How to sleep with a ruptured disc

This article was medically reviewed by Luba Lee, FNP-BC, MS. Luba Lee, FNP-BC is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) and educator in Tennessee with over a decade of clinical experience. Luba has certifications in Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), Emergency Medicine, Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), Team Building, and Critical Care Nursing. She received her Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) from the University of Tennessee in 2006.

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Experts agree that a ruptured or herniated disc may cause pain, numbness, and weakness in part of your body, including back pain. A herniated disc occurs when one of the spongy discs that cushion your spine becomes damaged, causing it to bulge or bust open. [1] X Research source Unfortunately, pain from a herniated disc may make it hard for you to sleep. Research suggests that finding a comfortable position may help reduce your pain. [2] X Trustworthy Source American Academy of Family Physicians Organization devoted to improving the health of patients, families, and communities Go to source Additionally, your doctor may be able to recommend pain medication to help manage your symptoms so you can get the rest you need.

How to sleep with a ruptured disc

If you’ve been diagnosed with a herniated disc, your first question to your orthopedic specialist will likely be, “How can I reduce the pain?” Things you once took for granted like sitting at a desk and getting a good night’s sleep now seem more challenging or entirely out of reach.

A herniated disc is a common orthopedic injury, but it can be very disruptive to living a full and active life. It occurs when one of the gel-filled discs that acts as a shock absorber between the vertebrae in the spine ruptures or slips out of place. The damaged disc then irritates the nearby nerves, causing uncomfortable and painful symptoms.

Fortunately, herniated discs often respond well to physical therapy and pain medication and rarely require surgery. As part of your recovery, your physical therapist will show you the best ways to sit and sleep in order to reduce the pain.

How to Sit and Sleep With a Herniated Disc

A herniated disc can happen anywhere along the spine, from the neck to the lower back, and is usually the result of aging or something as simple as a forceful sneeze, lifting a heavy object, or sleeping in an awkward position. If the herniated disc doesn’t touch a nerve, you won’t experience any symptoms. But if it does, you’ll likely feel pain radiating along the buttocks, legs, and feet. Tingling, numbness, and a feeling of weakness can also accompany a herniated disc.

When you sit or lie down to sleep, the pain can be intense. However, properly aligning your spine can ease the pressure on your back and significantly reduce your discomfort. Your orthopedist and physical therapist will model the best sitting and sleeping positions, but here are some general tips to make sitting and sleeping less painful.

Sitting. Sitting for long periods of time isn’t ideal for people with a herniated disc. A standing desk is a great option, but if you must sit, rest your spine firmly against the chair back, sit up straight, and don’t slouch (which strains the spinal ligaments and aggravates a herniated disc). Your knees should be level with your hips, or slightly above the hips if you’re seated at a desk. The chair should be at a height that allows you to keep your feet flat on the floor.

To provide extra support, wedge a rolled-up towel or small pillow between the chair and the arch of your lower back. This also works when you’re in your car. If you do have to sit for a long period of time, be sure to take frequent breaks to stretch your muscles.

Sleeping. It’s hard to get a good night’s rest when your back is aching. But you can sleep comfortably if you know the right positions. Sleeping on your stomach is not a great option because it shifts the natural curve of the spine out of alignment and puts pressure on your back and neck. If you must sleep on your stomach, put a pillow under your hips and knees to maintain the proper curvature of the spine and relieve the pressure on the herniated disc.

Better alternatives are sleeping on your side or back. Side-sleepers can place a pillow between the knees to relieve any stress in the hips, or elevate their legs on a pillow. You can also slip a rolled-up towel between your waist and the mattress as you sleep on your side. And always lie on the side where you don’t feel any pain.

The optimal sleeping position for a herniated disc is on your back. Lying on your back keeps your spine in a neutral position so you have less chance of pinching the nerve. For added comfort, nestle a small pillow or rolled-up towel under your knees and lower back. A wedge-shaped pillow that raises your legs and ankles may also lighten the pressure on the herniated disc.

