With all the cushions for sciatica on the market, how do you know which one to choose? This article will teach you the facts, straight from a physical therapist.
Sciatic nerve pain is caused when there is some sort of disruption to your sciatic nerve. Your sciatic nerve originates in your lower back and its branches run all the way to your feet. This nerve can get compressed somewhere along its path or get tight/tensioned. Both scenarios can cause pain in your lower back or legs. This condition can be exacerbated at night due to poor body positioning in bed.
The key to relieving sciatic pain while sleeping is good positioning. When you use a sciatica pillow for sleeping, it positions your body to alleviate pain. This allows you to sleep more comfortably. Your preferred sleep position will determine which pillows are right for you.
A wedge pillow for sciatica; for back sleepers
Sleeping flat on your back can aggravate an already inflamed sciatic nerve. When you lie flat with your legs straight, your lower back arches. This puts tension on your spine and nerves. It also puts pressure on your sacrum, another area the sciatic nerve originates. Sleeping flat on your back is not a good idea even if you have a healthy sciatic nerve. It is especially not a good idea if you are having sciatic nerve pain.
If you are a back sleeper, look for a leg pillow for sciatica. It should be at least 8 inches tall in order to properly support your spine. Lying with your legs propped on a leg pillow will take away the arch in your lower back. This helps to get rid of tension in your spine, nerves, and hips. This position is perfect for those struggling with sciatica.
Two cushions for sciatica for side sleepers
Side sleeping without a sciatica pillow can aggravate sciatic nerve pain. When you sleep on your side, your lower spine is left unsupported. Additionally, the resting position of your legs pulls on your lower back and hips. Resting in this position all night can cause an increase in sciatic pain.
A sciatic nerve pillow for side sleepers involves two pillows: a leg separator pillow and a side sleeper wedge.
The leg separator pillow should run from your pubic bone to past your feet. It should be supportive enough that your ankle, hip, and knee are resting at the same height. This position completely relaxes your leg, hip, and low back. It takes tension off of your sciatic nerve and lets it rest and heal during the night.
The next sciatica cushion is specifically for your lower spine and is called a side sleeper wedge. It is designed to keep your waist and lower spine supported while you lie on your side. This additional support helps keep your nerves from being compressed.
The combination of these two pillows will help any side sleeper with sciatica get a good night’s rest!
Using a sciatica pillow for stomach sleepers
Always avoid sleeping on your stomach. When you sleep on your stomach with your head turned to one side, it puts an excessive amount of strain on your neck, upper back, low back, and lumbar discs. Some might say “if you sleep on your stomach, at least put a pillow under your hips.” While this helps, there are much healthier ways to sleep.
There is a way to use a sciatica pillow to sleep in a safe position that most stomach sleepers won’t mind. It is called the 3-quarter turn position.
For pain radiating down your right leg:
- Rest your right arm, right half of torso, and right leg on top of a supportive leg separator pillow
- Your left arm will be straight and resting beside your left hip
- You should feel like you are partially resting on your stomach and partially resting on your side.
- Your body will be facing right. Your spine is not rotated.
- Support your neck completely with your pillow.
By using these cushions for sciatica and following these instructions, you will end up in a 3-quarter turn position. Be sure to reverse these instructions if you have pain radiating down your left leg so you are facing left. If you have pain down both legs, choose the leg that has the worst pain, and that is leg that goes on top of the pillow.
The leg separator pillow you choose must be supportive enough. The goal is to unweight the painful side of your body and this will not happen if the pillow is not supportive. Supporting your painful side gives your low back, hip, and leg the best environment for relaxing and reducing pain. Most leg separator pillows are relatively flat. Look for one that is approximately 10 inches high and supportive.
Whether you need a sciatica pillow for sleeping your back, your side, or the 3-quarter turn position, set yourself up for success so you can sleep comfortably again!
-Hillary Blare, Doctor of Physical Therapy