure off your discs.

2) How to Sit in a Chair With a Herniated Disc?

Many of the tactics for sitting in a chair with a herniated disc are similar to those for sitting in a car. The end-goal remains the same: to maintain the s-curve of the back.

Use a rolled-up towel.

    • For most desk chairs, a rolled-up towel at the lower back is your best bet. Keep your shoulders back, your head above your spine, and your feet flat on the floor or slightly elevated above your hips.

Try a ball or an ergonomic chair.

    • Sitting on an exercise ball can help relieve pressure on your spinal discs. The same can be said for one of the many types of ergonomic desk chairs out there. But, the type of chair you sit in only does some of the work. Ultimately, it still comes down to you to maintain the proper posture while sitting.

Best Sleeping Positions for a Herniated Disc

Best Sleeping Positions for a Herniated Disc

Sleeping with a herniated disc is a whole other issue. Many people find that their herniated disc pain is worse at night. Fortunately, there are several positions that have helped countless herniated disc sufferers to sleep comfortably and pain-free.

1) How to Sleep With a Herniated Disc in the Neck?

Sleeping with a disc herniation in the neck will depend on your preferred sleeping position. However, if you sleep on your stomach, we would advise you to change to side or back-sleeping. Stomach sleeping is not good for any part of your spine. Sleeping comfortably with a disc herniation in the neck is all about pillow thickness.

For side sleepers, use a thicker pillow.

    • Your head shouldn’t be canted up or down in regards to your neck and shoulders while you sleep on your side. A pillow of the correct thickness will help keep your spine straight and the pressure off your discs.

For back sleepers, use a thinner pillow. 

    • While you sleep on your back, your neck should be in the same position as it is when you stand up straight. Allowing your head to be tilted upward by a thick pillow, or downward by an overly thin pillow, can put undue pressure on the spinal discs of the neck.

2) How to Sleep With a Herniated Disc in the Lower Back?

There are a few different tactics that work well for the most common location for herniated discs: the low back.

Back sleepers, use a towel under the low back.

    • A rolled-up towel under the low back while you sleep can work wonders for back pain caused by a herniated disc. You can adjust the thickness of the towel until it feels right under your back. You’ll know it when you have it right.

Back sleepers, stack pillows or use a wedge under your lower legs.

    • Placing stacked pillows or using a sleeping wedge made for back pain relief can do the trick. These make it easy to take the pressure off the lumbar spine.
    • You may also try raising your legs and placing a towel or foam roll under your low back for maximum effect.

Side sleepers, stack pillows under your lower legs. 

    • This works well for sciatica due to a bulging disc. If you’re experiencing sciatica on the right side, sleep on your left side and place your knees and lower legs on the stacked pillows. Reverse it if you’re experiencing sciatica on the left side.

3) How to Sleep With a Herniated Disc in the Upper Back?

Sleeping with a herniated disc in the upper back is mainly about maintaining an optimal spinal position.

Ensure a proper position.

    • Follow the tips above for sleeping with a herniated disc in the neck. Proper position of the neck is imperative to sleeping with a herniated disc in the upper back. You may also try putting a towel or small piece of foam under your lower back.

Try sleeping on your side.

    • Sleeping on your side in a fetal position can take the pressure off of the upper spine and give you the relief you need to sleep without pain. However, to prevent the development of other problems, try to sleep with a pillow between your knees for the duration of your side-sleeping.

Other Tips for Those With a Herniated Disc

While it’s important to find a way to get through your day pain-free while you have a herniated disc, it’s also important to seek proper treatment. If left untreated, a disc may heal, but it’s only a matter of time before it happens again. Untreated herniated discs can lead to further issues or, at the least, recurrent disc herniation’s.

Studies have shown chiropractic care to be an effective means of treating herniated discs in the lower back, neck, and upper back. Chiropractors use safe, non-invasive, and drug-free modalities to treat herniated discs. A few of these include spinal adjustments, massage therapy, ultrasound therapy, traction, cold laser therapy, and lifestyle tips.

We hope this article helps you to relieve pain while sitting or sleeping with a herniated disc. You can also check out our article on how to naturally relieve herniated disc pain.

Resources:

https://academic.oup.com/aje/article-abstract/102/1/63/153981
https://journals.lww.com/jnnonline/Abstract/2019/08000/The_Effect_of_Low_Back_Pain_on_Daily_Activities.6.aspx
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00586-017-5325-y