THE BEST PILLOW POSITIONS FOR PEOPLE WITH BACK PAIN…

If you adopt the best pillow positions for people with back pain you may find this really helps your sleep. Tuck Advanced Better Sleep says Individuals who experience back pain can adjust or reposition their pillows in order to alleviate their discomfort. According to Healthline, the following methods may be suitable for different sleepers:

  • Side sleeping with a pillow between the knees. You should ensure your body makes contact with the mattress between your shoulder and buttocks. The pillow should be placed in a position where it won’t slip out; this will help the hips and pelvis align with the spine, which can reduce pain and discomfort. If a gap forms between your side and the mattress, then a smaller pillow may be used to fill that space.
  • Fetal position with both knees tucked. To achieve this position, lie down on your back and then roll onto one side with both knees bent and tucked toward your chest. Bend your upper body toward the knees; this will help expand the spine and alleviate pressure on the disks. Be sure to rotate to the other side if you begin to experience discomfort.
  • Stomach sleeping with a pillow beneath the pelvis. Although stomach sleeping can exacerbate back pain symptoms, a pillow placed under the pelvis can relieve stress on the neck and back disks. Some sleepers in this position are more comfortable without a pillow beneath their head.
  • Back sleeping with a pillow beneath the knees. Lay flat on your back and place a pillow beneath both knees. This helps straighten out the spine and alleviates pressure points between the neck and hips. If you find this is insufficient, consider placing a rolled-up towel under your lower back.

 There are six standard sizes for pillows, as well as smaller specialty sizes normally associated with specific pillow types (such as orthopedic memory foam pillows). The following table breaks down the width and length dimensions of these seven sizes, as well as suitable pillowcase measurements.

PILLOW SIZE DIMENSIONS PILLOW CASE SIZE AND DIMENSIONS NOTES
Small 20W” x 12L” Specialty sizes Normally found with orthopedic/cervical pillows (see below)
Standard 20W” x 26L” Standard (20-21W” x 30-32″L) The most common pillow size, as well as the most compact and usually the least expensive
Super Standard 20W” x 28L” Standard (20-21W” x 30-32″L) Slightly longer than the Standard, but uses Standard-size pillowcases
Queen 20W” x 30L” Standard (20-21W” x 30-32″L)

Queen (20-22W” x 30-34L”)

The second most common pillow size, and suitable for most people who toss and turn
King 20W” x 36L” King (20-21W” x 36-41″L) Good for people who toss and turn, and also makes good headrests and backrests
Euro 26W” x 26L”

24W” x 24L”

22W” x 22L”

20W” x 20L”

18W” x 18L”

16W” x 16L”

Euro (dimensions vary) The only standard pillow size that is square-shaped, and not normally used for primary sleeping pillows
Body Pillow 54W” x 20L”

48W” x 20L”

Body pillow (dimensions vary) The longest pillow size, mostly suitable for side sleepers and pregnant women

Pillow shape is also important for people with back pain. Although a wide selection of pillow shapes are available, pillows generally fall into one of these two categories:

  • Even: These pillows have an even, non-contoured surface. They may not be as suitable for sleepers with back pain, but pillows made from certain materials (such as shredded memory foam or feathers) conform beneath the head and neck for targeted pain and pressure relief.
  • Curved: Also known as cervical or orthopedic pillows, curved pillows are usually made from foam and have a contoured surface. The neck is raised with the area for the head dips down, which can provide better support for people with neck pain — but some sleepers claim that these pillows are more comfortable when they are placed upside down on the mattress.

Lastly, let’s discuss pillow loft, a term that refers to how thick a pillow is when not bearing weight. Specific loft measurements vary by model, but there are three general loft categories:

  • Low-loft: Less than three inches thick.
  • Medium-loft: Three to five inches thick.
  • High-loft: More than five inches thick.

The loft will help determine how supportive and comfortable the pillow feels, and whether it is suitable for people with back pain. However, there are several factors to take into account when selecting a pillow based on loft. These include:

Sleep position: Choosing the right pillow based on loft depends on whether the sleeper prefers the back, side, or stomach position.

  • Back-sleepers are usually most comfortable with medium-loft pillows because they find the right balance between thickness and softness.
  • Side-sleepers often prefer medium- or high-loft pillows because this position can cause large gaps to form between their head/neck and the pillow.
  • Stomach-sleepers tend to prefer low-loft pillows because higher-loft models elevate the neck too much, causing the spine to become uneven; this can lead to aches and pains throughout the body. Some stomach sleepers find that not using a pillow at all is most comfortable.

