Posts Tagged "sleep postures"

Pillow Talk

Posted by on May 6, 2015 in Recovery, Self-Care | Comments Off on Pillow Talk

Pillow Talk

“How old is the pillow you’re currently sleeping on?” I ask most clients as we are completing their initial intake form. Most pause for a moment and then either shrug and say half-heartedly, “I don’t know,” or “not that old”. I usually smile and follow up with “How old IS ‘not that old’?” Commonly the answer to that is one or two years or they really can’t remember. Yikes. In most situations, for the majority of our clients, anything more than 8 months is really “too old” to be working well and being useful for you. There are always exceptions–medical conditions and issues that make what I am saying null and void. And I know that I run the risk that some statements will provoke some feelings of frustration and possibly anger. But I am speaking from experience, both my own and a decade of being a watchful massage therapist. For the record, I am NOT in cahoots with the pillow manufacturers. However, I have tossed around the idea of taking my “pillow talk” on the road since this information has helped many of my clients get a handle on chronic shoulder, neck, and jaw pain. A few other things that get a lot of clients riled up about is that I am not a fan of down or buckwheat pillows and I don’t care for expensive pillows. $15 to $20 is all you should need to spend on a quality pillow that will last you 6-8 months. Now I am a woman who appreciates a good bargain, and I am very comfortable with the “cost-per-use” formula (thank you expensive designer jeans) however, in my experience, I have not come to find any great difference in lifespan between a $50-$150 pillow or my favorite $15-$20 pillow. Really I promise. Let’s talk pillows for a moment. Pillows are there to help support the spinal cord, neck and head. When you lay on your side, your pillow should help keep your spinal column in a fairly straight alignment and help your head be as perpendicular to your shoulders as possible. They should also support your neck and head so that weight of your head is “off” your neck for the hopefully 8-10 hours you’re lying down sleeping. If you are a side sleeper, think of a plus sign “+”. If you’re lying on your side and your head is leans more parallel to your shoulders, that’s not a good sign nor is it good for your neck or shoulders. Basically, it means your neck muscles (and consequently quite a few of your deeper shoulder muscles) are “firing” (aka working) all night long to support and control your 8 to 10 pound head. They are getting no recovery or down time to repair and rest. Now, if this situation happens for one night, it is really not a huge deal. However, if this posture becomes a pattern over multiple nights over multiple YEARS, you can end up with chronic neck, jaw and shoulder pain and dysfunction. I have noticed back sleepers think they are immune to this because they sleep on their backs “the way nature intended.” Some don’t like any pillow at all or the others like a little, squishy pillow they can “mold” into a roll behind their head that doesn’t bother them. While this may work, I still believe you need something supportive to rest the head and neck muscles so that the deeper neck muscles are not firing to hold the head still as it turns from side to side throughout the night. So really the above paragraph...

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