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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is the best sleep position for sciatica

    When my sciatica flares up I can never seem to find a comfortable position when I sleep. Can anyone suggest a position that can help ease my discomfort?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 23


    Joel Laing


    I am a McKenzie Method specialised physiotherapist, with a Diploma in Mechanical Diagnosis & Therapy. Using the McKenzie Method I predominantly treat low back and … View Profile

    This position varies depending on the nature of your particular disc problem. Sciatica is simply when the disc in your back (usually one of the lowest two at L4/5 or L5/S1) bulges far enough to compress a branch of the sciatic nerve that runs behind it.
    Many disc problems will be better in you sleep on your tummy, however this is not always the case.
    About 40% of these disc problems bulge more to one side. This causes a rotation of the pelvis and can cause catching and pain in the sacro-illiac joint with rolling over. 
    Often these people with be better lying on the PAINFUL side.
    As you can see there is no one single answer. 
    You really need your specific problem, assessed and identified.
    Specific McKenzie exercises will frequently resolve your problem. The assessment process can shed light of the nature of your specific issue, including the best position for you to sleep in, but more importantly how to improve your problem so that almost any sleeping position should become pain-free.

  • 8


    Sandra McFaul


    Do you suffer from chronic lower back pain or neck pain? Based in SYDNEY, Sandra is 1 of ONLY 15 Physiotherapists in Australia with ADVANCED … View Profile

    Good answer Joel. 

    I always suggest to clients to trial different positions and the one that helps to reduce the pain in the lower leg is key.  If you are in a position and it is causing the pain to radiate further down the leg into the foot….. then MOVE!

    A McKenzie trained therapist often can help relieve sciatica within a few sessions by prescribing specific pain-releiving exercises.  To locate your nearest trained McKenzie physiotherapist, click here.

  • 14


    Dr Ryan Hislop


    Ryan Hislop is the Clinical Director at the Mudgee Chiropractic Health and Wellness Centre. As an experienced and evidence-based diagnostician, Ryan works largely by medical … View Profile

    Further to these great examples, the position that will be most comfortable is the one that limits the amount of irritation to the nerve involved. As Mr Laing noted, a professional in the area will be best able to suggest an appropriate position.

    In addition, you may try taking tension of the sciatic nerve by sleeping with a pillow between bent knees when on your side, or if on your back, placing a pillow under your knees so that your knees are raised.

  • 1


    Charmaine Sully

    Massage Therapist

    Remedial Massage Therapist. Qualified at Katoomba TAFE. Use a range of techniques such as deep tissue, myofasical release, Trigger Point Therapy, PNF stretches, rhythmic style … View Profile

    "True Sciatica" is from compression of the nerves in the spinal area, but you can also get pain radiating in the lower back and down the legs, from slight compression of the nerves by the muscles and even fatty tissue.  Some people get it from compression in the buttocks area (there is muscle called piriformis that is commonly blamed).

    Sleeping on the back with legs unsupported can make for compression in the back and buttocks, so as Ryan said try a pillow under the knees.  This stops the bottom sinking and the lower back muscles getting stiff/tight.  Side lying with knees bent might be a good position, and you can add a pillow under the arm or waist, so the spine is aligned and make it comfortable for your arm.  Moving positions at night is something you want to do, if you sleep light enough to do this.

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