Pillow position: People who sleep with a pillow completely beneath often prefer medium-loft pillows because there is less space. For those who sleep with a pillow partially beneath their head, then a medium- or high-loft pillow may be needed to fill the larger gap.

Mattress type: Certain mattresses, such as all-foam and latex models, are designed to sink deeply beneath the sleeper’s body. A low-loft pillow may be most suitable for these mattresses because there is less space between the neck and the mattress surface. Other mattresses, such as innersprings and hybrids, are less responsive and will not sink as much. A medium- or high-loft pillow can help fill the extra space and provide more support.

Body weight: People with above-average weights (more than 230 pounds) may sink deeper into their mattress than lighter individuals, and thus prefer a low- or medium-loft pillow that won’t elevate their heads too much. People with below-average weights (less than 130 pounds) may prefer medium- or high-loft pillows because they don’t sink as much.

Head size: People with larger-than-average heads are more likely to feel comfortable on a high-loft pillow that won’t sink too deeply. Low- or medium-loft pillows may be the best option for those with small or average-size heads

Shoulder width: People with wider shoulder spans experience larger gaps between their head/neck and their pillow, and may need a higher-loft pillow to compensate for space. Those with narrower shoulders usually feel more comfortable with low- or medium-loft pillows.

It’s important to note that many pillows offer adjustable loft. The owner simply unzips the pillow cover and adds or removes the fill material to increase or decrease the loft. Adjustable-loft pillows may be the best option for people whose loft preferences tend to vary from night tonight.

Best Pillow Materials for People with Back Pain

Pillows come in a wide selection of fill materials, each with unique benefits and drawbacks for sleepers with back pain. The table below lists pros, cons, and back pain ratings for the seven most common pillow materials.

PILLOW MATERIAL DESCRIPTION PROS CONS NECK PAIN RATING
Buckwheat The pillows are filled with five to 10 pounds of buckwheat hulls, or outer shells Adjustable loft

Sleeps cool

Good support

High price

Too firm for some

Heavy and difficult to move

Good

Buckwheat pillows offer adjustable loft and sleep fairly cool, but many people with back pain find they are too firm

Down The pillows contain the soft inner plumage of ducks or geese, and may also be padded with outer feathers Adjustable loft

Lightweight

Sleeps cool

High price

Flatten easily

Too soft for some

Fair
Most down pillows are not suitable for sleepers with back pain because they are excessively soft and will lose their shape quickly
Down Alternative The pillows are filled with polyester fibers that mimic the softness of real down Adjustable loft

Lightweight

Low price

Short lifespan

Flatten easily

Too soft for some

Poor

Most sleepers with back pain do not feel comfortable on down alternative pillows because they are too soft and will become flat rather quickly

Feather Pillows are filled with outer feathers of ducks or geese (as opposed to down, or inner plumage) Adjustable loft

Lightweight

Long lifespan

High cost

Flatten easily

Very Good

Feather pillows tend to be firmer than down pillows, making them more suitable for people with back pain

Latex Pillows contain solid latex, a substance extracted from the sap of rubber trees Close conforming

Long lifespan

Retain full shape without flattening

Non-adjustable loft

High cost

Dense and heavy

Good

Latex pillows offer even support, but the loft is not adjustable

Memory Foam Pillows may contain shredded or solid pieces of memory foam, which softens when it comes into contact with body heat Close conforming

Adjustable loft if shredded

Lightweight

High cost

Sleeps hot

Very Good

Memory foam pillows conform closely and alleviate a high amount of pressure; most orthopedic pillows are made from memory foam

Polyester Pillows contain shredded polyfoam, which has a similar feel to memory foam, or interlocking polyester fibers that give the pillow a fuller shape Low cost

Adjustable loft when shredded

Short lifespan

Flattens easily

Sleeps hot

Good

Memory foam pillows provide more pain and pressure relief, but polyfoam pillows can be a low-cost alternative for people with back pain

Additionally, some pillows contain interior water chambers that can be filled or drained to adjust the loft. The chambers are usually padded with foam to make the pillow more comfortable. Many sleepers with back pain claim that water chamber pillows alleviate pain and pressure to a noticeable extent.

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PAIN NEWS NETWORK ON MANY TREATMENTS INEFFECTIVE FOR BACK PAIN…

Pain News Network recently wrote about a study which found that many treatments for back pain are ineffective.

