Poor Neck Alignment Plays A Major Role in Pain and Performance
The Way We Sleep Can Cause Neck and Head Pain. But There Are Solutions.
Among the 40 million Americans reporting that their sleep is disrupted by pain on multiple occasions each week, the most common type involves the head, neck, and face. Why is this, and what we can do to feel better?
We spoke with Dr. Elizabeth Hoefer, D.C., of Precision Chiropractic in Orange County, who specializes in neck/upper cervical care.
Neck Alignment Is Critical to Sleep and Health
“Alignment is the foundation of health,” says Dr. Hoefer. “If you’re sleeping with a pillow that doesn’t support proper neck alignment, your scalene muscles can become irritated, and then pull on your vertebrae. These bones protect the spinal cord; if they have moved out of alignment, this negatively impacts your nervous system by diminishing its ability to help your brain and body to effectively communicate."
“Pain is powerful; it’s often what brings patients in for care. If you’re having headaches, backaches, muscle pain, or sciatica, chiropractic can help you. However, optimal function of the nervous system is about more than not having a headache. Proper alignment is essential to overall health.”
Common Causes of Poor Alignment
“Sometimes patients come to me having developed horrible sleep habits that affect their alignment. They sleep on their stomach, or their mattress and pillow aren’t supporting them. Sleeping with a partner who snores, or with children who toss and turn can also impact your ability to get comfortable.”
“You must keep your muscles neutral and relaxed through appropriate alignment. Sleep—particularly sleep that happens between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.—is when your body restores itself; if you’re out of alignment, this restoration will be compromised. Poor alignment can also affect your diaphragm’s ability to move up and down, which impacts your lung capacity and your ability to get blood and oxygen to your brain. Sleeping with the proper neck position is crucial to waking up feeling rested and well."
Ways to Improve Neck Alignment
“Be sure your pillow and mattress are working together to give you enough support. From what I’ve experienced with the Level Sleep topper, the softer shoulder section allows your shoulder to drop, bringing your upper body into a more neutral position, encouraging proper alignment. When combined with the adjustable height pillow, your neck becomes properly supported as well.
“I recommend that you have a chiropractor conduct an upper cervical exam. He or she may be able to help restore balance through an adjustment. I treat my patients using the Blair Specific Protocol, a gentle approach to upper cervical care.
How Level Sleep Products Can Help
Finding the right sleep product is essential to cervical care, extending the benefits provided by a chiropractor and/or good habits during the day into the night.
The ergonomic, patent-pending Restore™ Pillow provides natural neck and spine alignment. Its Ergonomic Support Center enables the sleeper’s head to recline at the proper angle when sleeping on his or her back, opening up airways and reducing snoring. The unique ear wells and adjustable heights help side sleepers to position their head at the correct neck angle while reducing pressure on the face and ears. The pillow improves upon an earlier design clinically proven to reduce snoring up by 78 percent through studies conducted at Stanford University.
Level Sleep’s patented TriSupport™ mattresses and toppers work with the pillow to achieve optimal alignment along the entire body. “Designed for the human form,” each mattress or topper offers three different zones to accommodate the body’s curves and weights. The top, soft zone absorbs the shoulder and reduces pressure; the lumbar zone supports the lower back and torso to reduce spinal strain; and the medium zone reduces pressure on hips and equalizes pressure across the body.
About the Expert:
Dr. Hoefer earned her Doctor of Chiropractic degree, Bachelor of Science, and Associate of Science in Chiropractic Technology at Palmer College of Chiropractic.
She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Blair Upper Cervical Chiropractic Society and is a certified instructor. She had the honor of receiving Blair Chiropractor of the Year recognition for 2015.
She was awarded New Chiropractor of the Year for the State of California in 2013 from the CCA as well as the Orange County District in 2012. She served as President of the CCA Orange County District from 2014-2016 and held the position of Secretary from 2012-2014.
Dr. Hoefer lives and practices full time in Orange County, California with her Husband and 3 daughters.