Sleeping After Back Surgery

back surgery

Having difficulty sleeping after back surgery or spinal surgery, like lumbar spine surgery, discectomy, disc replacement, laminectomy, or spinal fusion is completely normal. Your body has been through trauma as a result of surgery. Additionally, you may be dealing with pain, a sore incision, and simply not being able to get comfortable in order to sleep. However, getting enough sleep, particular uninterrupted continuous sleep, can help your body heal faster, getting you back to your normal routine faster. That said, here are a few tips, as given by medical experts, to help with your sleeping after back surgery.

Sleeping Position After Back Surgery

According to John Hopkins Medicine Orthopaedic Surgery Division, to reduce your pain after spine surgery, the best sleeping position is either on your side — or believe it or not — on your back. Either position decreases the pressure on your low back and spinal discs. You should avoid sleeping on your stomach after back surgery.

side sleeping position

Sleeping on your side - If you choose to sleep on your side after back surgery, it’s best if your knees are bent and you tuck a pillow between your legs. Your legs, with knees bent, should rest right on top of each other with one leg ever so slightly forward. You should avoid allowing your knee to rest on the bed. Similarly, you should avoid sleeping with your arms under either your head or neck. Utilize a pillow behind your body when sleeping on your side. This pillow tucked under your hips and back will prevent you from rolling onto your back while in a deep sleep.

Sleeping on your back – If you choose to sleep on your back after back surgery, it’s important to keep your knees and hips bent and tuck a pillow (or even a rolled up blanket) under your knees. While it might feel comfortable sleeping with your arms over your head, don’t do this reports John Hopkins, as this puts undue stress on your neck and shoulder. Depending on the location of your incision (particularly if at midline) however, you may find it painful initially to sleep on your back.

Other Practical Sleeping Tips After Back Surgery

  • Limit daytime naps. While you may be fatigued, tired, and sleepy, it’s best not to nap too much during the day. If you do, you may not be able to sleep at night, and end up getting your days and nights mixed up in terms of normal sleeping patterns.
  • Consider elevating your upper back, shoulder, and head slightly. If you have an adjustable bed, this can easily be achieved. Or simply use pillows for desired elevation.
  • Use a medium firm pillow under your knees when sleeping on your back.
  • Sleep on a firm mattress, or medium-firm, but avoid sleeping on a too soft mattress after back surgery. Latex mattresses are great, as they can be customized for comfort.
  • Avoid sleeping on your stomach. When you sleep on your stomach, there is increased pressure on the bones in your back and increased pressure on the disk spaces, so you should avoiding sleeping face down after surgery on your back.
  • Tighten your stomach when turning in bed or getting out of bed, recommends Ashland Community Hospital’s Spinal Surgery division.
  • Use a log roll technique to keep your spine straight when getting out of bed. It’s best if you have assistance getting out of and into bed for the first few days after back surgery.

While the discomfort of back/spine surgery can leave you unable to sleep through the night initially, by implementing the above practical tips for sleeping after back surgery, you should be able to improve your quantity and quality of sleep in the days and weeks after back surgery.

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