Chiropractor Questions Chiropractor

How do I sleep with a herniated disc in my neck?

I am a 47 year old female and I have a herniated disc in my neck. How do I sleep with a herniated disc in my neck?

14 Answers

Maintain a curvature in the neck during sleep by hanging your head backward over the side of the bed with support for 5-10 minutes per night before going to bed.
I would say with a pillow that is supportive. There are also home decompression units available to help the disc retract as well as in-office decompression tables they may be effective
Ice it down good before sleeping and use 1 or no pillow. You want to avoid over-flexing the neck. Can sleep on side or on back, whatever is best. If really bad, you may have to use a recliner until it has healed (if non-surgical) or has been surgically cleaned out.


Dr. Brandon Buttry

I can imagine that there is a lot of pain while trying to sleep with a herniated disc in the neck. There is no simple position for a herniated disc because it depends on how the disc has herniated out. The easy rule of
thumb for this is to try first on your back with a supportive pillow. Sometimes it helps to sleep in an inclined position which can alleviate the disc pressure more than laying flat. If back sleep doesn't help, lay to the
side away from the pain if there is one. Most people have pain to the left or right or down their arms with disc issues. Sleep away from that side and use a supportive pillow again. A supportive pillow means one that keeps your head and neck aligned and not too low or pushed too high. If that position doesn't work, lay to the side of the pain and see how that works. This would indicate that the disc is herniating more down the middle of the spine and not to any one side. I would have to see an MRI or a report to give you a more accurate idea but try those recommendations. I really feel that an inclined sleep position is going to do the best job.
I'm sorry to hear that. This is one of those things that is not easily answered. Much depends on the level and direction of the herniation. This is one that you will just have to experiment with different positions. Sometimes a large bath towel laid out longways, fold the sides to the middle leaving a 1 to 2-inch gap in the center then roll it up one end to the other. Lie on your back with pillows under your knees to relax the muscles of the spine and place the towel at the base of your neck so that the head extends over. If the herniation is lateral and anterior, (to the side and forward of the joint space), it should relieve some discomfort. If it does not then it is possible the disc is lateral and posterior, (to the side and backward), elevate the head in the flexed position. Also, if arm pain is involved putting the arm flexed and above the head may help also. I have always advised patients to use ice packs and no heating pad. A hot shower or bath is OK because it is not direct and concentrated like a heating pad helping to relax and not inflame.

Yours in health,
Doc J
Sleeping with a herniated disc can present with issues of finding a position of comfort to fall asleep and then staying asleep amidst the normal positional changes we experience while sleeping. So, the first thing is a good pillow which will give you the proper head placement and give excellent support to the neck area. With a herniated disc, sleeping on the side is terribly painful for most people. The Chiroflow pillow is an excellent choice for this. It has a water core which can be adjusted for firmness and offers great support for both back and side sleepers. Remaining asleep can be challenging with painful positional changes. Utilizing anti inflammatory products will help with decreasing swelling and the likelihood of waking pain. Ice, Biofreeze, NSAIDS, turmeric and other oral products will help with the painful inflammatory swelling. Understanding that we experience trauma differently, you may have some trial and error nights. This is frustrating, but common. Your chiropractor can help you find the right products for your unique condition.
I hope I have offered you some insight to getting sleep with a herniated cervical disc.
Herniated discs in the neck will usually hurt either more if your neck is bent forwards or backwards. If it hurts more when it's forward, you want to use a less thick pillow or just a rolled up towel under your neck. If it hurts more when you tilt your head back, then you probably will like a little thicker pillow with more support. You should find someone who does non-surgical spinal decompression therapy. It's the best treatment out there to help herniated and bulging discs. You can use this website to find a good quality doctor who specializes in spinal decompression therapy:

Dr. Jonathan Donath, DC, MS
Use a cervical pillow suited for your size and be sure to manage the HNP with a periodic Chiropractic adjustment.
It depends on the severity of the herniation on how well you are able to sleep, but what is most important is the position of your neck while you sleep. It is good to sleep with your neck in alignment with the rest of your spine. A pillow that is too big can cause stress on your neck. Another concern is how you sleep. Do you sleep on your side, back, or stomach? It is best to sleep on your back with support under your neck to keep the natural curve in position. Lastly, Chiropractic adjustments are very important to keep motion in your neck.
I recommend using a Tri-Core Cervical Support Pillow and sleeping on your back or side.
I believe it would be best to use a pillow that keeps your head and neck in a neutral position-not flexed or extended. That rule would be the same whether you’re sleeping on your side or back. I’d advise to not sleep on your stomach is it can make the disc worse.

Skylar Bakko, DC QNCP PAK BFM

The first question is, has the condition been evaluated and/or been treated by a Doctor of Chiropractic? If not, it should be! Everybody is different and every condition needs to be treated as appropriate to their individual problems.
1. You should try to lay facing up and then roll over gently onto either side.
2. Second, you should try to bring your knees toward your chest and gently curl your torso toward them.
3. Next, it is important to remember to alternate sides from time to time to prevent any unwanted imbalances.
4. Finally, it is important to consult your chiropractor for the best sleep practices as each situation may be unique to the severity of the herniation.
However you are able to sleep without pain is probably best. I would recommend keeping the neck in as neutral of a position as possible. I would not sleep with your head rotated.