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Sleeping Patterns and Pain

By August 17, 2021No Comments

The Proper Pillow and Sleeping positions

Many people ask me what type of pillow they should be sleeping with and most people do not take into consideration different sleeping positions when purchasing pillows. If you are a side sleeper it is important to have a pillow which fills the space between your shoulder and your neck. If it’s too thick, your neck will be forced into a bent position with your head higher up but with less pressure on the shoulder you are sleeping on. If it is too thin, your neck will be forced into a bent position with your head lower down and with more pressure on the shoulder you are sleeping on. If you sleep on your back, it is important to sleep with a thinner pillow. Using a thick pillow when on your back will force your neck forward and create constant strain to the lower neck and shoulder regions. The idea with all sleeping positions is to keep the spine from the upper back and the neck in as relatively straight of a line as possible.

Those with shoulder problems should avoid sleeping on the affected shoulder as much as possible. The worst shoulder problems come when we sleep on the back part of our shoulder and force it forward towards our chest. This strains the posterior portion of the rotator cuff (the most susceptible muscles to be torn in the shoulder) and can lead to injuries or pain. 

I find it surprising when people tell me they’ve slept on their right shoulder for 30 years and wonder why they have shoulder pain every night/morning when they wake up. If you slept with a 50 lb weight on your head every night do you think you’d wake up with a headache?

Additional Pillows to help your sleeping position

Pillows can be used for more than just supporting your neck when you sleep. If you have low back issues you can place a pillow (or two) under your knees when sleeping on your back or between your knees when sleeping on your side. When sleeping on your side you can use pillows under your top arm (as if you’re hugging it) to prevent it from being forced forward and creating strain. If you are a stomach sleeper you can use pillows underneath your shoulder to reduce the amount of rotation in the upper back and neck. This is helpful for stomach sleepers as they spend most of the night with their neck stuck in full rotation (to one or another) and can lead to future neck problems. I highly encourage everyone to try using additional pillows when sleeping as you may be surprised by how much it can increase comfortability  

Which Mattress is right for me?

It gets tricky when it comes to mattresses as everyone is different and everyone has different levels of comfortability. Some prefer more support with a firmer mattress and some prefer a softer mattress to sink into. 

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What is the difference between Dry Needling or IMS and Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is based on the traditional Chinese medicine meridians or energy channels, whereas Dry Needling targets the muscles and the myofascial trigger points. Both utilize the same type of needle, and some physiotherapists are able to provide both styles of needling, though IMS style needling is more common to see in a physio clinic.

Can I still work or play after getting IMS/ Dry Needling?

Definitely! In fact, “life as usual” is often the name of the game. Keeping moving is very helpful for decreasing post-treatment soreness – but maybe don’t do your biggest and heaviest day at the gym that day! Not all movements are made the same, so your physiotherapist will let you know what you can do or what you should avoid that day. It is best however to plan your first time being needled on the same day as a big event, such as a sports competition or big race.

Is there a minimum or maximum age for needling?

The short answer is “no”, but it really depends on the individual. Informed consent is important for any treatment technique, so it’s important that the person receiving the treatment is able to understand the risks, and benefits, and to make an informed decision for themselves on whether it is a technique they wish to try.