06 May At Blossom and Be… We Sleep on Our Back
We regularly see clients who are suffering from neck, back, shoulder and hip pain. While therapeutic massage can most often provide relief and create structural changes in your body to reduce nerve compression and thus reduce pain, we still recommend lifestyle changes that you can employ daily to increase your healing success and take personal responsibility for your wellbeing.
Sleeping on your Back is one of the biggest changes you can make with the most benefit.
Think about it.
Sleeping on your BELLY, your head is turned to one side causing your neck to be cranked one direction, straining muscles and contributing to neck and head aches. Sleeping on your belly causes your shoulders to collapse forward which will strain your back muscles and continue to contract your chest muscles which leads to long term shoulder and back pain.
If you have a massage table, you could sleep facedown with your neck straight and face in the face cradle. This could work. We would recommend that you place a small pillow under each shoulder to keep your shoulder back on your ribcage. This is still not ideal, as it’s difficult to stay asleep without rolling off a 32” wide table.
You can buy a face cradle that adapts to a bed. You might check these out (click here) although, this requires putting your head at the foot of the bed and your feet at the headboard which might be weird for you, but doable.
Sleeping on one SIDE, puts pressure on one entire side of your body compressing your bottom shoulder and hip. It also misaligns your spine and neck as these areas are not supported contributing to pain in your shoulder, neck, hip and back. You could place a body pillow along your front and cuddle it with your top arm and top knee which helps your upper extremities stay square, but this does not address your full body weight coming down onto your bottom hip and shoulder.
So, this leaves us with back sleeping as our highest recommendation.
Sleeping on your BACK, your shoulders shift back on your torso and rest there all night long which is a fabulous stretch for your chest muscles and relaxation for your back muscles. This also reduces all the weight coming down directly on your bottom shoulder and hip. We recommend that you turn your palms up to stretch your extensors in your arms and hands. You can even bring the palms of your hands behind the back of your head creating an even deeper chest stretch.
Lying on your back elongates your psoas and hip flexor muscles which get shortened from the hours we spend sitting -the major contributor to low back pain. When you first start off, your psoas might be tight, and this position may be too difficult. If so, we recommend that you place a pillow under your knees so your psoas and hip flexors can relax and open gradually over time.
We also recommend that you begin with a very thin pillow under your head (getting rid of the bulky pillow that cranks your neck) and work your way down to no pillow at all. This will bring your head back on top of your shoulders aligned with your spine reducing vulture neck. If you are someone who has a military neck (straight neck), we recommend that you place a rolled towel under the back of your neck for support and encourage the natural “C” curve to return.
I can’t sleep on my back!!!
If you are one of these people who loves the comfort of being cuddled up on your side as if you were still in the womb, making this transition can be challenging, but not impossible. We recommend that you place pillows all around you and on top of your belly and chest, so you can still feel tucked in and cozy from the soft weight. Also, you can start on your side and gently twist your upper shoulder and arm to guide your torso over to your back and then your upper hip and leg will follow (click here for demonstration).
If you are someone who tosses and turns in your sleep. This is a good thing! Your body is responding naturally by shifting positions, taking pressure off areas that are getting smashed. We encourage this and if you shift towards sleeping on your side and belly a higher percentage of the time, you might find that you will toss and turn less when you switch to sleeping on your back.
When you first begin, be gentle with yourself. We have found that it takes 30-days to change your sleeping position for good. If you catch yourself moving back to old sleeping patterns, you might allow yourself to return to a familiar position and lovingly adjust to your back after a few minutes or try again another night.
Once you learn to sleep on your back, you will never go back.
Your body will be able to sleep 8-hours in the same position and when you awake, you’ll not be annoyed by a stiff neck, sore shoulders or aching hips. If you are having a hard time fitting in stretching into your waking hours, sleeping on your back kills two birds with one stone. You get your stretching done while you sleep! If you are recovering from an injured neck, shoulder, hip or back, your progress will continue to soar. You will be happier which leads to your friends and family being happier as will be your massage therapist!!
Blossom & Be!