It says that in a series of reviews in The Lancet a team of researchers found that back pain is quite often treated with the wrong advice including, inappropriate tests, risky surgeries, and painkillers.

They put that “The majority of cases of low back pain respond to simple physical and psychological therapies that keep people active and enable them to stay at work,” says lead author Professor Rachelle Buchbinder of Monash University in Australia. “Often, however, it is more aggressive treatments of dubious benefit that are promoted and reimbursed.

The best type of treatment they recommend is primary care in the first instance and keep mobile, active and continue to work.

Most people with a new episode of back pain can recover quite quickly but the same problem can reoccur again and then take longer to heal the next time. Counseling, exercise, and cognitive behavioral therapy are other treatments advised with spinal manipulation, massage, acupuncture, meditation, and yoga as second-line treatments.

The Lancet authors say patients should avoid harmful and useless treatments, and doctors need to address widespread misconceptions about their effectiveness. For example, there is limited evidence to support the use of opioids for low back pain, and epidural steroid injections and acetaminophen (paracetamol) are not recommended at all.

Pain News Network also wrote that the findings in The Lancet series are similar to those reported in other medical journals. A 2016 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that regular exercise and education reduce the risk of developing lower back pain by as much as 45 percent.

Back in 1982 after my second episode of back pain which left me bent over, I was referred to an orthopedic consultant who put me on traction for a week in the hospital. To this day I have lasting problems from that traction. My first spinal surgery was in 1987 and I had a lumber discectomy for spinal bifida and a disc herniation and canal stenosis. Twelve months later I had to have further surgery but this time in my neck for a serious cord compression and a prolapsed disc which meant a two level fusion at C3/4.

 

By 1996 I needed further cervical surgery and in 1999 further lumber surgery. I have to agree with the primary care they suggest you have but unfortunately for some, all the treatment in the world will not sort the pain out unless you have surgery. I am sure like me anyone who has undertaken spinal surgery did not have it done unless it was very necessary. I was told I could not even pick up my young daughter as there was a risk of paralysis because the disc was in such a mess.

I do agree however that spinal surgery is not a quick fix and further problems were partly due to my initial surgeries but the only other option I was given was to have a plate inserted in my back from top to bottom.

With so many people, around 540 million people at any given time, suffering from back pain it is obvious that it is a very serious health problem to deal with.

Maybe some form of education about this should be introduced at school so children know from a very early age how to sit correctly (deportment was a factor when I was at school) and how to pick up and carry items, how to keep fit and watch their weight in order to avoid spinal problems in their adulthood.

 

BACK PAIN RELIEF FOR MANY WITH NEW TECHNIQUE…

According to Good Health in today’s Daily Mail there is a new technique now available for back pain.  A new spinal cord stimulator implant which is implanted beside the vertebrae in the spine in the epidural space and the vertebral wall is connected to a battery pack that produces a small electrical field, which blocks pain signals to the brain.

Initially, two wires, each with eight electrodes attached, are implanted, guided by x-ray and aligned with a nerve ending. They are then connected to an external battery to stimulate the wires to check it works for the patient. The programmes are personalised for specific pain areas.

The patient uses the device for one to two weeks and is reviewed twice in that time to see if the machine works for them. If they report at least a 50 percent improvement in pain then a small battery pack the size of a pacemaker is inserted through an incision in your buttocks, and connected to the wires. Around 80 percent of patients who have the device inserted on a trial basis go ahead with the full implant, a Dr Serge Nikolic ( based at NHS Pain Clinic at Barts Health Trust in London) said.

Patients are then given an external zapper to control the device and the stimulation’s intensity.The machine operates continuously and batteries can last ten years or longer and can be replaced with a simple procedure. Dr Nikolic said that it is for people who have severe chronic pain that limits their daily activity and has already tried all conservative therapies, (that’s me for sure).

A review of randomised controlled trials, published by the University of Saskatchewan, Canada in 2014, concluded the safety, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of spinal cord stimulation were well established in treating chronic pain associated with failed back surgery.

However, not all patients with back pain are suitable for this device including those with uncorrected bulging discs or deformities. The cost is also a big factor as it costs around £35,000 for the surgery and the device if done privately, but a much cheaper price on the NHS. It concluded that it is purely a funding issue as to whether your local NHS will fund the surgery with a waiting list of two years or more and with some NHS hospitals not even offering the procedure.

WHAT IS THE RIGHT AND WRONG PAIN AFTER EXERCISE…

They say that if you have mild muscle soreness after working out then that is quite normal. They even say that most people with arthritis can exercise through mild discomfort.

