The Perfect Pillow

Your choice of sleeping support is important for reducing muscle and joint aches and pains, especially if you are mainly affected on waking. Our pillow choice affects the alignment of our neck, shoulders and spine throughout our sleep cycle. A poor choice in pillow can be like a poor choice in shoes – if you stand around in uncomfortable shoes for 8 hours a day you are bound to end up with muscle tension and soreness. This also applies to your mattress.

So how do we choose the perfect pillow?

Sometimes you can be lucky and find it on your first try, but generally it can take a bit of searching and experimenting before you get it right. Here are a few handy hints to help you in your search:

  1. Look for a pillow that holds it’s shape – like memory foam
  2. Don’t go for anything too expensive if you’re not sure it’s the right one for you – remember you might need to try a few to find the right one.
  3. Remember that it might take a week or two to adjust to a new pillow, so if it ticks all the boxes and it’s comfortable most of the time, hang in there and give it a week to a fortnight for your body to adjust
  4. Always try out the pillow in the shop – most places will have a display bed you can test your pillow on. If there is more than one bed, choose the one with similar firmness to your own bed.

When testing out a pillow:

  • Side sleepers – your new pillow should fill up the space between your ear and your shoulder without any collapsing or folding through your shoulder joint. Your neck should also remain quite neutral which means your head shouldn’t be side flexed towards either shoulder – your neck should be at a right angle from your shoulders.
  • Back sleepers – choose a medium height pillow that keeps your head and neck quite neutral e.g. not so high it tilts your head too far forward but not so low that it extends your neck and tilts your chin up.

Finding the perfect pillow and a good mattress will help minimise aggravation of joint and muscle tension issues. However, if you have a longstanding issue, you may like to speak to a Physiotherapist first.

Tips on Natural Pain Relievers

When you’re in pain, it is often difficult to think straight. We often avoid movement or treatment and jump straight to the medicine cabinet to attempt to ease the symptoms we are experiencing.
Next time, have a go at trying these few tips to help relieve your pain and get you back to functioning again!

1. Reduce stress

When you are stressed, hormones are released into your body that cause physical tension and increase your experience of pain. Try reducing your stress levels with meditation or doing nice things for yourself that you find relaxing. This will decrease the stress hormones and reduce your pain experience.

2. Release those endorphins

Endorphins act as the body’s natural pain relievers. They interact with opiate receptors to reduce our perception of pain. The release of endorphins also leads to feelings of euphoria. With these two effects combined we experience less pain and decrease the effects that stress has on the body.
Physical activity that gets your heart rate up will release these pain-relieving endorphins into your system. When experiencing pain, the trick is to choose an exercise that your body is able to tolerate. Your physiotherapist or health care professional may be able to help you get on the right track.

3. Heat

Heat works in two ways; it increases the blood flow and oxygen to the damaged area along with suppressing pain signals.

4. Massage

Massage helps to relax and increase the blood flow to your muscles while also decreasing the body’s perception of the pain experience.

5. Stretching and releasing

By stretching and releasing your muscles, particularly around your hips and back, you allow your back to move more freely. Your back loves movement and tight muscles restrict this and may increase the pain you are experiencing.

6. Get some vitamin D

Studies show that people who get the recommended dose of vitamin D, 10-15 minutes of sun exposure per day, are less likely to experience pain than those who don’t.

7. Stay hydrated

Getting enough water during the day is good for you in more ways than one! If you are experiencing back pain, keeping your fluids up will ensure that your intervertebral discs stay healthy and hydrated to allow for stability in the spine and reduced stiffness.