In this article, we will discuss the benefits of sleeping with a pillow between your legs for back pain. Our advice, as always throughout this website is that the information provided is for general purpose. Please do speak to your health care provider about your specific case.
Prevalence of Back Pain
Back pain is a common problem that afflicts hundreds of millions of people across the world every year. According to a study by the National Institute of Health (NIH)1 , lower back pain ranks the highest among causes of disability across the world.
Indeed, with an aging population, the impact of back pain can be exacerbated among Americans. Another study by NIH2 suggests that of those reporting back pain in a year, 10-20% are likely to develop chronic back pain.
Looked at it another way, these are not entirely surprising findings, given our sedentary lifestyles and nearly constant use of electronic devices like laptops and mobile phones. Some of the other common causes of chronic back pain could be muscle strain, joint stiffness or severe arthritis, ligament tear, herniated disc, sciatica, menstrual syndrome, and even pregnancy.
Back pain usually causes tension, soreness, and stiffness of the back. In some cases, it also radiates to the neck, shoulders, and legs. Pain in the back (or any other painful condition) may cause insomnia, stress, and mental health problems.
Back pain can be helped with the use of drugs and some non-pharmacological treatment. Non-pharmacological treatments include exercises for back, physiotherapy, consulting a chiropractor, and maintaining proper posture and spine curvature and using the proper chair to sit on, while at work.
You may also want to use a certain type of mattress and pillow while sleeping if you are suffering from back pain.
Does Putting a Pillow Between Your Legs Help Back Pain?
Back pain is caused due to constant pressure exerted on the spine3. Because for most people sleeping is the single longest activity that they do during the day, improper posture during sleep can mean a prolonged period of pressure and stress for the back and spine.
Using a knee pillow may help you sleep better if you have back pain. Using a pillow between your legs while sleeping should help in many cases if you have back pain.
Where you put the pillow, largely depends on your preferred sleeping position. For the most part, people have 3 sleeping positions – sleeping on the back, side or stomach.
Using a Knee Pillow When Sleeping on Your Back
For those who prefer sleeping on their backs, having a pillow under your knees will help the natural curve of your lower back. The knee pillow is meant to reduce stress on your spine.
Sleeping on the back is considered to be the best sleeping position for those suffering from back pain as your body weight is spread over a large surface.
Though, we do have a word of caution here. Sleeping on the back may not be the best for some people. If you are suffering from sleep apnea (irregular breathing due to throat muscles relaxing, also causes snoring), you may consider sleeping on your side, keeping your legs straight.
Pregnant women should also avoid sleeping on their back. During pregnancy, it is advisable to sleep on your side, with the knees bent slightly. You can also consider using a pregnancy pillow.
Using a Knee Pillow When Sleeping on Your Side
Sleeping on your side is also a good option if you suffer from back pain. For side sleepers, it is advised to keep a pillow between the knees This pillow will support the upper leg and reduce the pull that it creates on the spine while sleeping on the side.
This also keeps your spine properly aligned during sleeping. As mentioned above, sleeping on the side is recommended if you have sleep apnea or during pregnancy.
Using a Knee Pillow When Sleeping on Your Stomach
Sleeping on the stomach is not advisable if you suffer from back pain. This position puts the most stress on the spine when sleeping. The back muscles are also under pressure in this position, which causes the spine’s natural curve to flatten.
Sleeping on the stomach also forces you to sleep with your neck tuned 90 degrees, twisting the upper spine.
But if you have to sleep on your stomach, having a pillow under the lower abdomen will be of help.
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The video below shows how to use a knee pillow for back pain.
How Do Knee Pillows Help Back Pain?
A pillow between your legs ensures that the hip and waist are aligned. The knee pillow prevents us from twisting or rotating our hip. This is most commonly advised for hip replacement patients. Due to the proper spinal alignment, the spinal cord and back muscles feel reduced compression.
Reduced pressure in the lower back has ancillary benefits like improved blood circulation. This can help to prevent the feeling of a sore back that sometimes people wake up with.
Properly using a knee pillow helps in avoiding too much movement during sleep. This can be helpful to fitful sleepers, giving them a better quality of sleep and more rest. This in turn leads to the lowering of mental and overall stress in the body.
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How and Which Pillow Do I Place Between the Legs?
It is recommended to use a single, firm pillow or in some cases two pillows, if the pillow is extremely thin, between the knees. The pillow can be placed between the knees or between the thighs depending on your comfort and sleeping position.
Please ensure that the pillow is thick enough to maintain suitable legs and hip alignment. Most people do not need anything more than 5 inches on the outer side.
Orthopedic pillows are good for patients suffering from back pain. They come in different shapes and size i.e. hourglass-shaped, wedge-shaped, cylindrical-shaped or bolster pillow and donut-shaped pillow. Hourglass knee pillow is best recommended to be placed between the legs for side sleepers suffering from back pain.
A knee pillow is a refined version of a conventional pillow specially shaped to help people having any medical problems relating to lower extremities, knee, ankle, hip, and back. It can be useful for people who have insomnia or tend to get incomplete sleep due to a medical problem. Some conditions where a knee pillow can help are back discomfort, knee injuries, arthritis, sacroiliac discomfort.
If you have been advised to stay lying down for long periods of time (due to a medical condition, injury or pregnancy), a knee pillow can be useful. Lying down for long periods can result in constant chafing of knees and ankles and can cause bed sores. A conventional pillow can easily shift position, especially when you are asleep. A knee pillow helps avoid this problem.
A knee pillow is generally firm and flexible, made of memory foam. It may or may not have straps. The advantage of having a strap is the patient does not have to worry about the constant repositioning of the pillow and can turn around freely without displacing it. The use of straps is avoidable for those who have sensitive skin.
How Do You Avoid Back Pain?
While managing back pain is important for those who suffer from it, it is best to completely avoid back pain. there are some general precautions you can take to avoid or reduce back pain. If you are suffering from pain in the back, we recommend you discuss your condition with your doctor.
Various factors like obesity, age, inactive and/or unhealthy lifestyle, copious pressure exerted on the back, and repetitive movements involving twisting or rotation spine movements can be responsible for causing back pain.
One can not stop growing old, so you can focus on your lifestyle to have a healthier back.
Age and physical condition appropriate regular exercise can help you have a healthier back and overall body. Swimming and walking help to strengthen back and abdomen muscles and avoid any muscle injury or spasms.
Stretching exercises maintain stability and relieve any muscle tension. The Department of Health and Human Service has recommended at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise spread over a week.
Healthy and Balanced Diet
A nutritious diet maintains good blood circulation towards the back preventing muscle soreness. It also prevents obesity which is one of the leading causes of back pain.
Mental stress also triggers back pain. Muscles tend to get tense when you are stressed. Regular stress relief exercises and yoga are highly recommended for reducing stress.
It is important to maintain a proper posture whether standing, sitting, or sleeping. If you can, avoid sleeping on the stomach as it causes the ill alignment of the spine. You should try to balance your weight evenly on both legs to maintain posture stability.
While standing, keep your spine properly aligned. Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time. Try to shift your position often so that the same muscles are not stressed. You should use a proper ergonomic chair that gives spinal support. Please don’t hunch.
Smoking reduces blood circulation of the back, triggering disc degeneration, and slow healing after an injury. If you smoke, please quit. It will have immense health benefits.