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Sleep Position Recommendations?

Dawn65DDawn65 Posts: 3
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:57 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
This is my first post, I've been visiting the forums for quite some time but this is the first time I've registered and posted.

I have C5-C6 herniation with compression.. as well as T6-T7 herniation with compression and edema. I will add a signature line tomorrow at some point, but hope I can get enough info out there for needed suggestions.

The problem I'm facing RIGHT now, and I mean that literally ..RIGHT now.. is sleeping. It's been a problem for the last year, because of chronic pain. I was receiving epidural injections on my neck which helped considerably, but not as successful with thoracic.. (that's a dilemma all on it's own)

I developed several pulmonary embolisms in August..so for now there are no more injections.. including trigger points..so this is truly the first time I have no place to turn.

I have severe radiculopathy bilaterally in my arms/hands. Previously I'd have been treated with the epidural injection and this would subside greatly...even though they lasted shorter and shorter durations of relief. Because those are off the table now, my pain is poorly managed despite upping my pain meds. I will fill out a signature line tomorrow.

Sleep positioning is a constant struggle, but in the last 6 days I've managed to get about 4-5 hours of sleep as long as I time my meds just right, including Ambien. The downside is that I wake up with intense pain in my neck, back of my skull...migraine.. and my hands are so incredibly painful it's made me afraid to go to sleep. Knowing what I'm facing when I wake up.. just isn't worth it right now. I'm exhausted.

I bought a cervical traction pillow, but that doesn't seem to be helping much.

Has anyone found sleep positions that either help or hinder you? I can lie down.. propped at about 90 degrees without the pain escalating. It's only after I fall ASLEEP...that things go screwy. Short of tying myself into a good position, I'm not sure how I can prevent episodes like I have had most of this week. It's horrible. There's nothing like being woken up with a throbbing migraine.. vomiting.. and hands so painful you have trouble negotiating going to the bathroom.

any and all suggestions will be tried.. and thoroughly appreciated. NOTHING.. changes the thoracic issue....but any help in regards to the cervical issues.. well please.. help.


  • to be the way to go. I know when I'm in the middle of a flare the only way to get any relief is to prop pillows all around me in my overstuffed recliner. It's still hard to sleep but at least I usually can find a somewhat more comfortable position.

    Hope this helps you some, it's a pain, literally, when you can't sleep.
  • and welcome to Spine Health.

    So sorry that you are having these extreme problems with sleeping. :-(

    I have been there too and know those headaches in the night and morning.

    Just lately, I have purchased a memory foam contoured neck pillow and it has really helped me. I do still wake up in the night and need to get up and take a walk, but the time I am sleeping is longer now. (About 3 hours instead of 1 1/2 or 2 hours.) It sounds like you have tried that and it doesn't work for you. Was it a memory foam shaped cervical pillow?

    Other ideas you could try are;

    sleeping in a recliner, as Gary says. There are a lot of 'neckies' here who find that is the only place they can get comfortable and sleep. I have found on occassions that is the only way I can get comfortable.

    I wonder, reading your post, if your head is comfortable when it is more upright (in a 90 degrees position), perhaps when you fall asleep your head is tilting to the side which is causing the pain.
    Have you tried sleeping with one of those travelling (butterfly shaped) pillows to support your head and keep it upright?
    I use a lovely soft one that I bought at an airport when I am in pain sitting, and have used it in the car to give my head some support and stop it moving so much with the bumps.

    I also have thoracic problems, so sympathise with the pain you are having from that. :S

    I find that I have to move frequently during the night because if I stay in the same position for very long I get pain. I sleep on my back alternating with each side. When on my back, I have a pillow under my knees to take the stress off my lumbar spine (might help the thoracic too), and when on my side I place the pillow between my knees. I have been told it is particularly important for me to do that because I have a small waist and larger hips, so the pillow stops my spine having to bend and keeps it in alignment.

    Glad you found us Dawn and looking forward to getting to know you better. :H

  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,476
    Such a shared experience.
    I, too, experience migraines, and found some relief with a little pillow support under my neck instead of regular pillow.

    Also, you would need to check with your doc, but sometimes it helps the morning pain be lessened if I take pain med before bed.

    Lastly, I had a sleep study..and now medicated for periodic limb movements. Meds help..not perfect.. but help.

    Good luck to you! Let us know how thing work out for you!
    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • Thank you so much for your recommendations. My husband had spinal fusion 6 years ago from an MVA that crushed several lumbar spine discs..so we have so much stuff available. We invested in the king size temperpedic bed..as well as a reclining couch with heat and massage..so fortunately we have these.

    I tried the recliner thing last night, and didn't help much.. but I took the pillow idea and the different types of pillows we have and started to construct something ... it WORKED !!!

    Of course it's not a complete science YET.. but I can prop the cervical traction pillow on top of 2 other pillows to keep my head elevated...and the traction V keeps it from slipping side to side...used a small cervical pillow under my knees..and pillows on each side to keep my hands and arms elevated..as I obviously have a tendency to GRIP through the night. I have actually gotten several hours of intermittent sleep throughout much of today. This is a never ending cycle for me. My body gets so exhausted.. I experience almost flu symptoms.

    All these pillows..between myself and my husband.. it's a good thing we have such a big bed.. or someone would have to sleep someplace else 8)

    Thank you so much again for the suggestions. I was able to pull away some ideas.. and lo and behold.. got some relief !!

    As for pain meds at bed time.. I have the timing down so I take my last dose of oxycontin at 9. Fall asleep somewhere around midnight.. and am pretty much faithfully wide awake by 3 am. IF I'm not having a cervical flair.

    I often wonder what battle I'm going to be fighting. The jury is still out as to which battle is better or worse.. but at least NOW... I have leveled the playing field a bit on this cervical issue.

    short of removing my spine....I've given up hope that I'll ever experience a second of pain free from my thoracic..but that's a different pain.. like a monotone..dull..deep seeded pressure. I don't even fight that battle anymore. It was easier to accept it is what it is.

    you folks are life savers !!!

    I don't think anyone..myself included.. understands chronic pain until you arrive at that station. I have an appointment on monday with my GP to talk about some stuff.

  • What good news that you have found a way to sleep that helps.

    It is so helpful to be able to talk to others with spine problems on this website. We can obtain lots of information and helpful tips to solve our problems. The emotional support and just knowing that you are not alone but there are other dealing with the same things is really helpful too.

    Hope you sleep well tonight! I) I) I)

  • Hi Dawn, I just had a 3 level fusion C4-7 this past August. Prior to the surgery, sleep was brutal. I went to the local walgreens who sells gelpacks. I put them in the freezer, and when I'd go to bed I'd prop 2 or 3 of the frozen ones along top of my pile of pillows (like a recliner back). If I woke up at night, I'd just put those into the freezer and get a new batch. That was prior to surgery. After surgery I did use ice for a few days, but then switched to heating pads. I have 2 of them all across the back of my neck. The kind that doesn't shut off. I'm 4 weeks post op now and I now often start to sleep without them on, but usually in the middle of the night I'll feel neck or arm pain and turn them on. They are my best friends for sleeping now. Hope that helps a bit!

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