It is no secret that many chiropractic complaints are a direct result of being in adverse positions – that is, the way we hold or carry our body during our daily life. Factors such as posture and sleep position can have a long term effect on our overall health, as detrimental positions in these areas can cause spinal issues, headaches, pain in our extremities, and more.
Musculoskeletal symptoms often appear at night, which is the time set aside by nature for your body to heal. When bad sleep posture causes a reduction in blood flow, compresses tissues or causes inflammation, your sleep is actually hurting, not healing you. Modifying how you sleep can actually help to heal your body, not hinder it. Here are some of the more common issues which can be aggravated by sleeping position, with some expert advice on how to help alleviate the problem.
How Sleeping Position Aggravates Certain Conditions
Rotator Cuff Syndrome: Rotator cuffs are muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint, which could get injured by overuse, shoulder injury, or diseases such as arthritis. The patient typically experiences pain in the shoulder joint, especially affecting range of motion. People with rotator cuff syndrome may see their symptoms worsen if they tend to sleep with their arms in an overhead position. In fact, the rotator cuff injury may be caused by sleeping in this manner. Patients should sleep with the affected side up, and place a pillow between the arm and the body to minimize the effect of the impingement.
Neck Pain: Adverse sleep positions may create or worsen cervical (neck) dysfunction. Neck pain is most commonly associated with shoulder impingement from the side-lying sleeping posture. Pillow height can also cause compression or stretching of the neck structure, causing pain. Thin pillows typically are associated with degenerative conditions caused by excessive extension or flexion of the spine. Thicker pillows can adversely affect disc lesions. Therefore the choice of your pillow can greatly affect your overall health and wellness. You’ll want a pillow that permits the neck to stay in a neutral position; usually a feather or fiberfill variety is best.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Sleeping in a fetal position can cause the wrist to be in the same position for long periods of time. This prolonged wrist flexion can cause compressive ischemia (lack of proper blood flow) to the median nerve. Cubital tunnel syndrome results in traction ischemia to the ulnar nerve. Sleeping with a night splint can help prevent hyper-flexion of the wrist by reducing nerve compression. Avoid a splint which is too tight, which can cause other compression issues.
Tennis Elbow: An acute injury can be aggravated – and healing delayed – when the patient sleeps in the wrong position. For those with tennis elbow, a painful condition of the tendons caused by overuse of the elbow, sleeping with the affected elbow beneath a pillow can cause such aggravation. Instead, keep the affected arm at your side while sleeping, which should reduce lateral elbow pain.
Gluteal Tendinopathy: Gluteal tendon pain increases with any activity or exercise that involves sustained or repetitive compression, which includes sleeping. Sleeping on one’s side compresses the lateral hip, resulting in poor blood flow and reduced capacity for healing. Turning over will not alleviate the problem, however, unless you put a pillow under your knee. The best solution is to sleep on one’s back. If that is not possible, try a pillow between the knees, an eggshell mattress topper, or lighter blankets that will not press down on your body.
Regardless of how the pain originates, no one wants to live with neck, back, gluteal or hip pain. While applying these simple solutions may help, you should also call a chiropractor for further assessment and care. West Coast Wellness is here to help with any pain you may be experiencing, whether from a traumatic car accident, or a bad night’s sleep.
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