A good night’s sleep is absolutely essential for optimal health – physical, emotional, and mental. Unfortunately, many people wake up feeling unrested and achy because of the undue stress that is put on their spine during the night.
The 33 bones of the spine are the central hub of the skeletal system and also the nervous system, as all nerves pass through the spine. Any damage or twisting of the spine can cause pain in unexpected parts of the body and even cause problems with internal organs.
As chiropractors, we frequently see patients with back pain that is not associated with an obvious injury. For such patients, the answer is often in the way they sleep. The following suggestions often help to alleviate pain and improve sleep.
The goal, in a word, is alignment.
Sleeping on your stomach is the worst position for your back. If our goal is alignment, stomach sleeping is the antithesis of that. Not only does it cause overt curvature of the spine, but many stomach sleepers also prop their arms under their heads, in addition to using pillows, even further increasing the curve and straining the neck.
Side and back positioning are best if properly propped with pillows to maintain the ideal alignment while you rest.
The goal for the head pillow is to keep the head and neck in alignment with the rest of the spinal column. A pillow that is too fluffy will hold your head at an awkward tilted angle. A medium to thin pillow, depending on your body, is best. Prop the pillow a little under your shoulders, as well.
For some people, an added round pillow or rolled-up towel under the neck could give additional support. Every part of your spine should be touching the bed or pillow, not floating in the air, so to speak.
When lying on your back, put a pillow or two under your knees to help relax the spine. When lying on your side, a body pillow laid along the length of your body is very helpful. Put your upper arm across the pillow to prevent your shoulders from being tilted and put your upper leg over the pillow or slip the pillow beneath your knees to keep your hips aligned.
An old mattress can do a lot of damage to your back, but the firmness or softness that is best for you depends somewhat on your body type. If you are curvy, that is to say, your hips are wider than your torso, a firm mattress may cause misalignment in the hips; a less firm mattress that allows your hips to sink in a bit could be the better choice for you. If your hips are equally proportionate to your torso, a firm mattress would probably be better.
Your weight may also affect what mattress best keeps your spine in alignment. Keep that goal in mind as you evaluate your bed. If your mattress is too soft and you cannot buy another right away, a board placed under the mattress could help give you a little more support.
Orthopedic beds, specially designed for back support, are a great option if you have chronic back issues caused by sleep that you can’t seem to correct.
How chiropractic care helps
You may find that making these changes to your sleeping patterns alleviates your discomfort. If so, wonderful! But if discomfort persists, come in to see us. You may just need some adjustment to correct previous damage so that you can start out fresh with good sleeping habits and a good, healthy back. Call us at (305) 389-9040 to see how we can help you sleep well and wake up in the morning feeling refreshed.