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Diana Remaley, LMT
Diana@RemaleyMassage.com
(203)292-5362
19 Compo Road South
Westport, CT

Sleeping Positions, Part 1

Consider that the way to sleep may be causing your pain

Many clients come in to my office with pain with no discernible causation. While it is true that sometimes pain just occurs randomly or due to emotional factors, it's also true that we may be unwittingly putting our bodies in compromising positions. We tend to recognize this when we're sitting at a desk all day; 9-5 pain tends to be pretty pronounced. Less pronounced, however, are patterns we may develop while we're sleeping. Sure, we may wake up with a sore neck or back, and these are acute pains usually from a weird position over the course of a single night. Negative muscular patterns, though, develop over time.

In the next two posts, I'll explore common sleeping positions that can lead to muscular dysfunction and pain. Consider that how you sleep may be contributing to your waking pain. And keep an open mind as you try to modify some of these patterns that have likely been entrenched for years, if not your entire life. It's not easy to change them, but it's absolutely worth it.

This first entry will explore pain in the shoulders, pecs, hands and forearms. The second entry will explore hip, calf and foot pain. Ask yourself if you have pain in any of these areas, and, just for fun, see if you sleep in any of the mentioned positions.

Anatomy Lesson:

The muscles we'll be discussing relative to these sleeping positions are the Pectoralis Major and Minor, the Deltoid and the Wrist Extensor Group. One or more of these muscles might be implicated in pain; if you can't determine which with these articles, it might be time to make a massage therapy appointment.

The Pecs attach from roughly the sternum to underneath the arm. When we put our arm up above our head, we're using our pecs. The deltoid is a large "cuff" that covers our entire upper arm. Again, moving the arm up above the heat will use it.

Sleeping Position:

Now that we know where the above muscles attach, we can deduce that sleeping with our arm above our head activates the Pecs Major and Minor and the Deltoid. It's incredibly common for this sleeping position to cause "Pec Minor Syndrome", which causes pain in the underarm and numbness and tingling in the hand. In fact, this syndrome is remarkably similar in symptoms to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, but is far more common. If you notice tingling in your hands and fingers and sleep with your arm above your head, do yourself and favor and keep that arm down. In this position, the Pecs and deltoid are relaxed and neutral.

Anatomy Lesson:

This one's super easy: The wrist Extensors are a group of nine muscles on the back of the forearm that attach from the elbow, through the wrist, to the fingertips. If you hold your fingers on the back of your arm and wiggle your fingers, you'll feel them activate.

 

Sleeping Position:

It's extremely common for us to wake up with our fingers balled in to a fist. The wrist Extensors naturally curl our fingers a little bit, but when they stay curled over night, especially for a prolonged period, they can lead to pain in the forearm and fingers. There's an incredibly simple solution to this: Keep your fingers straightened under a pillow. It's nearly impossible to keep your fingers straight on their own, but locking them under a pillow or under the edge of your blanket will keep the forearm muscles neutral and soft. You'll certainly notice this reduces pain in the fingers themselves, and it may even reduce pain in the forearms also.

 

These small changes likely won't completely eliminate pain, but they can help mitigate it. Keeping our muscles in neutral positions while we sleep helps create positive muscle memory, meaning it will be easier to keep them neutral while we're awake. Who doesn't want more muscular control, right?

Consider trying to sleep in the suggested positions for a few nights if you notice pain in the shoulders, hands or forearms. If you notice a little pain relief, then you know you're on the right track. And to get the rest of the pain under control, feel free to contact me for a massage therapy appointment. I'll see you in my Westport office!

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Diana Remaley, LMT
Diana@RemaleyMassage.com
(203)292-5362
19 Compo Road South
Westport, CT