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Failed L5-S1 Fusion. What's best resting/lying position for chronic ongoing pain?

BrihtwulfBBrihtwulf Posts: 69
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:45 AM in Chronic Pain

Perhaps this would be better suited in the surgical forum, but I thought a variety of post-surgical chronic pain people here might be able to weigh in on the question...

Is there a "best" position to take pressure off the lower lumbar? Perhaps on the back with a pillow under my knees? Or, should I be reclined/on an incline? Does a pillow under the shoulders or head matters? How high should my knees be elevated to sufficiently work?

Or, how bad is lying on your stomach? I've read a few things about putting a pillow under your hips, or a pillow under your shins. Is this useful? If lying on your stomach, what about a pillow under your head? Too much lifting?

I don't spend much time on my side, but when I do I try to have a pillow between my legs. That's all I know there...

So, what does or should work the best for someone with chronic pain at the base of the spine or a failed surgery causing continuing pain? Thanks everyone!


  • My pain comes from the l4-l5 area. What works for me varies. Sometimes I am on my side (no pillow between the legs- that actually hurts). Other times I lie on my back with a pillow under my knees. Most of the time, though, I sleep on my stomach. I actually have a tempurpedic/memory foam pillow so my head doesn't end up too high.
  • I sleep with a pillow between my knees on my side and sometimes lay down with several pillows under my knees and I look like I'm laying down sitting on a chair.

    I also sit at the computer with a small footstool so my knees are up about waist level to take the pressure off my back.

    I sleep with two small pillows, one a regular pillow and the top one a memory foam one because if I sleep flat or one pillow I get neck pain during the day. Hope you find a comfortable way to sleep. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
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  • So, lying down with multiple pillows under your legs might help relieve some pressure from your back? I think I'll try that, and also make sure my knees aren't dropping too low when I'm at the computer. I hadn't really thought of that.

    I sometimes sleep on my stomach, but I had heard that can be bad for people with back problems. So, I avoid doing it if possible.
  • I think there is going to be alot of person-to-person variability here - the answer is whatever works for you. Theoretically, I think a zero gravity chair would be ideal if you could actually sleep in it. I personally lie completely flat with a small down pillow for the head- if I find myself on either side I definitely pay the price; the pain usually wakes me up.
  • Honestly I do not believe any one thing works for most. Also I have found what works this day or month does not work the next day. You have to keep moving with the punches.

    I have found the best thing for me is a strong lumbar belt. I wear now quite often. I have a light and a stronger version I interchange with. I have found it works the best for me.

    The McJenzie therapy combined with the strong lumbar belt have given me a good part of my life back.

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  • you have nerve damage? I have severe S1 nerve damage on both sides and I spend my days reclined as much as possible. Even when traveling, we put my recliner in the van (we have a sto and go van, where all the seats fold down flat) and we very unsafely have me ride reclined. Quite the sight when we stop to get gas and hubs helps me out of the chair and I crawl out of the van. lol

    I have the SCS (spinal cord stimulator) and it has given me much of my life back) but I still must stay reclined whenever I can.

    At night, I lay flat on my back with 2 pillows under my knees. I never lay with legs flat, I rarely lay on my side and I never lay on my stomach (well, except for one thing and that is the safest way to do "that") with no bending or twisting.

    If I sit straight up, particularly in hard back and hard seated chairs, my pain will flare something awful. I can turn that stimulator up, but I prefer to avoid it in the first place.

    For me, the S1 nerve being the motor nerve, any movement triggers it - sitting, standing, walking, bending. Reclining is the ONLY position I have found that fully relieves the pain. I can only lie down with pillows under my legs. Bought a special recliner ("BEST" brand) that can lay fully flat also if I need to sleep in it (rare anymore).

    Good luck!

  • I can never lay on my tummy!

    Side - I'll wake enough to slide a pillow btween them, and even with that measure, I wake in 2 hours or less to roll over.

    Back - I almost always have to have some kind of pillow under my knee caps. Some times 2 when it is real bad. It gives pivot point and for me pulls my hips slightly, so it releases the back a bit.

    Other nights - I need nothing under them, but I always wake up with a sore tummy in the morning, because cramps seem to make me feel like I have been doing crunches all night. Using the pillow under the knees, seems to lessen that problem.

    Just my experience.
  • I had lower back "problems" 18 years ago. It took several years but luckily for me there was no serious damage. Just took time and care to get over/past it and let the muscles heal.

    At that time I used a recliner and one of the very large massage/heat/vibrate pads. I only rarely used the massage function, but the heat on low was marvelous!

    I have cervical SCS that helps my chronic shoulder pain from undiagnosed nerve damage (they have not ever found what is damaged). Even with the SCS working I had a great deal of trouble sleeping and not being depressed. I now take two different anti-psychotic drugs, plus muscle relaxers, plus valium and Ambien. None of the dosages are what is considered high, but the combination lets me sleep!

    So, if you have not explored the med angle very thoroughly I suggest you do so. I ended up using my regular shrink to actually find the blend that works! My PM is useless, except for SCS followups I don't ask him for ANYTHING!
  • I always sleep on my back with my feet and legs elevated and 2 pillows under my head. Just pillows under my knees does not work for me. My whole spine must be flat against the bed. If I sleep on my back with the curve in my spine it always causes me pain. My Neurosurgeon and physical therapist both told me that sitting was harder the spine than anything else. But we have to sit now don't we? I was told to recline as much as I could with my legs up.
    I am not saying this is how everyone should sleep but this is what works best for me.
    I tried a lot of different positions until I tried this way and found it worked best.
    Best to you....
    Cheers :H
    Patsy W
  • I'm all over the place. Sometimes on my back, side with pillows between knees, vers seldom on stomach. Thats just in bed.

    Sometimes my recliner or my couch work well.

    Best thing I have found so far is actuallly quite interesting. I found a quite large 'Love Sac'(trademark). If you don't know what one is, its similar to a bean bag but is full of shredded dura foam with a slip cover that is washable. It never goes flat and I had never been in one then I picked one up at a yard sale for my kids and have slept in it about 70% of the time since. Its actually extremely comfortable and supportive at least for me. I have problems from L3 - S2 with fusion from L4 - S1 and fusions at C4 - C5 and C6 - C7.

    I hope I can say this on here. I'm really not trying to plug anything. I came upon one by chance and it really helped.

    Good Luck
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