Waking up with a stiff neck?

Are you waking up with significant neck stiffness on a daily basis? Your pillow may be the culprit. Your neck or cervical spine should have a nice flowing forward curvature called a lordosis, which bends in an opposite direction from the backwards or kyphotic curvature in your mid-back or thoracic spine. One way to look at the neck curvature, is to compare it to the shape of a bow used in Archery, with the string facing backwards and representing the muscles of the back of the neck and the curve of the bow facing forwards and representing the bones of the cervical spine.

Your pillow is often the source of neck pain because of it’s shape. If it’s a traditional pillow with the thickest part in the center, then there is no support offered to the center of the curve of the neck, which is supported by the outer portion of the pillow. In fact, the thicker the pillow the more the head is pushed forward, resulting in a flattening of the neck curvature. When this happens, the neck muscles become activated and tighten in an attempt to maintain the lordotic curve of the neck. When this occurs over the course of the multiple hours that we sleep, the muscles of the neck become fatigued and will result in soreness in the morning. As much as we try to position the pillow directly under the neck by scrunching it up with our hands, we soon lose this position of support after we fall asleep and start moving.

The answer might be a shaped pillow or “Cervical Pillow”, as they are called. These pillows can be very effective in eliminating morning neck stiffness, because they cradle the head in a slight depression in the center of the pillow and support the neck with increased bulk around the edges of the pillow and more importantly under the neck.

While cervical pillows, such as my favorite the memory foam “Tempur-Pedic Pillow”, can be a terrrific solution for morning neck stiffness, caution must be used when there are serious neck problems present. As a Chiropractor who actively treats neck pain, I have seen patients with certain types of neck conditions get worse with shaped cervical pillows. Namely, extensive degenerative joint problems and cervical disc problems can at times be aggravated by the type of support offered by these pillows. So if you have either of these types of conditions involving the neck, a quick consult first with your Chiropractor before choosing your pillow is your best bet.
Sleep well my friends!

Is your bed causing your back pain?

While a soft pillow-top mattress might vary well be the bed you fell in love with at the mattress store, it might also be the one causing your back pain. When a mattress is too soft it will sag under the pressure of your body weight, leaving your spine to struggle to feel supported. This saging causes a “hammocking” effect where the hips and rearend, as well as the abdominal region sag lower than the head and the feet. The result effect is a progressive tightening of the paraspinal muscles of the back, in an attempt to straighten the spine.

When this happens, the paraspinal muscles or large muscles that run parallel to the spine become fatigued and began to ache. This will cause you to toss and turn frequently during the night and quite often leaves you with the tell tale sign of the morning stiff back.

As a Chiropractor, one of the first couple questions I ask patients with low to mid-back pain is how firm their mattress is and do they awake feeling sore. Another side effect of a soft mattress is poor sleep due to not only the pain but the need to wake up to turn the body from side to side on a soft mattress. A firmer mattress will allow you to roll side to side naturally while in a deeper state of sleep and not make you wake up slightly to more consciously turn oneself from side to side.

Remember, when selecting a bed, go as firm as you dare and avoid the overlying cushy pillow top mattresses. Happy Dreams