About.com—September 29, 2011
If you have arthritis and find it difficult to sleep, you are not alone. Sleep disturbance affects up to 10.2 million U.S. adults with arthritis.
Here are some usable tips on sleeping with neck arthritis.
Sleep in Spinal Alignment
Hagit Rajter, physical therapist at the Joint Mobility Center at New York's Hospital for Special Surgery, says that when you sleep, your head should be in line with your spine. She advises you to think of your head as an extension of your spine. This means you should neither excessively bend your head forward, nor extend it back. Tilting to either side is out, too.
Rajter cautions against these movements because she says they may lead to cervical radiculopathy and/or a pinched nerve. Symptoms may include pain down one or both arms, weakness, numbness or tingling.
Avoid using flat pillows. The reason is that a pillow that is too flat will position your head lower than your spine. Remember Rajter’s suggestion (above) of keeping your head as an extension of the spine? With a flat pillow, it’s just not obtainable.
Avoid Sleeping On Your Stomach
Rajter recommends against the prone position during the night. "Imagine what it would feel like if, during the course of your work day, you were required to maintain a position in which your neck was twisted," Rajter says. "Would you be able to hold your neck like that for a full six full hours? How would it feel? That’s what sleeping in a prone position does to your neck."
Choose the Right Pillow
When it comes to pillows, there’s no proven benefit to spending a lot of money. Although some people are convinced they need to spend upwards of $150 on a therapeutic pillow, Rajter rejects this idea as unnecessary. Instead, stick with the goal of comfort and the ability to conform the pillow to your neck space, she advises.
The main points about selecting a good pillow for neck arthritis pain are:
•It should be wide enough to support the distance between your shoulders and your neck.
•You should be able to shape and reshape the pillow. This is to fit it to your form in a supportive way. Rajter suggests down feather pillows.
•For side sleepers, the pillow should be tall enough to fill in the space between your mattress and your ear.
Avoid Neck Collapse with a Collar
One way to keep your neck in a good alignment during the night is to wear a soft collar. "Soft collars worn at night may prevent your neck from collapsing," Rajter says. This may help decrease morning pain or stiffness. “The collar is particularly good if you have chronic neck pain." Speak with your doctor if you think this might make a good option for you.
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