Dallas Orthopedic Spine Specialist Dr. Craig C. Callewart discusses nighttime neck and back pain prevention.
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.
Sleep Well for Less Pain
A comfortable mattress is key to reducing overnight discomfort and maximizing the benefits of restful sleep. 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 box spring for added support. A built-in “pillowtop” mattress or padded mattress top is comfortable to the hips and shoulders. 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 sell a sleeping roll that will also work.
Waterbed and Air Mattress Pain Prevention
If you choose to sleep on a waterbed, firmer is better. One problem with waterbeds is that the edge may be too soft to allow you to sit at a comfortable height, and hurt the back as you get in or out of bed.
An adjustable air mattress bed is another alternative that many people find helpful. One major advantage is that the firmness of the mattress can be changed, depending on how much support “feels right.”
How to Create an Orthopedic Pillow for Pain Prevention
Pillows need to be firm so they will not flatten out or sag during the night. Down are the best because the shape of the pillow can be easily changed. Pillows need to be thick when a person is laying on their side, and half the thickness when on their back. There are pillows which are thin in the center and 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.”
Perfect Your Pain-Free Sleep Positions
For back pain, the best position to sleep or rest is on your side with a pillow between the 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.
Injury Prevention Tips for Recliners and Adjustable Beds
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 the 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 mattress at the end of the bed.
Don’t Let Neck and Back Pain Affect the Quality of Your Sleep – Get Quality Care
Many of the orthopedic conditions which we commonly face today can be addressed with nonsurgical treatment. For serious back and spine problems, seek quality orthopedic care.