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 wear and tear that is related age, are not issues that 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 the way you sleep and the effects that this can have on your neck pain.
Finding The Best Sleeping Position For Your Neck
There are two sleeping positions that are easiest on your neck. They are sleeping on your back or on your side. When sleeping on your back, you want to have a rounded pillow to sleep on that will support your neck’s natural curve, and then a flatter pillow that provides your head with cushioning. You can achieve this by placing a small neck roll inside the pillow case of your softer, flatter pillow, or you can use a special pillow that comes with built-in neck support along with an indentation for resting your head in. 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 have a tendency 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 with promoting 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 in the morning feeling stiffness and pain.
If you tend to sleep on your side, make sure that your spine is kept straight. You should use a pillow that is higher underneath your neck compared to under your head.
Whenever you are 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 to 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 it side and your back is arched. Quite often our preferred sleeping positions get established early in life. So it can be something that is hard to change. Also, we don’t always wake up in the exact same position that we fall asleep with. However, it is worth it to try to start out sleeping on your side or back in a healthy and well-supported position.
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 sleeping problems that subjects had included non-restorative sleep, waking up too early in the morning, having problems staying asleep and difficulties 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 contribution to a very vicious cycle of sleep being disrupted by pain and then sleep problems themselves causing or adding to one’s existing pain.