Get Relief from Back Pain

If you’re suffering from an aching back, the specialists at New York Bone & Joint can diagnose and treat your pain, whether it’s due to a herniated disc or another orthopedic condition. Once you’ve identified the source of your pain, our doctors and physical therapists will help minimize your discomfort with proper treatment. Contact us at New York Bone & Joint today to set up a consultation.

How to sleep with a ruptured disc

Having a herniated disc can cause slight disruptions in your sleeping patterns. The best way to manage those symptoms is to change up how you sleep to relieve any pain.

Here at OrthoBethesda, we provide you with the solutions you need to have a comfortable slumber, even with a herniated disc.

Best Sleeping Positions for Herniated Discs

Some resting body positions are better than others when you’re contending with a herniated disc. Try these suggestions to find the posture that provides you with the most relaxation.

1. Side Sleeping With a Pillow Between Your Knees

You can adjust your pillow and your knees in a couple of ways to bring relief. Gently move to your right or left side, and place a pillow between your legs. You can also roll on your back and put a soft cushion underneath your knees. Either choice works to help keep the curve of your spine in a natural position.

2. Stomach Sleepers

While stomach sleeping is generally less than optimal for back pain sufferers, there are ways to make it work if you find that lying on your stomach is more comfortable for you. Place a pillow beneath you and move it until it supports your abdomen. Depending on how you feel, you may not need to add a cushion for your head.

3. Fetal Position

The fetal position opens up the vertebrae on your back and allows you to fall asleep more easily. Do this by lying on either side, curling your body and tucking your knees closer to your chest.

4. Reclining Your Back

Try resting on your bed as you would in a reclining chair. Maintaining this posture creates an angle between your trunk and your legs.

Herniated disc pain is often worse at night, but with the right knowledge, you can choose sleeping positions that soothe your symptoms.

Why Your Pillow and Mattress Matters

Many people wonder if sleeping on the floor is good for a herniated disc. Luckily, thanks to today’s treatment options, this extreme is unnecessary. There are many other selections for comfy mattresses and pillows that can minimize herniated disc pain:

  • Wedge cushions: This shape is perfect when you need to lie in a reclining posture.
  • Adjustable mattresses: Some beds have remotes that let you move portions of the mattress up and down. This tool can be helpful if you have a specific point on your body that needs attention.
  • Body pillows: If you’re a stomach sleeper, hugging a body pillow against you as you rest on your side can replicate having pressure on your front without causing back pain.
  • Firm mattresses: Proper spine a lignment is crucial as you heal, and having a medium-firm mattress gives you a sturdy surface to help promote good sleep positions.

Having a herniated disc doesn’t mean sleeping on the floor. Talk with the team at OrthoBethesda to create a sleep plan that gives you relief.

Treat Your Herniated Disc Pain With Help From OrthoBethesda

If you’re wondering how to sleep with a herniated disc in your neck or further down your back, OrthoBethesda can help. We treat you like family by giving you the attention and care you deserve. Reach out today to schedule an appointment with our orthopedic professionals!

Herniated disc patients often have so many questions in mind. How to sleep with a herniated disc? What is the best-herniated disc sleeping position? What should you not do with a herniated disc?

Sleeping is a major concern of people with a herniated disc. We all know the importance of sleep in our daily lives. However, people with a herniated spine need to be extra cautious when it comes to sleeping and anything that puts stress on the back.

So we understand that finding the right position to sleep in a herniated disc is challenging. But don’t worry we’ve got your back!

From the best bed and the best mattress for herniated discs to the cervical pillows, we’ll discuss everything in detail.

How to Sleep With a Herniated Disc

So how to sleep with a herniated disc?

Note: Before we proceed, make pillows your ultimate best friends. Why? Well, you will find that out in a while.

Besides, whatever position you choose, make sure your position remains the same when you wake up. If at any hour during the night you find yourself in a different sleeping position, come back to the original chosen position.

Different Ways to Sleep With A Herniated Disc

Following are the different ways to sleep with a herniated disc and the things you can use for assistance.

  • An adjustable bed is the best option to sleep in for herniated disc patients. It helps you keep your back slightly elevated, relieving the pressure from your back.
  • A reclining chair is indeed the best option to sleep with a herniated disc. It is great for lower back herniation and provides you with massaging and extra care for back pain.

