Many patients will tell me that they slept wrong and they’ll wake up in the morning and they have more neck pain or their same pain returned again, and frequently that’s because you have to take a look at the pillow and how they sleep at night and there are a lot of different kinds of pillows out there and there’s no magic answer, just like there’s no magic answer for what kind of bed to get. Everybody’s different, but you want to make sure your ergonomics, the way your body contours to the bed and your pillow works well for you. So the pillow that works well for one person may not work well for another person. But you want one that will change shape while you’re sleeping because you move around when you sleep, you don’t stay in the same position. And that way the pillow follows you rather than you having to follow the pillow. And that’s important.

And then in terms of relative rest with the neck, some people find that their neck pain decreases when they lie down with their head supported by a pillow or flat, depending on what the problem is with your neck and when it occurred. Other people find that support with a pillow or side-lying is more helpful and yet others are better in a recliner with their head supported but in a semi-reclined position. And there are some people who find that sitting up tall with their head supported, in what we call a neutral spine position, is the best position to help relieve their pain.

So really it depends on what your pain is, where it is, and what it feels like and trying some of these different things that may make you feel more comfortable. It has to be customized to you. If none of those things are working and you're developing increasing pain, numbness, weakness, symptoms in your legs, loss of your ability to control your bowel or bladder or hold on to your urine, what we call urinary tension, those are things you need to call your doctor about, because those are more serious.

In This Article:

Dr. Andrew Cole has 30 years of experience specializing in spine and joint pain management. Dr. Cole has held numerous medical appointments throughout his career, and recently served as the Executive Director of Rehabilitation & Performance Medicine Enterprise for Swedish Health Services and as Medical Director of Ambulatory Musculoskeletal Services for Swedish Medical Group.