Queen West Physiotherapy - Life Long Good Health!

PILLOWS – Happy Sleeping!

What if there were a way you could reduce your neck pain by 75% or even 90 or 100% - How much more could you get out of life as a result?

Get a Good Night's Sleep! - Before You Buy a Pillow, scroll down and read these "Must Know" Tips That Promise to Improve your Sleep and Reduce Your Neck Pain

Four criteria for selecting and using the right pillow correctly - Read this article from Spine-health.com and learn how you can turn your pain-focused existence into a healthy and enjoyable life.

About Sleeping

Quality sleep is an elusive commodity for millions. The complex process of attaining a quality sleep pattern can be compromised by a number of factors that you may or may not have even considered. One such factor is simply the wrong pillow. Find out What Makes a Good Pillow and sleep better sooner.

Stress is an important factor when trying to physically get to sleep in the first place. When stress levels are high, muscles will be tense, blood flow is decreased, and the brain is overactive. This often leads to muscle tension in the neck, especially if the pillow being used is not comfortable and supportive. Aside from reducing stress, a comfortable, cozy, yet supportive environment,with low pressure and low shear is required in order to:

  • allow for muscular recovery
  • remove pressure from bony prominences(shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles)
  • and enable the musculo-skeletal system to relax

Alcohol and Sleep

One of many misconceptions about reducing stress and improving sleep, relates to consuming alcohol at night to aid the sleep process. Unfortunately, this is only a short term solution, as alcohol affects the natural melatonin produced, which is the hormone governing the sleep pattern. Although alcohol can sometimes facilitate the person to fall asleep, the sleeper will often wake after a few hours, and be unable to get back to sleep.

Other Factors Affecting Sleep

The reduction of stress will normally enable those who have difficulty staying asleep, to sleep for longer periods. This will restore sleep to what it is truly meant to be: a fully remedial and refreshing experience.

The average number of movements in sleep is approximately 50-80, although this can be reduced to 18-20 on the correct sleep surface. The human body has approximately 700 muscles, most of which need to relax during sleep! Certain muscles, such as calf muscles act as blood pumps and assist circulation during sleep, but most muscles associated with the spine should relax when sleeping.

Insomnia, a total lack of sleep, can be attributed in many cases to a poor or unsuitable mattress, or even something as simple as an incorrect pillow. Many insomniacs are simply over-sensitive to poor skeletal support, shoulder compression, or dysfunction of the cervical spine (neck). Stress related insomnia can be relieved when the muscular system is allowed to recover during sleep, which will normally give longer periods of sleep to these sufferers.

Effects of Pillows on Sleep

Choosing the right pillow is very important in achieving a good night's rest. A good pillow will support the skull and neck without applying undue pressure, as it conforms to the exact shape of the sleeper, thus spreading the weight evenly and uniformly along the vertebrae.

Pillows are a constant cause of frustration for many. Aside from aggravating the neck, many pillows can affect the shoulder as well. The shoulder should not be placed at 90 degrees to the mattress as this may trigger spasms in the trapezius muscles. The trapezius muscles perform a variety of actions, including acting as a platform for elevating the skull, so it is very important that they relax completely during sleep. If the shoulder is placed slightly forward on the mattress, in front of the sleeper, assuming the mattress can accommodate this position, the risk of applying pressure on the trapezius muscles and forcing the scapula (shoulder blade) towards the spine is reduced. In contrast, when positioned in the 90 degree position, sleepers may wake up with neck and upper arm pain and altered sensation to the little and ring fingers.

If a pillow applies excessive pressure to the neck in the back sleeping position, particularly the C2, C3, vertebrae, then treatment that has been provided will almost always be compromised. Pressure can irritate the nerve sheaths, sensitive muscles, and facet joints in the neck. Equally, if the joints are not resting easy, the inflammatory process may be sustained and any recovery will be much more difficult.

Shoulder compression on a firm surface will often force the scapula (shoulder blade) towards the junction of the upper spine and neck, and affect the C6/C7 vertebrae. The nerve pathway at this site travels down the arm, and causes either upper arm pain or pins and needles in the little and ring fingers or both, especially if there is already a problem in this area.

Shoulder problems are also often caused by referred pain from the neck. Therefore, stabilizing the neck during sleep is of paramount importance! Put some thought into choosing a good pillow - In addition to finally getting a great night's sleep, you may end up saving yourself from neck and shoulder pain too!

Supporting research can be found in:
Waking cervical pain and stiffness, headache, scapular or arm pain: Gender and age effects. Gordon SJ, Trott P, Grimmer KA (2002): Australian Journal of Physiotherapy 48: 9-15.

What new things will you do when you finally start living WITHOUT NECK PAIN?

At Queen West Physio, we suggest you consider trying one of the following three pillows:

You can choose to purchase these products right at our clinic!

These recommendations are based on years of feedback from many satisfied clients!

About Pillows - Don't Buy One Unless It Meets These 4 Criteria

A Good Pillow is designed to keep the spine in natural alignment.

The human neck curves slightly forward (to sustain the weight of the head when upright), and it is very important to maintain this curve when in a resting position. If the height of the pillow is too high when sleeping sideways or on the back, the neck is bent abnormally forward or to the side, causing muscle strain on the back of the neck and shoulders. This type of position may also cause narrowing of the air pipe, resulting in obstructed breathing, and sometimes snoring, which can hinder sleep. Conversely, if the height of the pillow is too low, the neck muscles can also be strained.

Based on the body's measurements and personal preference, the pillow should maintain a height of 4 to 6 inches, properly supporting the head and neck (and shoulders when lying on back).

A Pillow must feel comfortable.

A large part of what makes a good pillow is personal preference. If the pillow feels comfortable, it is likely to help one relax, get a good night's sleep, and feel well rested in the morning. The pillow's surface can also be a source of comfort - some people prefer a pillowcase with a cool, smooth feeling (such as cotton), some prefer warmth (such as flannel), etc.

A Pillow should be adjustable.

To help the pillow conform to various sleep positions, it is best if the pillow can be adjusted to fit the unique shape and curves and sleeping position of the user. A pillow should mold to one's individual shape and alleviate any pressure points.

Pillows for each sleep position.

One's sleep position will dictate how a traditional mattress top pillow can be used to provide the appropriate support.

  • Using a pillow while sleeping on one's back. When lying on the back, a pillow should support the natural curvature of the cervical spine, with adequate support under the head, neck, and shoulders. When sleeping on the back, the height of the pillow should be lower than in the sideways position. Placing a pillow or two beneath the knees further alleviates any back strain, and is the gentlest position on the back.
  • Using a pillow while sleeping on one's side. When lying on one's side, a pillow should support the head and neck such that the spine maintains a straight and natural horizontal line. Weight should be evenly distributed so as not to create unnatural bending or pressure. Some people may prefer placing a small pillow or rolled up towel under their waist while lying on the side for additional support.
  • Using a pillow while sleeping on one's stomach. If sleeping or resting on the stomach is preferred, the pillow should be relatively flat, or the head should rest directly on the mattress, so that the head and neck aren't turned unnaturally to either side. In this position, it is often best to place another relatively flat pillow under the stomach to help the spine keep its natural alignment.

Over time, cotton filled pillows will begin to lose their firmness and no longer support the neck adequately. The pillows that we recommend, do not have such a problem and therefore, last a very long time.

It is important to know that your neck may hurt a little during the first few days of using any new pillow because it is still adjusting to the contour, but you could look forward to extreme comfort after that!  View Our Pillow Selection and choose the right pillow for you.

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