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Stomach sleeping

Prone sleeping position
Stomach sleeping, like any posture, has its pros and cons. It is often thought of as a “bad” position for your neck.  Every posture, even when we’re lying down, results in gravity applying force to our body. Stomach sleeping mandates near maximal rotation of the neck, which applies even more force via stretch. Since most people sleep between 5-8 hours nightly, you get forces being applied for a long time. This is why I put “bad” position in quotation marks - any position can cause strain if we barely move for 8 hours. 
 
But remember how I said it also has its pro’s?  Lying on your stomach is often relieving for people with low back pain.  It puts your lumbar spine into a slightly arched position.  This posture creates very little added force, and that slight arching of your low back counteracts the forces slouching and bending can place on our low back.
 
If people have neck problems that cause pain and stiffness after sleeping on their stomach, I have a few recommendations.  
1: If possible, ditch the prone sleeping for back or side posture.
2: If you just can’t sleep unless you’re on your stomach, switch the side you turn you head to as often as possible.  In some cases I may have patients set alarms to switch every few hours. 
3: In terms of pillows, most orthopedic pillows are overpriced and not that effective. Use a thinner pillow or even go without - regardless of position, a thick pillow will prop your head out of a neutral position. The only pillow we sell in office is a small foam pad that you can insert into your current pillow case or use alone to support the curve in your neck when on your back or side. 
4: Move as much as possible during the day. Movement counteracts the forces of static postures.  Staying stationary is almost always bad news for joint pain. You can have a specific movement that is best for you prescribed by a mckenzie credentialed clinician. Patient's can call our office to set up a consultation or find the nearest certified clinician at the Mckenzie institute website
Author
Dr. Todd Peterson, DC, Cert MDT. Dr. Todd Peterson Dr. Todd Peterson is a chiropractor and certified provider for Mechanical Diagnosis & Therapy (MDT, aka the McKenzie Method). Dr. Peterson played football at the University of Nebraska, where he was a 4 year letter winner and Academic All American. He briefly played professional football in 2009 before returning to Chiropractic School in 2010. He earned his doctor of chiropractic (DC) degree from National University of Health Sciences in 2013, graduating with Magna Cum Laude honors.

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