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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!

Tags :

A Modified Pec Stretch

Are your shoulders and chest feeling tight? Give this stretch a try

 I've written about a number of pec stretches before, but this one is one of my favorites. It stretches not only the front of the shoulder, but also gives the feeling of stretching the back of the shoulderblades, which I think are less than mobile on most of us. Give this a try during the day if you're stuck at a desk, or even first thing in the morning to wake up your upper body. I love it!

Anatomy Lesson:

Primarily this stretch will affect your Pectoralis Minor and Pectoralis Major muscles. Secondarily, it will move your scapula (shoulderblade) in a way it doesn't normally move, which provides a feeling of release.

The Pec Major attaches from the sternum and clavicle to the upper arm (humerus). It's the huge muscle we think of when talking about the "Pecs". It's the first one you'll feel when you massage the area (Pec Minor is actually beneath it).

 

Importantly, the Pec Minor attaches from the third to fifth ribs and the scapula (shoulderblade), meaning we move it FAR more than Pec Major with this motion. Since it's also attached in a more vertical direction, moving the arm up at the elbow is what pulls it and stretches it more fully. Although smaller, the Pec Minor is often implicated more in pain than Pec Major. It's closer to the nerve and can also therefore cause numbness and tingling down the arm if it's hypertonic. That's why keeping it loose and soft is so critical.

The Stretch:

Bend your elbow at the level of your shoulder, with your palm near your ear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Place your elbow in a door jamb (or on some other fixed object) and take a step forward, keeping your hand near your ear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let your shoulderblade bend backward and your elbow "fall" behind you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This should feel fantastic on both the front and back of the shoulder. Don't bounce; just let the weight of your body move you toward the floor. Hold for at least 20 seconds, or longer if you feel tight still. Repeat as often as you feel you need it!

The shoulder is probably the most complicated joint in the body; so if you're still feeling that it needs to move more freely, it's probably time for a massage therapy appointment. I'll see you in my Westport office!

Stretching the Back of the Knee

Are you noticing a little tension when you flex your knees?

I often have clients come in with pain in their knees. The knee is a complicated joint; it's difficult to say with certainty that the pain experienced here is muscular and not joint-related. However, there is a stretch we an perform [GENTLY!] to try to release some tension in the area. If pain persists after this stretch and some massages, it's likely time to see your sports doctor.

Anatomy Lesson:

The knee is composed of a number of muscles and tendons, but for our purposes, we'll focus on a few of them: Gastrocnemius and Plantaris (which are part of our "calf" muscles), Biceps Femoris, Semimembranosus, Semitendonosus, Sartorius and Gracilis (which are part of our "hamstring" muscles). These muscles meet at the knee and form the meaty part of the back of our knees, the part you can grab on to on either side when you bend your knee.

Since these muscles are behind the knee, in order to stretch them, we want to straighten the knee. However, "locking" the knee, as we call it, is actually hyperextending the joint; that is, pushing it too far beyond it's normal range of motion. So this stretch cannot occur when we are standing. We also want to avoid hyperextension even when we're sitting, so this stretch is one we perform by pushing against ourselves.

The Stretch:

Sitting comfortably, on a soft surface, raise one leg. Lean forward to comfortably hold the bottom of that foot on the pinky toe side. If you find this stresses your lower back, you can roll backward on to your back and raise your leg straight up above yourself.

Gently and slowly push your foot away from your body, while still holding it. Your hand is keeping your foot from actually moving, yet your muscles are activating to try to push the knee straight. This avoids hyperextension but still activates the correct muscles. You'll have to bend forward in order keep holding your foot as you straighten the leg. Don't let any stress develop in your lower back. If you feel pain while straightening, back off and bend the leg back to neutral.

You only need to hold this stretch for about 10 seconds; any longer and you're putting a bit of strain on the tendons and ligaments. Move really slowly and deliberately, and if you notice any pain, back off.

This is a good stretch to perform after a workout; it should serve to calm down both the calf and hamstring muscles. Just take it very slowly and gently!

Of course, this will only stretch a small portion of these muscles. If you're noticing tension still hanging around, it's probably time to book a massage therapy session. We can run through more stretches and techniques together to try to get you back to 100%. 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