The best way to sleep with a compression fracture is to lie with your spine in a neutral position. This is a position without muscle or joint strain and with plenty of space between the joints in your spine. Keep reading to learn how this is done.
Sleep on your back, but not flat on your back
If you have a compression fracture and are trying to sleep, don’t sleep flat on your back. Almost all of us have tight hip flexors that pull our pelvis into an anterior tilt. When our pelvis tilts forward, it causes our lower back to arch. This means when we lie down flat on our backs with our legs straight, our lower back is arched. This arch decreases the space between the joints in your back and causes your back muscles to tighten overnight.
To avoid waking up with back stiffness and pain, especially if you have a compression fracture, sleep on your back with your legs elevated on a knee wedge pillow. Sleeping with your legs supported on a leg wedge takes away the arch in your lower back and allows your back to lie flat. This restores the space between your joints, allowing your compression fracture to heal overnight rather than be compressed and irritated.
For anyone trying to sleep with a compression fracture, this is great news. The ability to sleep with your back muscles relaxed, with plenty of space in between the joints of your lower back, is a huge relief to anyone with a compression fracture!
What if I can’t sleep on my back with my compression fracture?
If you just can’t sleep on your back, you can sleep on your side, if you have the right support. First, use a side sleeper wedge to support your lower spine while you sleep. Placing a side sleeper wedge in the curve of your waist will prevent your spine from curving downwards when you lie down on your mattress.
If you are trying to side sleep with a compression fracture, this is important because when healing, you don’t want any of the joints in your spine to be compressed. When you lie on your side without back support, joint compression can happen as your spine curves down towards your bed.
Additionally, you should use a leg separator pillow that completely supports your entire top leg. This means the pillow should run from your pubic bone to your foot. A leg separator pillow should also keep your top leg as close to parallel to the bed as possible.
This ensures that your hip muscles are not pulling on your back and that your pelvis is not rotating. This is key to side sleeping with a compression fracture because if your hips and pelvis are supported, they won't be pulling on your spine.
Learning the best way to sleep with a compression fracture is key for your healing. Get yourself sleeping right, so your body can maximize its nightly restoration!
-Hillary Blare, Doctor of Physical Therapy