Sciatica: Best and Worst Sleeping Positions and Finding Relief

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Sciatica is the most common lower back and leg pain complaint worldwide. It is greatly misunderstood both by patients and doctors. Sciatica is spinally-induced nerve pain which radiates from the lower back into the buttocks, legs, feet, and toes.

It is most often accompanied by low back pain but can exist just in the lower extremities. Each case of sciatica is as different as the person experiencing it. The pain is determined by the location of the pinched or irritated nerve. In order for a diagnosis of sciatica to be given, the origin has to begin in the spine, usually near the lumbar or sacral spinal regions.

The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve structure in the body. With sciatica, you may experience some of the following.

  • Muscular spasms
  • Tingling, numbness, or weakness in the lower limbs
  • Symptoms that may be predictable or may move around often
  • The affected body parts include the groin, knees, calves, thighs, ankles, feet, backs of the legs
  • Pain may be acute and debilitating or dull and achy
  • Pain may be caused by a particular position or may happen without cause
  • Most people describe their sciatica as dull, chronic pain that does not go away

What Causes Sciatica?

There are a wide variety of reasons for sciatica to happen. Some of the most common ones are:

  • Herniated disc
  • Physical injury
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Facet joint syndrome
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Ischemia
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spinal curvature
  • Piriformis syndrome

Getting Comfortable Enough to Sleep with Sciatica

One of the most difficult things to do with sciatica or any low back pain is to find a comfortable sleeping position. Almost everyone has had back pain at one time or another. Some people suffer with it so often that it seems like an ongoing battle to try to find some relief. What many don’t realize, however, is their sleeping position can play a huge role in determining their pain level and whether or not they experience a flare-up. Back pain is unique to each person, and what works for you may not work for someone else.

However, let’s take a look at some suggestions to help you to get a good night’s rest and wake up feeling refreshed instead of still groggy and wanting more sleep. Just keep in mind, it is difficult to change sleeping habits that have been used for many years. So, be patient and keep working at it. It will be worth it in the long run.

When trying these different positions out, remember that along with your low back pain and sciatica, other health conditions may affect the pain you experience. Give yourself several nights of trying one particular position before you give up on it. It will become more and more comfortable over time.

The Side-Sleeper

This is a great choice for those with low back pain if you are willing to make a few adjustments. When you sleep on your side, it is common for the top leg to roll forward to rest on the mattress. This is actually not a good thing because it creates twisting pressure on the lower back and can irritate the sciatic nerve.

To improve side sleeping and help your sciatica, use one or two pillows between the legs. This keeps the body from twisting and adds support, keeping the spine and leg in a neutral position. And, if you happen to like sleeping on your left side, kudos to you as it can alleviate heartburn as well.

Sleeping on Your Back

This can be a good choice or a bad choice, depending on how it is done. If you place a pillow beneath your knees, it can be very good for the low back and sciatica. This is called the supine position and helps you maintain the natural curve of your spine. You may find it even more comfortable if you place a rolled towel under the small of your back.

However, by sleeping on your back with no additional support from pillows, you are putting yourself at great risk for pain. This is due to the fact that you are causing your spine to stay in a flexed position, which can irritate sciatica and low back pain in some people. It is also important to be aware that while it is a good choice for those with back pain using a pillow for support of the knees, it is a poor choice for those who snore or have sleep apnea.

Stomach Sleepers

This is absolutely the worst way to sleep for anyone. It causes your back to arch in an unnatural position and can contribute to ongoing pain. Sleeping on your stomach causes your back to stay extended, and it also works against gravity. However, if you absolutely cannot find any other way that is comfortable, here is a good suggestion. Make a slight adjustment by putting a pillow under your stomach or a bit lower, under your pelvis. This helps you back to stay in a slightly more neutral position.

Sciatica Pain Relief Farmington MI

Finding Natural Relief for Sciatica

It is important to do all that you can to keep your spine in the best shape possible. One way to do that is to visit us here at Perkins Family Wellness and Spinal Care in Farmington, Michigan. We have seen a connection between sciatica, and strangely enough, a misalignment in the bones of the upper neck. When a misalignment exists here, the spine twists and shifts to compensate for keeping the head at eye level. This causes a number of things to happen along the spinal column, including irritation to the sciatic nerve leading to sciatica. We correct this misalignment by a gentle method that has brought positive results to many people.

To schedule a consultation with Dr. Perkins, call 248-780-8864 or just click the button below area.

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If you are outside of the local area you can find an Upper Cervical Doctor near you at

Dr. Chris Perkins Chiropractor Farmington Hills Mi.

Meet Dr. Christopher Perkins

Dr. Perkins grew up in Novi, Michigan and attended Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa. He received his Doctorate Magna Cum Laude with a focus on Upper Cervical Chiropractic care. Chris is well known in the community for his public speaking and holds a number of professional certifications. We are proud to say that Dr. Perkins and Perkins Family Wellness has been recognized by Hour Magazine as one of the Top Chiropractors in Metro Detroit  for 3 years in row.

Learn more about the doc.


"After 30 plus years of almost daily headaches and increasing severe debilitating migraines, I am pain free. I had tried everything, including 3 different chiropractors, medical tests, food allergy tests, special prism glasses, massage, etc. Dr. Perkins was a life changer for sure. Thanks to Dr. Perkins, I now know what it is like to live without pain. For someone with my headache history, this is a miracle"... Kathy Hiatt
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At Premier Family Wellness & Spinal Care in Farmington, MI will not only help you get well, but also stay well.


33966 West 8 Mile Rd. Suite 103
Farmington, MI 48335

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