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How to Sleep with a Herniated Disc

How to Sleep with a Herniated Disc

How to Sleep with a Herniated Disc

By: Angel Macagno, M.D. FAAOS

Dr. Angel Macagno was born and raised in Argentina where, as a board-certified physician, he practiced Orthopedic surgery for 15 years before deciding to fulfill his lifelong goal of practicing medicine in the United States.

Herniated discs cause a lot of pain, and it’s often worse at night. Learn how to sleep and sit with a herniated disc to alleviate pain and discomfort.

Best Positions for Sleeping With a Herniated Disc

Your optimal sleeping position depends on your herniated disc’s location and how you prefer to sleep. 


Sleeping on your back or side is the best option if you have a herniated disc in your neck. 

  • Side sleepers: If you sleep on your side, use a thicker pillow to align your head and neck with your spine. 
  • Back sleepers: Use a thinner pillow while sleeping on your back to align your neck and spinal column. 

Upper Back

If you have a herniated disc in your upper back, you want to maintain a spinal position that supports your neck.  

  • Side sleepers: Sleep in a fetal position on your side to take pressure and pain off your upper back. Consider putting a pillow between your legs to help prevent lower back pain.
  • Back sleepers: If you typically sleep on your back, use a thinner pillow to stay neutral. You could also put a towel or pillow under your lower back to relieve pressure.

Lower Back

Keep your lower back pain-free while sleeping with a herniated disc.

  • Side sleepers: Place pillows under your legs, from your knees to your lower legs, as you sleep on your side.
  • Back sleepers: Prop your lower legs up using pillows or a wedge to alleviate lower back pain. A towel under your lower back can provide additional support as needed.

How to Sit With a Herniated Disc

While you should take precautions while sleeping with a herniated disc, you should also be careful while sitting. You want to maintain the natural s-curve of your back while seated to minimize pain. While sitting at a desk, table or even in your car, use a pillow or rolled-up towel between the seat and your lower back to increase support.

You could also sit on an exercise ball or use a more ergonomic chair to help maintain your posture.

When Does a Herniated Disc Need Surgery?

Herniated discs are fairly common, and most don’t require surgery as a treatment. However, there are some cases when surgery is necessary to help an individual improve their quality of life. Surgery for herniated discs often occurs after conservative treatments have failed or the pain becomes severe.

Contact NYSI for a Free Herniated Disc Consultation

Whenever you have issues or pain from a herniated disc, New York Spine Institute is here to help. We offer several services to alleviate back pain, including pain managementphysical therapy and spine surgery

Our experts are ready to help you find relief. Discuss treatment for your herniated disc by scheduling an appointment with NYSI today.