However, if you have moderate to severe pain in a particular joint before exercising then its best to avoid that joint in your workout.

If you have moderate to severe pain during the exercise then you should stop exercising and consult your GP as this could actually be a sign that your joints may be damaged or inflamed.

Joint pain after exercise isn’t right so if you do get that then change to an exercise that puts less stress on your joints.

Finally, if you have moderate to severe joint pain the day after exercise then rest for the day and do a shorter or less vigorous workout next time.

According to LIVE WELL NHS UK muscle pain that shows up a day or two after exercising can affect anyone, regardless of your fitness level. But don’t be put off. This type of muscle stiffness or achiness is normal, doesn’t last long, and is actually a sign of your improving fitness.

Dr. Jonathan Folland, an expert in neuromuscular physiology from Loughborough University, explains how to avoid sore muscles after exercise. Sore muscles after physical activity, known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), can occur when you start a new exercise programme, change your exercise routine, or increase the duration or intensity of your regular workout.

When muscles are required to work harder than they’re used to, or in a different way, it’s believed to cause microscopic damage to the muscle fibres, resulting in muscle soreness or stiffness. DOMS is often mistakenly believed to be caused by a lactic acid build up, but lactic acid isn’t involved in this process.

Anyone can develop DOMS, even those who have been exercising for years, including elite athletes.It can be alarming for people who are new to exercise, and it may dent their initial enthusiasm to get fit. The good news is that the pain will decrease as your muscles get used to the new physical demands being placed upon them.The soreness is part of an adaptation process that leads to greater stamina and strength as the muscles recover and build. Unless you push yourself hard, you’re unlikely to develop DOMS after your next exercise session.

Any movement you’re not used to can cause DOMS – in particular, movements that cause the muscle to contract while it lengthens, called eccentric muscle contractions.DOMS typically lasts between three and five days.There’s no one simple way to treat DOMS. Nothing is proven to be 100% effective. Treatments such as ice packs, massage, tender-point acupressure, anti-inflammatory drugs (such as aspirin or ibuprofen), and rest may help ease some of the symptoms.

One of the best ways to prevent DOMS is to start any new activity programme gently and gradually. Allowing the muscle time to adapt to new movements should help minimise soreness. If the pain makes it hard to exercise, it’s advisable to refrain from the activity for a few days until the pain eases. Alternatively, you could focus on exercises targeting less affected muscles to allow the most affected muscle groups time to recover.

 

STRUGGLING…

 

 

Struggling – if you look up this word in the dictionary it has a number of explanations as to what it means from fight, grapple, wrestle, to strive, endeavor, battle and much more.

To describe what I am going through at the moment I would need to incorporate all of those words and more.

All fibromyalgia patients know the sort of pain we are going through on a daily basis and how we all try to manage/cope with it, but I also have failed back surgery syndrome to manage as well. However I do manage it all most of the time. But this year has been a bit of an uphill struggle for me.

Earlier in the year I started with awful pain in my elbow and down my fingers which after months of different treatments I ended up having Cubital Tunnel Release Surgery. The pain relief was virtually instant and I thought I was managing it all well. But recently I seemed to have slipped down the ladder again.

About six weeks ago I started to experience pain on the outer side of my foot which I initially put down as arthritis but as time and the pain progressed I wondered if maybe I had a small stress fracture. I popped to A&E to get it checked out but they could see no fracture but some arthritis and thought maybe I had sprained my ankle.

I carried on wearing the support elastic but as days went into weeks I was getting no pain relief and had been walking with a limp for some time so I decided to go and visit my GP. After a bit of pressing and prodding around my GP said that she thought it was a Neuroma on my foot and that I needed to see a Podiatrist. She said he/she would probably give me a steroid injection and that should be the end of the problem.

So I came home and duly made an appointment to see a podiatrist but with over six weeks of walking incorrectly my back was really starting to suffer. Then bang two days ago it went into spasm. One of the worst I have had to deal with in a long time as I even needed to wake my husband up in the night to help me get out of bed to use the toilet.

 

I am a true advocate of mind over matter and have written endless articles on how writing my blog takes me away from my pain. But I have to admit that at the moment I really am struggling. I am obviously run down as I am also recovering from a nasty bout of laryngitis which then developed into a chest, throat and ear infection, so I know I am at rock bottom. But I can honestly feel as I get to the end of my post about my struggle that I already feel a bit lighter having written about it.

I guess there is nothing as strong as the power of your mind when you most need it, especially when you are in pain.