Just as the mind needs a good night’s sleep to work well the next day, muscles need sleep to recover from soreness. If you sleep well, you will have less pain the next day. Your muscles will be less sore, and you’ll be mentally better able to deal with the pain. It’s important to know what is the best pillow and bed setup to get that restful sleep and keep your days pain free.
What Bed Setup is Best for Avoiding Neck and Back Pain?
You need to have a comfortable mattress. For most people this means a firm mattress – one without lumps or sags. If your mattress is old, you may need to place a piece of plywood between your mattress and the box springs for added support. A built-in “pillow top” is comfortable to the hips and shoulders; otherwise, a padded mattress top may be purchased. A mattress should be rotated every 6 months to prevent lumpiness. The height of the bed should allow you to sit comfortably on the edge of the bed – better too high than low.
A person needs most support from a mattress across the chest and abdomen. Placing a folded bath towel under the mattress sheet will provide additional support. Physical therapists and some stores will sell a sleeping roll that will also work.
You can use a waterbed, if it is firm. One problem with waterbeds is the edge may be too soft to allow you to sit at a comfortable height, and hurt the back as you get in/out of bed.
An adjustable air mattress bed is another alternative that many people find helpful. It has be the advantage that the firmness of the mattress can be changed, depending on how much support “feels right.”
The Best Pillow Choices for Restful Sleep
Pillows need to be firm so they will not flatten out (sag) during the night. Down are the best because a person can change the shape of the pillow. Pillows need to be thick when a person is laying on their side, and then half the thickness when on their back. Pillows are sold that are thin in the center one-third and thick on the end one-thirds, and these work well for some people. To firm your pillow, try a flatly folded towel in the pillowcase. Rolling a hand towel and placing it in the pillow case along the edge will provide a support for the curve of the neck and create an “orthopedic pillow.”
For back pain, the best position to sleep or rest is on your side with a pillow between bent knees, and one tucked behind the back so you can roll back against the pillow. Alternatively, flat on your back with a pillow under your knees will provide relief to the back and legs. Avoid sleeping on your stomach which twists the back.
For neck pain, try sleeping without a pillow or with a special pillow. Avoid sleeping on your stomach.
Recliners can be helpful because they allow the back and neck to go into a relaxed position. Unfortunately, some people hurt themselves coming off the recliner. It is best to move slowly and slide the pelvis forward, and don’t use the arms to pull forward.
Adjustable beds help because lying completely flat in bed is hard on the hips and back. A simple way to elevate the feet (or head) is to place a 4” thick book between the box springs and the mattress at the end of the bed.