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Sitting and Sleeping with Spondylolisthesi

11 May 2023

Spondylolisthesis is a relatively common medical condition that affects the spine, impairing its ability to function properly and often resulting in severe pain and increased discomfort.

Though it can occur at any age, the occurrence rate of this condition increases with age, particularly up to 18 years, where statistics show the prevalence to be approximately 6-7%.

For sufferers of spondylolisthesis, everyday life can become incredibly hard and uncomfortable as activities that involve bending or twisting of the spine (such as sitting and sleeping) suddenly cause great amounts of pain and discomfort.

But don't despair; there are ways to make life manageable again!

In this article, we will discuss different sitting and sleeping positions for people who experience spondylolisthesis, as well as adaptive furniture solutions and lifestyle changes they should consider.

So grab a cup of tea (or coffee), pull up a chair, and let's talk spondylolisthesis!

What Is Spondylolisthesis?

Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which one of the vertebrae in the spine slides out of its original position, usually onto the vertebra below. It is a common spinal disorder with varying severity depending on how far out of place the vertebra has slipped. The condition commonly impacts adolescents and young adults, especially those involved in sports.

What Causes it?

The most common causes include genetics, muscle weakness, injury from trauma, birth issues such as spina bifida or osteoporosis, and years of wear and tear on the structures of the vertebral column, partly due to aging.

What are the Symptoms?

Symptoms can vary in severity, with most cases manifesting as pain felt in the lower back and extending down the leg. Nerve root damage from Spondylolisthesis can cause radiating pain predominant in one side of the hip or buttock area. It can even cause numbness or weakness in leg muscles, along with pain and burning sensations.

Today we will look at one of the non-invasive methods of managing spondylolisthesis: maintaining good posture.

How To Sit Comfortably With Spondylolisthesis

Sitting in the wrong position can put extra pressure on the vertebrae discs, creating greater discomfort and escalating spondylolisthesis pain. To keep the vertebrae in proper alignment and reduce strain, the best way to sit is:

With a straight back or slightly reclined at approximately 100-110 degrees.

Be sure to also keep your feet flat on the floor

Ensure that your hips are level, and avoid crossing your legs

The most important part is to Make sure that your lower back is adequately supported with the seat's lumbar support or an external cushion

If your chair doesn't have proper lower back support, you can add cushions, pillows, or a rolled-up towel between your vertebrae to make sure that your spine has somewhere to rest on without messing its natural curvature

The chair height should be adjusted so that elbows rest comfortably at a 90-degree angle when typing or writing

The neck stays in its natural position with shoulders rolled back and relaxed, not hunched forward

Avoid leaning forward, twisting, or bending, as this can put extra stress on the vertebrae and discs in your spine.


The vertebrae should always be aligned in a neutral posture to enable it to redistribute the weight and reduce the abnormal pressure and strain on the lower spine.

You should always have good lower back support on your seat.

Try Out Different Neutral Back Postures Periodically

Neutral back posture refers to a position where your head, neck, upper back, and lower back are aligned in such a way that there is minimal strain on your spine and other supporting muscles. Maintaining this posture can also improve blood and oxygen circulation throughout your body, which can lead to increased energy levels during the day.

Now let's take a look at three different types of neutral postures that you can adopt during the day:

Reclined Sitting: Reclined sitting is when you lean slightly backward (105–120 °) on the backrest while maintaining a straight spine position with your feet firmly planted on the ground or on a footrest in front of you if necessary.

Declined Sitting: To achieve the declined sitting posture, you should tilt your chair forward slightly and settle into a downward slope of around 20° on the seat pan. This will put your buttocks higher than the knee level, with a greater than 90° angle between the torso and thighs.

Your torso should remain straight or slightly reclined while your legs stay in a vertical position.

Standing: Sitting for too long can be a hazard to our health, so the best way to stay healthy is to switch between sitting and standing. Not only does standing provide physical benefits like increasing muscle activity and improving posture, but it also boosts energy and focus levels.

Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Ensure your back is straight and in line with your legs, neck, torso, head, and shoulders, with the arms hanging comfortably to the side. The core should also be engaged to maintain a neutral spine.

Investing in an Ergonomic Chair

By leveraging the latest advances in spinal support technology and materials, ergonomic chairs help maintain optimal spine alignment and promote good posture, reducing discomfort and strain on the back.

An ergonomic chair with optimal lumbar support will distribute your body's weight evenly throughout its surface, preventing pressure on individual muscles and, at the same time, giving good lower back support, which is precisely what patients suffering from this condition require.

What's more, they come with features like adjustable backrests, flexible armrests, adjustable height, etc., that allow you to personalize your seating experience according to your body shape and size, which is perfect for correcting any asymmetries or misalignments in your posture that can cause further damage.

Not only is comfort improved, but ergonomic chairs can also positively impact productivity by promoting a healthier work environment with improved concentration and reduced fatigue levels from sitting for extended periods.

Try out a Back Brace

By providing a supporting barrier that prevents the discs from shifting further out, users of the brace are able to get great relief when sitting and sleeping.

Different braces are available to address varying degrees of this disorder, so consulting a doctor is a must before opting for one. Even better would be a custom-made brace – tailored specifically for your particular body shape and orthopedic requirements.

How to Sleep If You Have Spondylolisthesis?

With spondylolisthesis, you might find certain sleeping positions uncomfortable or even painful, which can make it difficult to get the restful downtime your body needs.

So it is important to try different sleeping positions in order to find one that reduces stress on your lower back and joints. Here are just a few suggestions

Sleeping on Your Back

Sleeping on your back is often touted as the best position for pressure relief from the lower back. According to the National Sleep Foundation, this position helps evenly distribute your body weight, reducing strain and stress on particular areas of the spine.

While it is generally thought to be an ideal posture for your sleep health, it is also one of the least natural positions and can be difficult to adapt to. To alleviate discomfort, add a pillow below your knees so they can stay in their natural position and maintain the natural curve of the lower back.

You can also place a supportive pillow or rolled towel under your lower back for extra comfort and support. With some practice, you'll find yourself naturally gravitating toward this position.

Sleeping In a Reclined Position

If you're looking for another way to sleep better and reduce stress and strain on your spine, consider trying a reclined position with your legs and torso slightly raised at an angle.

To ease into this comfortable position, simply place a few pillows to prop up your upper body and some beneath your knees for support. You can also invest in special pillows or sleep wedges if you feel like additional support is necessary.

However, if you cannot seem to find the right amount of comfort in these makeshift arrangements, consider investing in an adjustable bed or even a reclining chair.

Recliners may give you several customization options but may feel restrictive in terms of space which is not comfortable for longer sleeping periods. So an adjustable bed may be preferable in the end.

Not only are adjustable beds super practical and customizable, but they also come with features designed specifically for people with back problems, such as Zero Gravity Mode. This mode takes your spine into a neutral position where it reduces the pull on spinal muscles, relieves pressure on vertebral discs, and improves blood circulation to the lower extremities. This results in less tension, improved comfort, and alignment of the spine and other joints.

However, it may take some experimentation to find the ultimate position that offers relief from pain.

Avoid Sleeping on Your Stomach or Your Side

Sleeping on your stomach or side may seem comfortable at the time, but people suffering from spondylolisthesis should be aware that sleeping in these positions without enough support (like a pillow between your knees) can actually put extra stress on your muscles, neck, hips, and spine, which is dangerous. Sleeping in this posture can cause your spine to press down too hard on one part, exacerbating the pain and discomfort.


While there is no surefire way to prevent spondylolisthesis, you can start by maintaining good sleeping and sitting posture, taking regular breaks from extended periods of sitting or standing, switching to ergonomic furniture, and keeping your body flexible with some stretching and light exercise.

If you already have the condition, anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help ease pain, as well as physical therapy exercises that stretch your spine and improve stability. Surgery isn't usually necessary except for severe cases that don't respond to more conservative treatment methods. With proper management, most people will experience relief at some point and eventually be able to manage their symptoms successfully over the long term.