If you suffer from neck and/or back pain you often suffer from poor sleep as well. The two conditions conspire against you in a vicious cycle: poor sleep prevents you from getting needed rest and time to heal from skeletal issues and the increased pain keeps you from sleeping well. It turns out that posture is critical in alleviating pain, reducing inflammation, and increasing mobility – but not just while you’re awake. A good sleep posture that keeps your skeleton straight and aligned and your neck in its natural position will help reduce neck and back pain. Pillows are an excellent aid to accomplish good sleep posture.

Sleep Posture For Neck Pain

The two best positions for sleeping with chronic neck pain, according to Healthbeat from the Harvard Medical School, are either on your back or side. Use pillows to support your neck and head but stay away from high or stiff pillows that keep your head in an unnatural position during the night – these cause the muscles in your neck to constantly flex for position all night long and you can awaken with neck spasms and pain from your pillow! There are many pillows available that are excellent for promoting good sleep posture: feather pillows, memory foam pillows, cervical pillows and horseshoe-shaped pillows all have useful features for different needs.

If you sleep on your back you will need a rounded pillow to conform to and support your neck while your head should rest on a flatter pillow. Feather pillows are good for this purpose as they are easy to shape but they do flatten over time and need to be replaced annually. Memory foam pillows come in standard pillow shapes and contoured cervical styles. In each case they will conform to your neck and head to support your neck and keep your head in an appropriate position throughout the night. Some memory foam cervical pillows have been designed by the manufacturer to help align the spine while you sleep.

If you sleep on your side, choose a pillow that will be higher under your neck than under your head. Contoured pillows are good for this – again, you want to keep your head and neck in a natural position that will keep your spine straight.

Sleeping in vehicles present other issues: in a car, a bus, on a train, or in a plane – sleeping posture under all of these conditions is just as important as at home in your bed. Bring a horseshoe-shaped pillow to support your neck whether laying back flat against a seat, or turning to lay sideways.

Sleep Posture for Back Pain

The best sleeping position for back pain is on your side. Again, pillows provide the trick in keeping your spine and pelvis aligned. When you lie down, your shoulder and side should have full contact with the mattress. Pull your legs up with a pillow between your knees – this is what will align your spine correctly. A small pillow between your waist and the mattress provides additional comfort and support, as does a pillow behind your back. Switch sleeping on your left and right sides on different nights to prevent your spine from curving one direction.

Sleeping in the fetal position is very good for your back if you suffer from herniated discs or disc compression. By pulling your spine up when you curl up you are opening space between your vertebrae and relieving pressure on the discs.

Although sleeping on your side is best for back pain, some people have other conditions or lifetime habits they find difficult to change – of sleeping on their stomachs or flat on their backs. Strategic use of pillows  can also make these positions work. If you have degenerative disc disease you may sleep on your stomach with a pillow under your stomach and pelvis to take stress off your back – this however, can be hard on your neck. If you like to sleep on your back, lie flat and straight, with a pillow under your knees to keep the natural curve of your back – an additional small pillow in the curve of your spine can also help with this.

Best Sleep Posture for Both Neck and Back Pain

If you suffer from both neck and back pain, then sleeping on your side with a pillow to support the curve of your neck, and a pillow between your knees to keep your hips, pelvis, and spine aligned is the overall best posture for you. Optionally, a small pillow in the curve of your waste may be needed for additional comfort, as well as a pillow to lean against. Again, you will want to switch sides on different nights to prevent curving of your spine. In all cases, your choice of pillows is critical, and we can help with that. Feel free to contact us for assistance in choosing the right pillows for your particular neck and back needs.

Resources:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/say-good-night-to-neck-pain

https://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-sleep/best-sleeping-position-for-lower-back-pain

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11529803

Adults