Even though the reclining chair is the best choice for people with a herniated disc, it can get uncomfortable at times because after all, it’s still a chair.

  • A herniated disc heating pad has pain-relieving properties. Plus, these infra-red heating pads provide maximum circulation in the affected area helping you heal sooner.
  • Moreover, a cervical pillow for a herniated disc in the neck is the ultimate solution to all your cervical herniation-related problems. The pillow makes the sleeping experience with herniation less painful and gives you a solid good night’s sleep.
  • The best mattress for a herniated disc is the one that is neither too firm nor too soft either.
  • If you are thinking about sleeping on the floor with a herniated disc, know that you can’t do it without wearing a brace and the extra support of a mattress and pillows.

Plus, sleeping on the floor is only possible in the acute phase of a herniated disc. Once the pain starts aggravating, you might want to switch to other options of sleeping described above.

Now that we know what we want for sleeping, let’s discuss the best sleeping positions for a herniated disc.

Best Sleeping Positions for Herniated Disc

So, herniated disc sleeping position varies from person to person. This means the sleeping position that you find comfortable, might not be the same for another patient.

Note: Always choose your comfort!

Following are the three best sleeping positions for a herniated disc.

Fetal Position

How to sleep with a ruptured disc

Fetal Sleeping Position

As the name suggests, it’s like the position of a fetus or baby inside the womb of the mother.

First, lie down on the bed and then curl your back with elbows almost touching the knees.

Flexion itself is good for the herniated spine. This is because flexion relieves the pressure from compressed vertebrae helping in soothing pain and other associated symptoms.

Sleeping On the Back

How to sleep with a ruptured disc

Sleeping On the Back

Though sounds contradicting but sleeping on the back is very helpful in decompressing the herniated spine.

However, remember to use the best pillows for herniated discs and place them under the knees. This will slightly flex the lower back relieving the herniated disc symptoms.

Note: If you sleep without any supporting pillows, it might worsen your spinal condition.

First, lie down with a straight back. Then slightly flex your knees to place a pillow underneath.

This position equally distributes the weight throughout the body rather than putting the whole weight on the spine.

Sleeping On the Side

How to sleep with a ruptured disc

Sleeping On the Side

Sleeping on the side is one of the best positions to sleep with a herniated disc. Again, don’t forget the pillows!

After lying down, curve the back and move towards the site you feel comfortable in. Then place the pillow between both knees. You can choose more than one pillow if that’s what your condition requires.

Remember, your comfort is your priority!

This position helps you to align the spine well with the rest of the body, keeping the hips, pelvis, and spine in order.

So, that’s all you need to know about how to sleep with a herniated disc. Now let’s highlight what not to do with a herniated disc.

What should you not do with a herniated disc?

Now that you know how to sleep with a herniated disc, you should also be aware of how not to sleep with herniated disc and other things to avoid.

One of the worst positions to sleep with a herniated disc is sleeping on the stomach. This is because sleeping on the stomach puts pressure on the spine rather than relieving it.

Following are a few other things to avoid with a herniated disc;

  • Heavy lifting
  • Running, jogging, and hiking
  • Hyper extending the back
  • Playing contact sports

A herniated disc can get worse if left untreated. It’s always good to exercise, walk, and know-how to sleep with a herniated disc.

These are the herniated disc natural cures. If even after home therapy for back pain there is no improvement, consult a senior doctor.

The thoracic disc is uncommon than the cervical and lumbar disc. However, the sleeping positions remain the same for thoracic herniated discs as well, that is, positions that slightly flex your back and de-stress the compressed spine.


If you properly follow these herniated disc sleeping positions, you will feel much better in the morning. However, consult your doctor first before you opt for any of these positions.

Hopefully, we were successful in clearing all your concerns about how to sleep with a herniated disc. If you are still feeling pain or feel like the pain is getting worse, we recommend you see a doctor before wasting time.

