July 1, 2016
Several of our clients suffer from uncomfortable aches and pains, either long term or short term. Oftentimes, those pains are never so obvious as at night time, when you're trying to fall asleep and simply cannot get comfortable. Note: if you've been experiencing back and neck pain for over 4 weeks, it's recommended you make an appointment with a doctor, as there may be a serious issue at hand. Less than 4 weeks of back pain is typical of small pulls or strains that will normally heal themselves through rest and some assistance, so please continue reading to learn what those aides are. If you already have one of the back and neck pain experts at the Finger Lakes Bone & Joint Center helping you with your persistent back, neck, and shoulder pain, then please keep reading as well. Here are a few ways our patients can position themselves for a good night sleep regardless of the pain they have:
Not terribly uncommon, neck pain can be addressed during your regularly or unregularly scheduled sleep in such ways as: Avoid using too high or too stiff a pillow. Harvard Health Publications claims if your pillow is either or both of these things, this can keep neck muscles tensed and flexed during the night, which leads to a morning of stiffness or soreness. Instead, try a memory foam support pillow. These pillows are typically shaped to form to the contours of your neck and shoulders that will give you individualized support. Memory foam manufacturers also make different styles of pillows that claim to better support back or side sleepers, depending on the sleeper's preferred position. For Side Sleepers who experience neck pain, use a pillow that has higher neck support than head support to maintain a level spine (so a pillow made especially with built-in support for side sleepers, or slide a neck roll into the pillowcase of a flatter pillow). When traveling as a passenger or even while watching TV in a recliner or on the couch, a horseshoe shaped pillow can support your neck while you relax. The cushion will keep your head balanced so in case you doze off your neck muscles won't strain as your head droops to one side. However, if you do get a horseshoe pillow, make certain it's not too cushioned in the back: that could push your head forward and defeat the purpose.
Lower Back Pain
A very common problem, lower back pain can be alleviated by altering your sleeping position: Back Sleepers: If you naturally sleep on your back and are suffering from lower back pain, take an extra pillow and tuck it under your knees. The lift action to your legs helps maintain the natural curvature to your spine, taking stress away from your lower back. Side Sleepers: Instead of sleeping board straight, bend your knees up towards your chest a bit and place a pillow between them. Again, this aide helps maintain the natural position of your spine, so your muscles can relax and heal during the night. Stomach Sleepers: This sleeping position is hard on a back. The Mayo Clinic recommends stomach sleepers to try and change their sleeping position to either back or side, but if thatproves difficult, placing a pillow under the pelvis and lower abdomen can help reduce the strain inflicted on the spine. In addition, a stomach sleeper could also try sleeping without a pillow under the head if they've experienced extra strain on their back.
Ah, the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is the most common cause of night pain in the shoulder. Typically, the rotator tends to wear out and degenerate, and your body is rarely more aware of it than at night. There are a few things you can do to try and alleviate the discomfort:
- Sleeping in a recliner (don't forget that horseshoe shaped neck pillow)
- Switching to a shoulder support pillow
- Over the counter Anti inflammatory medications or juices such as Tart Cherry Juice
- Physical therapy
These are some ways you can treat your night time shoulder pain, but depending on the stage of rotator cuff tendonitis, surgery may be your best option. If that is the case, you've come to the right place. If you feel like you need professional advice and a plan of attack for your night time pains, set up an appointment with the bone and joint experts at the Finger Lakes Bone & Joint Center. Together we can help you manage your pain and get back to having a good nights' sleep. References: "Say "good Night" to Neck Pain." Harvard Health. N.p., 27 Oct. 2015. Web. 13 June 2016. Luks, Howard J., MD. "Rotator Cuff Tears and Shoulder Pain at Night." Howard J Luks MD. N.p., 06 July 2015. Web. 13 June 2016. "Back Pain." Slide Show: Sleeping Positions That Reduce Back Pain. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 June 2016.