Align your spine in your sleep
Chiropractor Greg Sher has patients coming to him with neck pain often. Many have no idea why the neck pain started. One of the first things he investigates is how people sleep. Why? Because ideally we are asleep for about a third of our life, and the positions we assume while sleeping, as well as the bed and pillows we use, can affect our spine and result in injuries. Greg explains:
Sleeping posture…why is it so important?
Our spine is designed to be maintained in a neutral position. It is most relaxed in this position, with minimal stress through the muscles and structures, allowing proper rest and recovery. Any sustained position outside of neutral places unnecessary stress on the joints and surrounding musculature, which can lead to pain and dysfunction.
Does your spine stay in neutral whilst you are asleep?
If you are a back or side sleeper, with the correct pillow, you are likely to be able to maintain a neutral spine whilst sleeping. If you sleep on your side, a handy tip is to put a pillow between the knees to maintain a more neutral pelvis. Unfortunately, tummy sleepers will struggle to maintain neutral alignment, because their head is twisted to one side in order to breath.
A quick and easy “cure” for this is to get a long pillow (otherwise known as a body pillow). Lie on your side, and place the bottom end of the pillow between your knees, while simultaneously hugging the top end of the pillow .You can also roll slightly onto the pillow, which can simulate the feeling of lying on your tummy, without putting extra stress on your low back and neck.
How can you check if your head and neck are in neutral?
A quick and easy way is to get someone else to have a look at you. Lie down as if you were sleeping and ask your friend or partner to see if your head is at 90 degrees to the pillow (this is true of both back and side sleepers). If the answer is yes, your pillow is probably ok for you, however if the answer is clearly no, then you may be putting your spine at risk every night when you go to bed.
What can I do about it?
With the correct pillow and mattress support it is possible to retrain your sleeping posture. I like the Complete Sleeprrr pillow (a memory foam pillow). It is both height adjustable, and is specifically designed to match the contours of your neck and shoulders, allowing full support whether you are a side or a back sleeper. It is important to make sure you get the height right, and that is why we recommend a height adjustable pillow.
On waking up, do a few loosening up exercises in bed, and then roll onto your side and get up carefully. You spine may feel “stiff” after being still all night, so just like some cars, we should be concentrating on warming up before just jumping into our daily routine.