Is sleeping on the floor good for lower back pain?

Is sleeping on the floor good for lower back pain?

 

Welcome to this episode of the Active X blog. The question this week is “Is sleeping on the floor good for lower back pain?” And of course, the inevitable answer if you know me is “That depends”.

Firstly, there’s the big principle, and you’ll see me refer to it time and again, is “use it or lose it, but don’t abuse it”. So if sleeping on the floor makes your back pain worse, definitely, don’t do it! It’s like picking a scab. You’re just irritating a tissue before it has time to heal. So that’s the first principle: “You can use it or lose it, but don’t abuse it”.

Then, it depends really on your shape, but before we really get into this – the shape of your back and body – let’s just ponder a little bit longer on the “use it or lose it, but don’t abuse it” principle in relation to sleeping on the floor. Many people have been given the advice that sleeping on the floor is good for your lower back, but remember that pain is simply a biological warning system. That is the purpose of pain. So if you do something, whether that be sleeping on the floor, or lifting a heavy weight, or sitting in a chair, and you experience more lower back pain, then that is your back and your nervous system telling you that that is not a good thing to be doing, so stop doing it!

So that’s the straight-up answer: that lying on the floor is not good if it causes you more back pain. Now of course, you may not have pain and the real question may be “Is sitting on the floor good for your back – without any pain being part of the picture?”, and that comes to the second part of the “it depends” answer.

It depends on your shape. If you are very flat, so this is more common – and I said flat with an ‘l’ after the ‘f’- this is more common in men than in women, so if you don’t have much of a waist, so waist and hips have roughly the same width, then you may well be very quite comfortable on the floor. However, if you have a waist that is significantly either narrower or wider than your hips, then you will need a softer mattress. So in essence, the more curvy you are, the more difference there is between your different measurements – your waist, hips, shoulders, chest – then the softer that mattress needs to be. Not necessarily the whole depth of the mattress, but certainly the top part of the mattress needs to be soft enough, so that your wider bits, usually shoulders and hips, can sink into the mattress, thereby affording support to the narrower bits, hopefully your waist.

As I said, this is much more common in women. In fact, I see many couples who of course require something very different form a mattress. Typically, a man needs a much harder mattress. Typically, a woman needs a softer mattress. Ultimately it depends entirely on your own individual shape. So that’s the second part of “it depends”… it depends on your shape: if you’re flat, with very little in the way of curves, you probably need a firmer mattress and you may very well be comfortable on the floor and it may very well not exacerbate your pain. But if you’re more curvy, you probably need a softer surface.

So that’s the second part of the answer, which pulls us onto a general point of how to choose a mattress?. But I’ve blogged on this before, so feel free to look up about mattresses and lower back pain. The job of the mattress is to support your curves, your natural curves. So it needs to be firm to do that, but soft enough on the top surface to allow your wider heavier bits to sink into the mattress, thereby affording support to your narrower bits. And that’s pretty much it!

So “is sleeping on the floor better for back pain?” It depends. Be guided by pain; if you do it and you’re in more pain, definitely, it isn’t a good thing, but bear in mind your shape comes into play here. If you’re very curvaceous, narrow waist, wide hips, wide shoulders, chest, then you probably need a softer surface. And if you’re very flat, you may well be very comfortable on the floor and it may not cause more lower back pain.

So thanks for listening (or reading, if you’re reading the text version of this) and if you need any in-depth help with your lower back pain or other parts of you, then feel free to contact me. You can consult me either on Skype or just book an appointment through the website.

Thank you

 

About the Author:

Clinic Director and Osteopath. Gavin graduated as a Gold Medallist in 1991 and is now a Vice Patron of the British School of Osteopathy. Co-author of “The Back Book” with Gavin Hastings OBE in 1996, and author of "active X backs - and effective solution for lower back pain"; he has an MSc in The Clinical Management of Pain from the University of Edinburgh. He's passionate about helping to move people as far from illness and pain as possible, and in January 2015 set himself the target of helping a million people get a better back.

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