Getting the proper support in the form of a good mattress and a supportive pillow, when you sleep can really make a big difference in your cervical and lumbar spine health. The right pillow is essential in keeping the neck in a supported position with neutral cervical alignment during sleep. If pillow is not supportive, the structures in the neck will be stressed and will worsen the existing neck condition. A pillow that is too high, too firm, too soft does not allow the neck to relax completely while sleeping.
Sleeping on an inappropriate mattress can be a prime reason of acute back and neck pain, mostly after waking up in the morning, along with morning stiffness which is very common after using a too soft mattress. Also, you are likely to feel very tired during the day, difficult to focus in work.
Along with the wrong/ inappropriate pillow and mattress, your sleeping positions also can be a reason of worsening back and neck issues. The safest position to be in your bed is either on your back or side.
The neck should be supported, head should be in neutral position in line with the rest of the body whether you are laying on your back or side. Sleeping on stomach is not a good habit, it might cause neck and back pain because the spine is arched/ stressed and head turned to the side.
A good pillow will keep the head and neck in good alignment with the body. If pillow is too big or too firm, it will raise your head out of alignment and if it is too soft it will give insufficient support to neck, so, its important to find the right balance. Best pillows are made from foam or polyfill. Feather pillows lose their shape and support after laying on them after a short period of time. Your pillow should be replaced every 2-3 years. If still it does not support your neck, you may try McKenzie Cervical Rolls. A good mattress also needs to be the right balance between firm and soft. If it is too firm, it may irritate the areas of spine that are in contact with the mattress and will cause continuous pressure on your back which may worsen your existing spine issues. When your mattress is too soft, it allows your body to sink into bad posture while you sleep. The right mattress should keep your spine parallel, not sagging or bowing also be supportive and comfortable according to your body weight and built throughout the night. Medium firm mattress greatly improves the quality of sleep in people suffering from chronic low back pain. Mattress also needs to be replaced periodically in 8 to 10 years.
Memory form is used in mattresses to conform to body shape, it allows the body to remain in its neutral shape and alignment which help to relieve pressure from entire spine. There is no single mattress style or type that works for all people with low back pain. Any mattress that help someone sleep without pain and stiffness is the best mattress for the individual. So, personal preference should ultimately determine what pillow and mattress is best.
DR. SKY SHARMA (PT)