Like so many other things related to neck pain, just one ounce of prevention could be worth at least one pound of cure. Of course, it is also true that some things that cause neck pain, like age-related wear and tear, are not issues you can control. However, there are also many different things that you can do to help minimize your risk for neck pain. A good starting point is looking at how you sleep and how this can affect your neck pain.
Finding The Best Sleeping Position For Your Neck
Two sleeping positions are easiest on your neck. They are sleeping on your back or your side. When sleeping on your back, you want a rounded pillow supporting your neck’s natural curve and a flatter pillow that cushions your head. You can achieve this by placing a small neck roll inside the pillowcase of your softer, flatter pillow, or you can use a special pillow with built-in neck support and an indentation for resting your head. The following are some other tips that back- and side-sleepers can use:
- Try sleeping on a feather pillow. They conform very easily to the shape of your neck. However, over time, a feather pillow will tend to collapse. About once a year, you will need to replace it.
If you prefer to sleep on a feather pillow.
- Another option that you can try is to use a pillow with a traditional shape that also has memory foam in it that will conform to your neck and head’s contours. There are also some circular pillows made out of memory foam. Memory foam pillow manufacturers claim that they help promote proper spine alignment.
The Shredded Memory Foam side sleeper pillow by Coop Home Goods is a very heavy-duty pillow that will keep your neck in the perfect position for a good night’s sleep.
- You should avoid using a pillow that is too stiff or too high. These pillows will keep your neck flexed all night long and can cause you to wake up feeling stiffness and pain.
- If you tend to sleep on your side, make sure that your spine is kept straight. It would be best to use a higher pillow underneath your neck than under your head.
- When riding in a car, train, or plane, or just reclining while watching TV, using a horseshoe-shaped pillow will provide your neck with the proper support and help keep your head from dropping over to one side when you doze off. However, if your pillow behind your neck is too large, your head will be forced forward.
- Sleeping on your stomach can be hard on your spine. That is because your neck is turned on its side, and your back is arched. Quite often, our preferred sleeping positions get established early in life. So, it can be hard to change. Also, we don’t always wake up in the same position that we fall asleep with. However, starting sleeping on your side or back in a healthy and well-supported position is worth it.
Going Beyond Your Sleeping Position
Research shows that sleep itself, in addition to your sleeping position, can play a critical role when it comes to musculoskeletal pain, which includes shoulder and neck pain. Researchers in a 2008 study compared the musculoskeletal pain of 4,140 healthy women and men, both without and with sleeping problems. The subjects’ sleeping problems included non-restorative sleep, waking up too early in the morning, difficulty staying, and difficulty falling asleep. It was found that individuals reporting severe or moderate problems in three or more of the four categories had a significantly higher chance of developing chronic musculoskeletal pain in one year compared to individuals who reported no or few sleep problems. One potential explanation for this is that a sleep disturbance may disrupt the healing and muscle relaxation that usually takes place during sleep. In addition, it is also well established that sleep can be disrupted by pain, which can contribute to a very vicious cycle of sleep being disrupted by pain and then sleep problems themselves, causing or adding to one’s existing pain.