Sleeping Posture and the Effects on Neck Pain


                When patients come into our office with neck or upper back pain, a frequently asked question is, “How do you sleep at night, and how many pillows do you use?” We ask this because many of our patients have poor sleeping habits that can be contributing to either chronic neck pain or presenting as an acute injury.

                Proper sleep and proper posture while sleeping play a very important role in the body's recovery and healing process, because when we sleep, we are allowing our body to recuperate and rest in its natural weightless position. When we sleep with poor posture either on the stomach, in a fetal position in a ball, or with 2 or more pillows behind the head causes the body’s joints, soft tissue, and nervous system to be put under immense stress and strain not allowing the recovery period causing pain and stiffness in the morning. This may also cause pain to radiate into other parts of the body such as the shoulders.

                Many side sleeps and stomach sleeps do not have proper ergonomic pillows or the proper sleeping posture which not only puts stress on the neck, but the upper extremity as well. Many of our patients we see also have shoulder pain, as well as neck pain, due to putting a lot of pressure on the shoulder in an improper sleeping posture. With some simple at home fixes, people with neck pain can experience relief and improve their overall posture.

 1.) Ergonomic pillow: The first fix is very simple and is the easiest to acquire. A proper ergonomic orthopedic pillow is a very important tool to help assist the body into the proper posture while sleeping at night. Some of the best pillows are, Back pillows and Side sleeping pillows by Tempurpedic.

 2.) Sleep on Back or Side/ Posture Awareness: The next is a little harder for some and easier for others. When we sleep the spine must be kept in a neutral position or the recovery period is not effective. Sleeping on the back or side keeps the spine aligned, but some people are stomach or “fetal position” sleepers and find themselves tossing and turning throughout the night. Proper sleeping posture is important, but it can be difficult to learn that's why we must be conscious of it before we go to bed and use the tools such as ergonomic sleeping pillows and pillows between the legs for support to keep the body in its neutral position.

Dr. Spencer Corbin

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