• Stay Sleeping | Choosing a Pillow That Keeps Pain Away

    January 19, 2015 | By Tony Yong

    Getting a good night’s rest can often be as simple as choosing the right pillow. With so many options available now, it can be confusing as to what is the right pillow for you. Pillows that don’t quite fit the need of the sleeper can affect not only the neck, but also the shoulder and back as well. The right pillow should conform to the shape of the sleeper, not the other way around.

    A Good Pillow: How To Know When You’ve Found A Keeper

    Sleep Position and Ideal Pillow Choices

    The type of sleeper you are will also determine the right pillow for you.

    If you are a side sleeper, a pillow that is too soft or too thin will end up twisting your neck and head out of an ideal position. This will lead to a restless sleep. Subsequently, if the pillow is too hard and thick, it will strain your posture. Ultimately, the head and neck need to be aligned with the rest of the spine; it will exert the least amount of stress of the ligaments joints, discs, and muscles. When these structures are stressed, the result is stiffness, pain, and often headaches.

    If you sleep on your back, the pillow you choose should support the natural curve of your neck and cradle your head in the neutral alignment. Adequate support under your head, neck, and shoulders is important. The height of the pillow needs to be lower than those who sleep in the sideways position.

    Stomach sleepers have a different set of needs from those who sleep on their sides or back. The pillow needed for stomach sleepers should be relatively flat or no pillow at all; placing your head directly resting on the mattress could be the answer to a restful night sleep. Your head and neck should not be turned unnaturally to either side, as this will cause discomfort. Instead, try a flat pillow under the stomach to help keep the spine in neutral alignment.neck-neutral-position-300x300

    Reducing Your Pain at Night: Sleeping Position+Pillow Choice

    Neck pain – Avoid sleeping on your stomach, as you tend to rotate your neck. Instead, try sleeping on your side. It’s important to choose a pillow just thick enough to fill the space between the neck and mattress. Remember your head should be parallel to the mattress for best sleep quality. When lying on your back, your nose should be aligned with the middle of your chest. If it’s higher, a thinner pillow is needed. If it’s lower, choose a thicker pillow.

    Back pain – If you are used to sleeping on your back, put a pillow under the knees. This provides support for the lower back by decreasing the arch in the small of your back. This can lead to decreased muscle spasms. Avoid sleeping on your stomach which would also increase the lower back arch. If you are a side sleeper – place a pillow between your knees to discourage the top leg from falling forward and increasing the strain on the lower back.

    Shoulder pain – Side sleepers tend to roll the top shoulder forward if the pillow is too thin causing the shoulder to round forward due to lack of support. Try a thicker pillow. Avoid sleeping with the bottom arm tucked under the head. Instead try hugging another pillow.


    I’m Still Having Pain When Sleeping. What Now?

    Here at Innovation Physical Therapy, we’re here to help. And that means helping you get a good night’s sleep. Our highly skilled physiotherapists are trained to help uncover what’s holding you back from good sleep. Feel free to give our clinic a call. You’re body will thank you!