Are you waking up with pain in the neck, stiffness in the morning, stabbing pains in the arms or back or headaches?
Waking up with these symptoms can leave you feeling irritable and tired throughout the day.
Is your night time routine what is causing your pain?
We discuss the dos and don’ts of your night time routine and contributing factors to neck pain such as pillow selection, sleeping positions and using your gadgets in bed prior to sleep.
Sleeping with the wrong pillow has been significantly linked to poor sleep and neck pain. Having the right pillow to avoid pain is a necessity for sleeping well and getting a good night’s rest. A suitable pillow is one that offers neck support and will position your neck in neutral alignment during sleep. Studies have (Ren et al. 2016 & Gordon et al. 2010) shown that pillow height elevation significantly increased average and peak pressures of the cranial and cervical regions and increased curvature of the cervical spine reflecting quality of sleep. Various structures in the neck (muscle, ligaments and joints) maybe stressed and irritated when sleeping with poor mechanics and can be worsened with pre-existing neck pain.
When it comes to pillow selection, there is no one size fits all rule. The decision is based on several factors which include the right pillow height, curvature and firmness for the person’s size, sleeping position, personal preference and comfort. Too firm a pillow won’t allow the neck to relax during sleep, where as too flat a pillow will put a strain on the neck.
Depending on your recovery stage from a neck injury, different pillows maybe better at a certain time of recovery.
Personal comfort and pain management are the best guides.
Sleeping position is a significant consideration when choosing the correct pillow:
When sleeping on back:
A low pillow is recommended for this position. Extra support with a small rolled towel in a pillow case under the neck can help maintain neutral neck alignment. Some pillows allow this with a roll-shaped area for the neck and a deeper, lower area for the head.
Some people find it more comfortable to tuck the pillow under the shoulders in this position, so the head if further up and the neck not flexed (bent forwards). This position may put the neck in a more extended position, and maybe more comfortable for people with muscle pain.
When sleeping on side:
Ensure your pillow is not too high to allow good alignment between your neck, head and shoulder. The best pillow will fill in space between the mattress and head/neck. Contour pillows are a good choice if your neck is thinner than your head. Resting one arm on a pillow and adding a pillow between the knees provides more support for the spine.
When sleeping on stomach:
This position isn’t recommended as it promotes the head and back to arch and often requires sustained head rotation which can stress the structures in the neck (i.e. compression of the joints). It is often difficult to change sleep patterns, but trying to fall asleep in another position is recommended. If not able, a flat pillow or no pillow at all is the best option with the hips and abdominals supported with a pillow to maintain natural spinal curves.
Night Time Routine
A poor night routine which may include reading in poor positions, checking emails or playing on your phone before bed maybe contributing to your neck pain.
Because of your head being tilted in this position, the support is no longer coming from your shoulder and your neck muscles will need to compensate to support the weight of your head which over 8 hours of sleep can cause a great deal of stress to those muscles and joints.
Tips to avoid neck pain from phone usage include:
1) raising the phone or mobile to eye level
2) minimise phone time at night
3) and taking frequent breaks.
For more information, please visit some of our previous health blog topics:
An experienced Physiotherapist can help your neck by assessing and diagnosing your condition and providing you a plan to manage your pain. We also provide lots of practical and sensible advice about posture and effective night routines to avoid placing excessive strain to your neck. A big part of our treatment is to provide hands on treatment to address potential imbalances in your neck muscles and exercises to promote good posture and strength.
To book with any Physiotherapists at myPhysioSA please contact us on 1300 189 289.