Next Video:
How to Take Care of a Herniated Disc….5

To sleep with a herniated disc, you should sleep on the floor with a little bit of padding. Give your spine a lot of support while you’re sleeping with help from a chiropractor in this free video on spinal disc herniation and sciatica.

Promoted By Zergnet

Hi, I’m Doctor Ray Wisniewski, America’s health care answer man. We’re here to talk about how to sleep with a herniated disc. And one of the big keys to this is if you do have a herniated disc, you need to have a lot of support. In fact, if it’s an acute case of a herniated disc, you’d be best off to sleep on the floor with a, just put a comforter down on the floor. Give yourself a little bit of padding. Lay it on your back, with pillows underneath your knees, so that your spine is well supported and there’s no pressure on that disc. Now, another way that you can lay would be on your side with your knees pulled up and a pillow between your knees. Now, it’s interesting that if you have a, particularly if you have an acute herniated disc, you can sleep with the brace on. Not only can you sleep with the brace on, it would be recommended on the initial stages, to allow this to heal properly. Also, if you’re on your side, you want to put pillows behind your back to prevent you from twisting. Twisting is the worst enemy here. So, when you’re sleeping, if you toss and you turn, you need to find a way that you are not going to twist. And if you do twist, you’re going to have to wear that brace. But the best thing is to support yourself, make sure you do not twist. If you’re on your side, it has to be completely on your side, so you’re not, where the hips are one direction and you’re twisted over in the other direction. That would not be advisable. Also, when you wake up in the morning, again, everything must move in one motion. You do not want to twist. So, if you’re on your back, to get to your side, to get up, you’re going to twist, you’re going to bring your whole body in one motion, moving the lower spine and the upper spine, the shoulders, at the exact same time. Then pull your knees toward your chest, then you’re going to come straight up. And as long as you’re coming straight up sideways, you’re going to be okay. You do not want to twist to get up. Once you’re up, you’re going to establish yourself, wait a while, because the disc is the most hydrated after sleeping. So, you can have the most pressure as soon as you wake up. So, you’re going to do this slowly, allow that to set, and then you’re going to stand up. And that’s the proper way to sleep with a herniated disc.

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How to sleep with a ruptured disc

Sleeping with a herniated disc can be a real challenge for many patients, due to both physical and emotional reasons. Disc pain can be a severe symptom to deal with and might prevent a person from finding a comfortable position in which to get some much needed rest.

The psychological effects of worry, fear and anxiety which typically accompany a herniated disc diagnosis certainly do not help, either.

This article will help patients to discover what is preventing them from sleeping once they have been diagnosed with a herniated intervertebral disc. We will examine anatomical and psychoemotional contributory factors which might interfere with restful sleep.

Difficulty Sleeping with a Herniated Disc

When a trauma-induced disc injury is fresh, the pain might be substantial and constant. Trying to sleep, eat or move at all might bring on acute pain or even muscular spasms. This is a difficult time for every patient who is stricken with such considerable agony. However, sleep is a crucial part of the healing process and it is vital to find some sleep position which is at least somewhat comfortable in order to facilitate a cure.

Remember, even the worst disc pain symptoms typically resolve in 2 to 8 weeks and many patients will feel much better even faster. Do not forget that most herniations are not caused by trauma, but instead by idiopathic reasons or by normal spinal aging. These herniations are rarely painful now, or ever, and may be coincidental to any symptoms which exist.

How to sleep with a ruptured disc

Mindbody Influence on Sleep Quality

As noted above, many chronic disc pain conditions have actually been misdiagnosed. Yes, there is a herniated disc in the spine, but no, it does not cause pain. It might have possibly been symptomatic at one time, but has since healed. It may also never have caused any suffering whatsoever. Regardless, the problem is that the mind believes there is still an injury and perpetuates the pain through the psychosomatic process.

Psychological herniated disc pain is the real reason why millions of patients never recover. The physical reasons for the pain have long since healed, but the psychological reasons continue to create the symptom imperative for years to come. In other patients, there may be actual structural issues which do enact pain. However, these do not specifically keep them awake. Instead, it is the emotional overlay of worry and fear which prevent sleep at night. It is crucial to know that every chronic pain syndrome has a considerable emotional component, even if the pain is purely anatomically-enacted.

