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Top 6 Ways To Get Comfy In Bed If You Have Neck Pain

I love bed!  There is nothing better than snuggling up under the duvet being all warm and cosy.  Or so I thought before I had a disc problem in my neck and the nights suddenly became very long,  painful and the worst time of my day.

Commonly when we are in pain,  keeping moving,  in what ever fashion,  is vital to avoid loading the sore bit and stiffening / tightening up.  Once we stay still for too long the pain is often worse and so hard to get going again.  That is why night times can be rubbish for many of us and anything but restful and restorative and mornings take ages to get going.

We know from this months challenge that getting a good 8 hours sleep is so important for our body,  mind and soul.  Sleep gives our body and mind time to recover,  process and heal.  Things even more important to do when we are in pain.  Dealing with pain is exhausting and many of us don’t realise just how tiring it is.  It affects our mood,  emotions and tolerance levels on every front.  No wonder we get snappy and have little patience when we are in pain.  This is all normal and what we hear everyday in the clinic.  I can be testament to it too following my experiences with my neck.

So,  what can we do to avoid the long painful nights and help get the rest we need when we are sore or in pain with our neck?  Here are our Top 5 Tips for getting comfy in bed when you have neck pain.

1:  Take painkillers

I know that this goes against what many of you believe in and I want to be clear this is a temporary measure.  If you get the right treatment you won’t be relying on these for ever.  It’s a short term thing to help you.  We can’t give advice as Physio’s on what painkillers to take but go and see a Pharmacist at the chemist or see your GP.  Don’t assume there aren’t any other options if the first thing they give you doesn’t work or you get horrid side effects.  There are plenty of other options so go back and get something different.  I had 4 changes in painkillers before I got the right combination for me when I was at my worst.

2:  Heat

Keeping the painful bit warm can have a good sedative and relaxing effect.  Try having a hot bath or shower before getting in to bed.  Alternatively you could get a wheat bag to heat in the microwave and place it around the painful area when you get in bed.  Just make sure it isn’t so hot it will burn you!  There are several different shapes of wheat bag that can help according to where your pain is.  If it is in the neck region itself a sausage shaped bag is best (Fig. 1.a.).  If it is in the shoulder region at the base of the neck a ‘U’ shaped bag is more helpful (Fig.1.b.).

Fig. 1.a: Upper Neck Pain

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Fig.  1.b:  Lower Neck / Shoulder Pain

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If you would like to order one Amazon have many different types available.

3:  Give yourself pillow options!

You will be more wriggly in your sleep when are dealing with pain because this is the body’s way of keeping you moving, all be it in a very much slower way!  Expect to change position regularly during the night.  Avoid any position that may make you feel worse but read our ‘Pillow Guide’ for more information on what to try and consider.

Get several different types of pillow to give you options.  One fairly firm,  a thicker one,  a thinner squashy one plus a towel or small blanket you can roll up and place in any area to support you.

4:  Support your anatomy

Following on from above,  consider each different position you could sleep in…

  1. Side lying:  Have a look at the width of your shoulders in the mirror and think about how much pillow you need to fill the space when lying on your side and experiment and aim to have your neck in as neutral a position as possible.  You may find rolling a small blanket or towel to create a neck roll works well with a pillow to aid the contour support of your neck on the side.  Also,  make sure your bottom shoulder is stacked underneath the top one.  Think about them being like the top and bottom of the mast of a boat.  If your shoulder is rounded forward it is not in it’s most optimal position and can increase loading on your neck.  This often happens when your pillow is too thin when lying on your side.
  1. Lying on your back:  Make sure when you lie on your back your chin isn’t lifted to the ceiling.  This will happen if your pillow is too thin and your neck will be in an extended position which is often painful.  Also support your body with a pillow under your knees when lying on your back as this will help take the stretch off other regions of your body.  Remember, it’s a temporary measure.
  1. Lying on your tummy:  If your neck is sore,  you will often have reduced range of movement in this region either to one side or both.  Instead of sleeping on your tummy, try a half way position like the recovery position but hugging a pillow tight in to your tummy and chest for support.  This will put less load through your neck.  Try both sides as one side may feel more comfy than the other (Fig.2)

Most importantly, listen to your body.  If you can get comfy in a particular position even if you think it is odd, just do it!  It is just for the short term!

Fig 2:  Alternative Tummy Lying Position.

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5:  Distract yourself

Sometimes when you can’t get comfy it is easy to let your mind race. “I’m not sleeping,  I’m so tired, I’m not sleeping”,  “Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleeeeeeeeep”,  “Pain, pain, pain, ouch,  ouch,  ouch”,   “I’m going to be so tired tomorrow,  how will I cope with my day?”,  “ If I go to sleep now I’m only going to get X hours.  That isn’t enough”,  “AGGGGHHHHHHH, brain be quiet, stop thinking”.

All these are common thoughts when you are in pain and can’t go to sleep.  This is your brain ruminating,  over and over again!  Distraction can work marvels.  Try listening to an audio book.  A top tip here is make sure the narrator has a good relaxing voice.  Think Stephen Fry’s melodious voice not Ruby Wax,  although everyone prefers something different!

Alternatively,  guided meditation in these instances can be super helpful.  You know how well it works dealing with pain in child birth so lets use the same principles!  If you can focus your mind on something else it can have hugely beneficial effects at lowering the intensity of your symptoms or your experience of them entirely.

There are many meditations on You Tube or other internet sites.  It depends how spiritual you want to go!  Best find one in the day time so you are ready for it instead of trying to search for one in the middle of the night.  Quick note,  if you are worried your audio will wake someone else up,  get a pair of ear phones!

6:  Support your head whilst getting down or up from lying

If you are unfortunate enough to have really severe spasm in your neck and have extreme pain,  just getting your head down to the pillow or lifting it off can be excruciating.  Try putting a scarf or towel around your head and use your arms to support the weight of your head as you lower to the pillow and then to support your head as you get up! Sounds extreme but if the spasm is bad enough it really helps!

Finally,  if you still can’t get comfy get up and have a walk around to change your position.  Once you’ve jiggled around for a bit it is then easier to get back to sleep.  Even if your sleep is a bit broken, getting some is better than nothing.  Likewise,  take some more painkillers if you need to and use the heat again.

Important note,  if you are getting any of the following it is definitely advisable to see your GP as there could be something more serious going on;  Pins and needles in your arms or hands or experience numbness or loss of power,  problems with your speech, swallow,  dizzy spells or double vision.