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How to sleep with sciatica pain?

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Ah, sciatica! A real backache like you (don't) like them. Also called "sciatic neuralgia", it usually affects only one of the two sciatic nerves, which is why it is called ONE sciatic.

What causes it is quite simple: it is a compression, inflammation, or injury to the affected nerve. For your information, humans have two sciatic nerves, and these are the largest nerves in the body.

They are made up of different roots, from the last lumbar and the five sacral vertebrae, to the back of the legs and up to the toes. And you currently have all the signs of this type of back pain since the lower part of your back is very painful!

This is what keeps you awake at night. So instead of suffering in silence and depriving yourself of sleep, read this article from Polysleep on the best positions to sleep with your sciatica, and thus become as fresh as a roach in the morning!


Causes and symptoms of sciatica

Even if at first glance you suffer from sciatic neuralgia, it is important to be sure. But before anything else, it is important to know where it comes from.

The most common origin of sciatica is the dreaded herniated disc, which can be defined as a major protrusion of part of an intervertebral disc.

More concretely, it is the gelatin nucleus that is at fault: when it protrudes from its membrane, it causes compression of one of the roots of the sciatic nerve.

Other causes can also cause your sciatica: inappropriate movement, osteoarthritis affecting your vertebrae, fracture, infected spine, inflamed sciatic nerve or tumors on the path of the nerve.

The most obvious symptom is the pain you feel in your lower back or buttocks. Occasionally, this can extend to the foot. This pain may appear while you are making a physical effort. Finally, one of the clear indicators of sciatica is the following: when you lie down, the pain is less intense.  

Pencil drawing of a spine

Best sleeping positions if you suffer from sciatica nerve pain

The best way to sleep during your sciatica is to sleep in an adapted position. And on this point, there is not a single position, but a variety of positions. The most ideal is the one on the side opposite the side that hurts you, with your back well aligned and your lower limbs slightly bent so that your back can stretch. Avoid using too many pillows: your head and back should be straight. The best thing is to have a foam pillow like the Polysleep Pillow with its hybrid foam inserts, which will allow you to find the ideal height so that your spine is perfectly aligned from head to toe (or rather to the coccyx). The addition of a pillow between your legs and in your back will also help you maintain this position.

Another position is to sleep on your back with your legs slightly raised, again using a pillow. Be careful though: if you maintain this position all night long, you may wake up harder. A third interesting position if the sciatic nerve is compressed by the piriformis muscle of your buttock and the pain launches into your leg without going below the knee, is the one where you sleep on your stomach with your thigh slightly open on your side. This is a relief in some cases!

Finally, if you are pregnant, it is best to avoid sleeping on your stomach. Here too, it is preferable to sleep on your back with a pillow under your knees or on your side with a pillow between them.

Woman with back pain sitting on a chair

Additional advice for your sciatica

You will surely agree with us: prevention is better than cure when it comes to sciatica! So, here are a few tips that will help you avoid suffering again:

  • Build up your muscles through adequate and regular physical activity.

  • Avoid any position or movement that could affect your back. For example, to retrieve a heavy object, bend your legs while keeping your back straight.

  • Keep yourself straight at all times!

  • Make sure that your mattress allows you to maintain an optimal sleeping position for your body. If the support it provides is no longer adequate, change it!

 

If you are caught with sciatica, by consulting your doctor for a prescription, you may be able to use:

  • Analgesics (e.g. paracetamol or codeine).

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g. ibuprofen).

  • Muscle relaxants.

 

Try gentle massages with essential oils to reduce pain:

  1. Stand on the side that doesn't hurt, lining up your shoulders, head, and hips and putting your gun dog legs with a pillow back between your knees.

  2. Massage your back and then your lumbar vertebrae as you walk down the painful path with an appropriate mix.

The composition of the preparation for the massage is as follows:

  • One teaspoon of arnica-based massage oil.

  • One drop of each of the following essential oils:

    • Clove

    • Wintergreen

    • Lemon eucalyptus

Have this massage done on the painful area several times a day for several days in a row and that's it! However, essential oils are prohibited for children under the age of 12, during pregnancy, and for breastfeeding women. Also, make sure you are not allergic to any of the compounds in this blend.

Conclusion: Sciatica, not fun, but treatable in most cases with a few tricks!

Sciatica is far from being fun: it can really hurt. However, you can relieve the pain with an appropriate sleeping position, preferably on your side or on your back. Using pillows in strategic places to allow a proper sleeping position will be a real plus!

You can also use various medications to help you get over it, or, if you are not a child under 12 years of age or a pregnant or breastfeeding woman, a massage with essential oils. However, the best thing to do in case of severe discomfort is to consult your doctor to find out the best course of action on the molecules that you think will help relieve you.

However, the best thing is to prevent sciatica with an appropriate sport activity, and by avoiding gestures that can cause it: bend your knees to pick up objects and stand up straight as a post at all times! If, on the other hand, it is your pillow and/or bed that is responsible for your sciatica, think about changing it(s)!

Mid section of pregnant woman holding belly on bed which may be effective for sciatica pain

 

Learn more: Best sleeping positions during pregnancy


Avoid the following

Doctors and other specialists advise against sleeping on your stomach, especially if you tend to sleep with the pain of sciatica. In fact, this position causes the stomach to sink into the mattress, increasing the curvature of the back and exacerbating the pain. Favour the positions described above and you will enjoy a more restful sleep, which will also allow you to recover more quickly from your sciatica.

Sleeping with sciatic nerve pain is not the most pleasant thing there is, but by sleeping on a mattress that is well supported and conforms to the shape of your body, and by using a proper pillow, you will not only reduce your pain, but also enjoy a more restful sleep. Finding the position in which you are most comfortable to sleep—and by exercising during the day and taking anti-inflammatory medication if necessary—will help you get back into shape faster and get back on your feet quickly!

Physical therapist is showing exercises for sciatica recovery to young patient


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