Sound Sleeping with a Herniated Disc

Whenever I see a pain syndrome which is illogically linked to a particular activity, I virtually always think of the possibility of a psychosomatic causation or contribution. Sleep is the body’s rest time and is always thought to be the most physically relaxing period of the day. However, sleep is also notoriously affected by the inner workings of the subconscious mind, since that lesser known entity takes control of the conscious mind during the rest process.

How to sleep with a ruptured disc

Nightmares, insomnia and even physical pain are typical results of subconscious repression and all psychosomatic syndromes can be exacerbated during sleep time. If the mind is restless, the body will get no rest.

Luckily, there is a treatment for symptoms which commence when sleeping with a herniated disc and this cure is easy to enact and free. The alternative medical techniques inherent to knowledge therapy are very effective at uncovering the root causes of night time pain and many other mindbody pain conditions. The best part of all: Not only will you be able to sleep soundly at night, but the pain will still be gone when you awake in the morning, fully rested and ready for a new day.

For patients with verified structural nerve compression or chemical irritation issues sourcing their pain, speak to your physical therapist about what you can do to sleep better. There are usually methods which can help you to find comfort in bed without exacerbating your positionally-motivated pain.

Just be very wary about using any type of continuing pain management drugs or sleep aids, since these can be very harmful to your health and wellbeing and can also cause physical and psychological dependency issues which might prevent a normal, unassisted sleep ever again.

How to sleep with a ruptured disc

If you have a herniated disc, you may want to try sleeping on your side curled in a fetal position:

  1. Lay on your back and then roll over gently onto your side.
  2. Tuck your knees toward your chest and gently curl your torso toward your knees.
  3. Remember to switch sides from time to time to prevent any imbalances.

Which exercise is best for L4-L5 disc bulge?

Gentle exercises, stretches, and activities can all help relieve the pain of a herniated disk….Gentle activities that can help with a herniated disk include:

  • yoga.
  • swimming.
  • walking.
  • cycling.

Is there a cure for herniated disc L4-L5?

Herniated Disc. Cure Herniated Disc Pain. A herniated disc L4-L5 is one of the most common lower back pain diagnoses in existence. L4/L5 is an area of universal degeneration and is the second most prevalent location for a herniation to occur in the human spinal column.

Can a herniated disc cause L5 nerve impingement?

A herniated disc at lumbar segment 4 and 5 (L4-L5) usually causes L5 nerve impingement. In addition to sciatica pain, this type of herniated disc can lead to weakness when raising the big toe and possibly in the ankle, also known as foot drop. Numbness and pain can also be felt on top of the foot. See L4-L5 Treatment

Can a herniated L4 / L5 cause spinal stenosis?

In a herniated L4/L5, the disc has bulged or ruptured and is most commonly blamed for enacting symptoms through the process of foraminal stenosis, which is also called a pinched nerve. However, it is also possible that a herniated disc at this level can be blamed for causing spinal stenosis pain by impinging on…

How to tell if you have a L4-L5 slipped disc?

3 Telltale Signs of a L4-L5 Slipped Disc 1 Lower back pain. 2 Leg Pain and or Weakness. 3 Tingling and Numbness.

When do I need surgery for a herniated disk?

Surgery for a herniated disk would be considered if there is nerve damage, if pain and other symptoms are so severe that they interfere with daily activities, or if non-surgical treatment is not effective. Surgery often can resolve herniated disk symptoms more quickly than other treatments.

What are the symptoms of L4 and L5 nerve damage?

  • 5.
  • and compression by a disc can interfere with this function or send false signals.
  • Weakness. Your brain sends impulses through nerves to tell your muscles to contract.
  • Warnings.

Is your herniated disc causing Your Migraines?

A herniated disc headache is one of the many symptoms often blamed on disc herniations in the cervical spine. While it is possible to experience headaches in conjunction with a cervical bulging disc, it is unlikely . Headaches are the most well known mindbody pain condition and the most prevalent types, tension and migraine headaches, seem to be virtually universally sourced by regional ischemia.

