Cark Chiropractic Clinic

Pillow Talk

Get the sleep you have been dreaming about with this quick and easy guide to sleep positions and the perfect pillow!

How to sleep according to your pain pattern

While many suffer from issues with sleep, you don’t have to. One of the biggest questions asked by doctors is: Do you have a problem falling asleep or staying asleep? Many times lack of sleep can result from a deeper rooted issue, there are many times that the comfort of pillows and mattress prevent patients from getting the quality sleep desired. If you are one of the many that suffer from pains coming from your mattress or pillows, you can refer to this guide to protect your sleep.

This article includes symptoms, possible diagnosis, and a recommendation with tips!

*This article is not a substitute for a visit to the doctor if you are unable to sleep through the night. Serious illnesses can present with absence of sleep for no particular reason and symptoms should be reviewed by a doctor.

Sleeping positions:

There are benefits and downfalls to each sleeping position. If you are willing to change the position in which you sleep at night, this may take a few months of training your body to stay in that position. The main goals of correcting sleeping positions is to keep your spine in the optimum position. The optimum position means that the spine is straight and has support in the natural curves of the spine including the neck and lower back.

Demonstrated below are the different sleeping positions:

1. On your back: Laying on your back is the best overall position to sleep in as long as there are precautions taken into consideration for maintain the natural curves of the spine in the neck, lower back, and knees. With this position it is optimal to have a cervical pillow or support (mentioned below), and lumber pillow or support (mentioned below), and a pillow or support under the knees. With these modifications gravity will not affect the natural curves, the overall spine is straight, and there is not pressure being placed on the shoulders or hips.

2. Side Sleeping: Sleeping on either side is consider the next best position for sleeping. Most people prefer to sleep on their sides as this was the position they slept in as a fetus in their mother’s womb, however it can put a great deal of pressure on the shoulder muscles/tendons/ligaments and the hip’s muscles/tendons/ligaments. Therefore with this position you want to have thick head pillow to keep the part of your spine in your neck aligned with the rest of your spine. The pillow should be as wide/thick as your resting shoulder is wide from your head to the tip of your shoulder. In addition a pillow should you be placed between your knees to keep your hips from collapsing on top of one another. This keeps all the major joints and muscles aligned an happy assuring that you will not wake up with sore shoulders and a painful lower back/hips.

3. Stomach Sleeping: This is an easy position to speak about. Although many prefer to sleep on their stomachs, this is the worst possible position to get a painless night sleep. The following are reasons why you should try to resist sleeping on your stomach:

· Your head will be turned to the side, effectively twisting your spine allowing for gravity to increase pressure on the ligaments and tendons of the cervical spine.
· Your upper/mid back will be forced down onto the mattress which reduces the natural curve of the spine in the mid back.
· Your hips are pushed into the mattress which puts extra pressure on your low back and pelvis.
· The jaw is thrust forward and to the side creating problems such as TMJ, teeth grinding, and more.


1. Kink in the neck

· Neck Pain
· Shooting pain down the shoulder into the upper arms, forearms or hands
· Numbness in the shoulder/upper arms/forearms and hands
· Headaches focusing around the back of the neck, base of the skull, or behind the eyes

Possible Diagnosis:
a. ‘Military’ Neck (Loss of lordotic curve in the cervical spine)
b. Altered biomechanics while sleeping

Recommendation: Cervical pillow

**Tip: If you are unable to afford this type of pillow you can roll up a towel and place it under your neck.

2. Deltoid muscle soreness

Symptoms (from highest possibility to lowest possibility):
· Shoulder pain
· Elbow Pain
· Soreness on the outside of the upper arm
· Pain when raising the arms out to the side
· Loss of muscle strength

Possible Diagnosis:
· Compressed Deltoid Muscle
· Tight Deltoid Muscle
· Loosened ligaments of the shoulder joint

Recommendation: Wide/Thick Pillow

**Tip: You can invest in an extremely thick pillow, or you can simply two pillows on top of one another.

3. Headache

· Tension Headache
· Sore neck muscles
· Tight neck muscles

Possible Diagnosis:
a. Tension Headache
b. Muscular Headache
c. Stressed Cervical Muscles and/or Ligaments

Recommendation: Thinner or softer pillow

**Tip: You don’t have to invest in expensive memory foam pillows, many times they are too firm. Therefore you can use a down pillow.

4. Kink in your back

· Low back pain
· Bilateral Hip pain
· Tight muscles of the lower back
· Pain shooting down the back or sides of the legs down the knee or feet.

a. Loss of Lumbar Lordosis
b. Stressed Lumbar Ligaments
c. Tight Low back muscles

Recommendation: Lumbar Pillow or Support

**Tip: Instead of spending money on a special lumbar pillow, you can roll a towel and place it under your low back while sleeping.

***Bonus Tip: If you have chronic pain in your back or neck, your mattress might be too old. You can purchase a mattress in a box and have it delivered to your door. These are good quality mattresses for support and comfort, and you don’t even have to leave your house!

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