The Best Sleep Positions to Avoid Neck and Back Pain

by May 7, 2024

The Best Sleep Positions to Avoid Neck and Back Pain


Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial for your overall health and well-being. However, the position in which you sleep can have a significant impact on your spinal health. At Desert Valley Chiropractic, we understand that proper alignment of the spine during sleep is essential for preventing pain and maintaining good health. Here are our top recommendations for the best sleeping positions to help you wake up feeling refreshed and pain-free.

Sleeping on Your Back


Back sleeping is often considered one of the best sleep positions, it really is the gold standard for spinal health. This sleep position allows your head, neck, and spine to rest in a neutral position, which means there’s no extra pressure on those areas. To enhance comfort and reduce lower back strain, consider placing a pillow under your knees to maintain the natural curve of your spine.

If you are exclusively a back sleeper choosing the right pillow can help avoid unnecessary neck pain.  You don’t want a thick pillow that pushes your chin down toward your chest, this will strain your neck causing neck pain and potentially headaches.  If you are a back sleeper you may want to consider a cervical pillow which can help maintain the natural curve in our necks.

Sleeping on Your Side


Side sleeping is another great example of the best sleep positions, especially for pregnant women and people suffering from chronic back pain. To get the most out of this position, make sure to:

– Use a firm pillow to keep your head and neck aligned with your spine.  You want your head and neck remain neutral which is to say you don’t want it to bend too far in either direction.

– Placing a pillow between your knees is crucial.  This can prevent your lower body from torquing (like wringing out a wet towel) which can pull your spine out of alignment.  A good option is to place a king or body pillow between your knees, because then you can hold or “spoon” the pillow with your arms so you don’t lose it when rolling over to the other side.  This is also helpful and keeping your knees and hips aligned which keeps your lower body from twisting too much.


Pro Tip – placing a pillow between your knees can also be a helpful way for people to transition away from stomach sleeping to side sleeping.  When you are on your side and you spoon the pillow you can fool your body into feeling like you’re sleeping on your stomach.




Back and Side Sleeping in Combination


It has been our experience over the last 20+ years that many patients will move from back to side sleeping through the night.  As noted above, both positions are good for our spinal health so there is nothing wrong with moving from one to the other.  In fact, this is the way I sleep, and I have found that it is important you choose the correct pillow to avoid unnecessary strain on the cervical spine.

Ideally you use a pillow that has a dip in the middle for when you are on your back but is also elevated on the sides so when you move from your back to your side you can maintain good alignment from your head to your neck.

sleep positions

Avoid Sleeping on Your Stomach


Sorry stomach sleepers, but there is no way to sugar coat this, stomach sleeping is bad. As far as the best sleep positions are concerned, this is the worse.  It is hard on both your neck and back. This position can force your neck to turn to one side, causing strain and discomfort. Additionally, your hips will sink into the mattress which is a common cause of morning back pain.

We hear all the time “but doc it’s the only way I can get comfortable enough to sleep” or “I have been a stomach sleeper all my life”.  Trust me, I know how comfortable stomach sleeping can be. While I just said that when I sleep, I move from my back to my side, I didn’t always do that.

Growing up and in my early teens I was a stomach sleeper, and on a waterbed no less.  As a result, when I was 13, I started to get lower back pain, so my mom took me to her chiropractor.  In addition to some great Activator treatment, I was also given some tips to transition away from a stomach sleeping.  It does not happen overnight, but it can be done and if you read the side sleeping section above you will get a helpful tip.

If you have tried everything and simply must sleep on your stomach please use a thin pillow under your head and another under your pelvis to minimize the strain to your spine.


Listen to Your Body


Your body will tell you if something is wrong, so if you wake up feeling sore or stiff, it might be time to evaluate your sleeping position, your pillows and or your mattress. Make sure your sleeping environment supports your spinal health.


Consult with a Chiropractor


Chiropractic care can be helpful with our spinal alignment so we can both feel well and move well.  If you’re experiencing discomfort despite making the adjustments in this article, it may be beneficial to consult with a chiropractor. At Desert Valley Chiropractic, we can provide personalized advice and treatments to help align your spine and improve your sleep quality.


Remember, the goal is to support the spine in a neutral alignment and avoid any positions that might cause strain or discomfort. Sweet dreams and healthy sleeping!



Dr. Katherine

Dr. David Iacuone

Dr. Dave is a graduate of Logan College of Chiropractic in St. Louis, MO. As a student clinician he became heavily involved with the technique attending many seminars including the annual instructors seminar. He has been a clinical instructor for Activator Methods international seminars. Dr. Dave has practiced in Texas City, TX where he focused on personal injury cases and in Phoenix, AZ where he has practiced in private practice at the Activator Health Center as well as at the Phoenix V.A.

To make an appointment call us at 602-439-1515 or reach out through the contact submission on our website at Desert Valley Chiropractic.

Best of the Valley 2022
Best of the Valley 2021
Best of the Valley 2020

Follow Us on Our Socials!


Information is shared for educational purposes only.  The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Users should not disregard, or delay in obtaining, medical advice for any medical condition they may have, and should seek the assistance of their health care professionals for any such conditions. The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease.

You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.