Many experts have suggested that poor neck posture and support during the night may be responsible for waking with neck pain and stiffness, headache and shoulder blade or arm pain. Headaches originating from the neck are called cervicogenic headaches. They are referred from the upper levels of the neck. Shoulder blade and arm pain can be referred from the lower levels of the neck. It is suggested that individuals who wake in the morning with symptoms that were not present the night before, or patients whose symptoms are worse in the morning than when they went to bed the previous night are probably either using an unsuitable pillow or adopting poor neck posture overnight.

Research on the optimal pillow is not strong but is ever-growing.  Dr Sue Gordon (a physio at James Cook Uni in Townsville) has done extensive research on sleep position and waking neck pain. She found that ‘subjects who reported that they slept mostly on their side were significantly less likely to report waking with cervical pain or scapular or arm pain compared with subjects who slept in any other position.  In the research article “Pillow use: the behavior of cervical stiffness, headache and scapular/arm pain”. J Pain Res. 2010; 3: 137-145, they found a pillow moulded to, or specifically supportive of the neck was found to be protective from waking with pain. From this – it is safe to say that sleeping on an old, worn out pillow is doing you more harm then good.

At Northern Beaches Physio we stock a number of different pillows to ensure the best fit for each individual person.  From our experience, firm contour pillows in either a high or low profile have given us the best results when working with clients with persistent neck and shoulder pain related to posture and sleeping position.  It is common for it to take up to one week or more to adjust to a change in the pillow you are using.  It is important to seek advice from your physio as to what size and shape pillow is most appropriate for you.  Give us a call on 6654 0244 for Woopi or 6655 6865 for Urunga to book and appointment to discuss your needs to ensure you are getting the best night’s sleep.

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