What is L5 of the spine?

The term “L5” describes the area, or level, in which a specific spinal nerve exits the spinal column and runs through the body. The L5 segment is in the lower spine, and the spinal nerve associated with it runs down the back of the legs to provide sensory and motor signals to the legs.

A lumbar herniated disc may cause pain that is described as sharp, burning, or radiating from the lower back, through the buttock, and down the leg (sciatica). Pain relief will look different for everyone and may take trial and error to see benefit.

See how a herniated disc can cause pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness to radiate along the path of the nerve down the leg. Watch: Lumbar Herniated Disc Video

Here are 5 little-known tips to help relieve pain and get you on your way to feeling better:

1. Heat and cold therapy can help relieve muscle tension and pain.

Applying heat and/or cold therapy to the lower back can alleviate muscle tension that is commonly present with a lumbar herniated disc. Heat helps loosen the muscle tightness that causes spasms, increases blood flow, and improves elasticity of connective tissue. 1 Cold decreases the local tissue temperature which produces an analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect, thus reducing pain. 2

    Apply heat to your back in the morning or prior to stretching/exercise to decrease muscle tension.

Try several options and see what works best for you. The type of heat and how you use it is often a matter of personal preference.

2. Moderate physical activity releases endorphins.

While it may seem counterintuitive, staying active can provide pain relief if you have a lumbar herniated disc. When you exercise the body releases endorphins, which can naturally improve your mood 3 and reduce the perception of pain.

Most people with lumbar herniated discs are able to tolerate low-impact activities such as:

  • Walking outside or on a treadmill
  • Using an elliptical trainer
  • Cycling on a recumbent bicycle

If your pain is more severe, you may want to try a water-based activity, such as hydrotherapy. Water-based activities are often recommended because the buoyancy of water counteracts gravity and decreases the load bearing placed on your spinal discs. Your health care provider may suggest a dedicated water physical therapy program or swimming.

3. Certain sleep positions help relieve herniated disc pain.

Pain from a lumbar herniated disc can worsen during the night. You may find comfort sleeping in a position that relieves pressure from the spine. A couple good options include:

  1. Use a pillow under your knees to help relieve tension in the lower back. 4
  2. Lie on your side with a pillow between your knees to keep your spine straight and hips balanced. 4

Your preferred sleeping position and pillow placements will likely be determined by the location of your herniated disc. Try a few different pillow and positions to see what works best for you.

4. The McKenzie Method can help shift sciatica pain.

The McKenzie Method is one type of physical therapy that involves a specific approach to exercise. For lumbar herniated disc pain, the goal is to shift pain away from your leg (sciatica) and centralize it more in your lower back. 5

  • Your specific symptoms typically determine which McKenzie Method exercises a physical therapist will suggest.
  • After your symptoms have moved out of your leg, the approach usually shifts to longer-term rehabilitation to strengthen your back and other key muscle groups.

Even after the lumbar herniated disc pain has subsided, a back strengthening and stretching program should be continued to reduce the risk of lumbar pain returning.

5. Myofascial release and/or massage may help reduce pain.

While myofascial pain may not be the original source of lumbar pain, it may be a secondary source of pain originating from a lumbar herniated disc as well as other structures. 2 This can be worsened by poor posture and inactivity. Myofascial release is a form of manual therapy that has been shown to improve low back pain. While postural training and myofascial release can be initiated in physical therapy, there are methods that can be done at home in the meantime.

  • Use a lacrosse ball or massage cane to put pressure on tender/trigger points in the lumbar area.
  • Once a tender/trigger point is identified, maintain constant pressure for 1 to 2 minutes to allow for release of the muscle.
  • Repeat these steps for multiple trigger points in the lumbar area.
  • This technique may initially worsen pain as pressure is being placed onto inflamed muscles. It is highly recommended to use cold therapy (ice) after myofascial release to reduce pain.

While the pain from most lumbar herniated discs typically resolve in 6 weeks, you will want to manage it in the meantime and take control of your pain management. These tips may not work for everyone, and it may take time before finding what works best to help relieve your lumbar herniated disc pain.