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

Sleeping Positions, Part 2

Consider that the way to sleep may be causing your pain

In the first entry of these series, we explored how sleeping positions can affect pain our shoulders, hands and forearms. In this post, we'll discuss pain in the hips, calves and feet.

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. 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.

The muscles we'll be discussing relative to these sleeping positions are the Glutes, posterior hip rotators (Piriformis is the most commonly known) and the Calves (comprised of the Soleus and Gastrocnemius). 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.

Anatomy Lesson:

Broadly, the three glute muscles attach from the pelvis to the upper thigh, and move the leg backward. There are six hip rotators, which attach from the sacrum to the upper thigh as well. The hip rotators, as their name suggests, rotate the leg out to the side.

Sleeping Position:

Many people sleep with one of their legs kicked out to the side. But glancing at the images shows the level to which that stresses out the posterior hip muscles - it's terrible for them! If the Piriformis muscle is too tense for too long, it can cause numbness and tingling down the leg, mimicking sciatica. Unlike true sciatica, though, which involves bones, Piriformis Syndrome can absolutely be alleviated with massage therapy, stretching and exercise. If you ever have pain, numbness and tingling down the backs of your legs, check that you're not sleeping (or even sitting!) with a leg bowed out. It's a very simple change that will make a huge impact on hip pain!

 

Anatomy Lesson:

There are two main "calf" muscles: Gastrocnemius and Soleus. They attach from the back of the knee to the heel.

Sleeping Position:

The calves are tight on almost everyone; they carry us around during the day and are usually active even when we're sitting. Pointing the toes activates them; keeping those toes pointed for a long time, like when we're sleeping, stresses out the calves quite a bit. In fact, this overuse of the calf muscles can lead to stress in the connective tissue of the foot, inflammation of which is Plantar Fasciitis. Anyone who's experienced that is likely desperate to get rid of the pain.Training yourself to sleep with your feet at 90 degrees is a very simple way to try to take pressure off the calves. In fact, when diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, most patients are given the "boot", which is meant to be worn only while sleeping or sitting, and which keeps the foot at about an 85 degree angle. This will help stretch the calves a bit. If you're experiencing Plantar Fasciitis, it's an easy change to make to wear the boot as often as you can while sitting and/or sleeping. (There's also a plantar fasciitis sock that performs a similar function but isn't nearly as bulky. Many people say they can't deal with how huge the boot is; the sock can be a good substitute.)

If you notice your toes are pointed while sleeping, make a conscious effort to keep them at 90 degrees. If you wake up with them pointed again, and are experiencing calf and foot pain, the special boot or sock might help train your muscles to stay soft and neutral. (A special note: If you sleep on your stomach, it's pretty certain that your toes will be too pointed. Stomach sleeping is actually bad for a number of reasons, too varied to go into in this post.)

Short personal story: I had plantar fasciitis in my left foot a few years ago. The pain was at it's most intense for a few months over the summer. I saw a podiatrist, and bought the big boot. I couldn't deal with wearing it while I slept, so I wore it every moment I wasn't standing at home; while watching Netflix, reading, etc. I took it off right before bed after having put in a few hours with it on. This helped me at least THINK about keeping my foot at 90 degrees while I slept. In fact, I often propped it up with my right foot until it learned to relax and stay at 90 degrees. NOW, after doing that for about three years, my RIGHT foot and calf are acting up a bit. By hooking my left foot in to my right, I was keeping my left foot in a good position, but straightening and aggravating my right. I got away with it for a few years, but now I notice the added tension. So I've got to make my right foot as happy as my left!

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 hips, calves or feet. 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