She was fuming…
As soon as I told her that I was 99% sure her new pillow was the source of her new neck pain and headache, she looked at me like I was crazy.
“But it can’t be. I just bought the pillow and it is advertised everywhere as THE BEST pillow for improved sleep and endorsed by a sleep foundation.”
After explaining that the pillow is the only variable I can find in her daily routine that could bring on such sudden and severe symptoms for no apparent reason, she agreed to give her old pillow another try.
After 2 treatments and going back to her old pillow, her severe pain and headache that had been plaguing her for days was suddenly gone.
Believe it or not, how you sleep is a common source of pain. It’s the only activity you can do for hours straight without taking a break, so it’s important that you “sleep correctly”.
The following tips I have found to be most successful in helping my patients get to the source of their pain instead of covering it up and masking it with pain killers or heating pads.
I hear this all the time…
Contrary to what most people believe a hard mattress and thin pillow can be the absolute worst thing for your spine and joints especially if you sleep on your side. Your body has curves and a hard mattress and one pillow leaves you completely unsupported causing your spine to conform to the mattress instead of the mattress conforming and supporting you.
When you sleep on your back, the pillow is needed to cushion the back of your head as well as support the natural inward curve of your neck…i.e. the space between the mattress and your neck. By placing the pillow under your shoulder blades, your neck remains unsupported and the it pushes your chin forward creating tightness in the neck muscles and compression of the joints in the neck.
This is a common mistake for side sleepers. Placing the pillow under your head and having it end by your ear or jaw leaves your neck unsupported and sagging toward the mattress all night long. Your spine does not like sagging and needs to be supported. Push the pillow under your head and all the way to the top of your shoulder so your neck is supported while you sleep. Having a thin pillow also does not fill in the contour of your neck and maintain neutral alignment so make sure your pillow is the appropriate height as well as density.
This is the king or queen of mistakes in sleeping. If you want chronic pain or stiffness in your neck then sleep this way! When you sleep on your stomach you have to turn or rotate your head to the side so you can breathe. By placing a pillow under your head while it is rotated you are also placing your neck in extension, or tilted back, position. This is a position that compresses and jams all the joints in your neck to the side your rotated to together and trust me…joints in your spine don’t like to be compressed. Preferably you should change your sleeping position to on your back or side. But I know after years of treating patients that stomach sleepers are very attached to being on their stomach and don’t like to change. So, if you MUST sleep on your stomach then do your neck a favor and ditch the pillow or slide it under your stomach and chest to give your spine some support.
There you have it… my 4 most common tips that have shown to help most of my patients not only decrease their pain but also improve their sleep. If sleepless nights are a problem, check your sleep position for one of these issues because discomfort or pain will prevent you from getting your zzz’s.
Here’s to a good’s night’s sleep!