Question: I’ve been trying to break the habit of sleeping on my stomach and about a fortnight ago the pains in my shoulders and neck increased so much that I really can’t sleep in this position any more. I’m now sleeping mainly on my side but I now wake up with lower back pain which eases slightly as the day progresses. I’ve always thought my bed was OK – not too hard; not too soft – and my pillows appear to be the correct height to support my head and keep it in line with my spine though I’m not using orthopedic pillows. I feel as if I’m slowly seizing up as pains which started in my neck have progressed all along my shoulders, between my shoulders and now to my lower back! Has anyone any advice on sleeping positions?
Answer: Well, here’s some experience that followed an occupational therapist saying that sleeping on your side is the worst possible position when you have neck, arm, wrist, or hand problems. I recall sometimes waking in this position with numb fingers even with a carpal splint. I sleep mostly on my back without any apparent need for pillow under my knees. In that position the only time I got in trouble was when my head turned to one side with chin on chest. Neck sore all day. Doing without a pillow for the head on a firm bed helps. So does folding a towel into a 3-4″ (7.5- 10 cm) wide strip and wrapping it around the neck. Use tape to fasten. The towel keeps the chin “up”, prevents the turning, and supports the back of the neck. Obviously a nuisance to set up, but it seems to work.
Better way to do the same thing: get an orthotic collar. It’s just foam. Get the thickest one you can find. Mine’s an inch (2.5 cm.) thick and about 3 inches high. Put it on backwards with the clasp in the front. That makes the collar narrowest in front, hence very comfortable, and with the support for the neck in the back. Since trying this, I don’t wake up and sleep soundly through the night in this position. There’s supposedly a pillow for sleeping on your back with a hollowed out hole for the head and good support for the neck. Anyone find one?