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Why should I avoid sleeping on my stomach?

Neck pain syndromes are quite common and are likely the 4th most common cause of pain. It is estimated that 9% of men and 12% of women experience some form of cervical discomfort, with or without arm and hand pain, and 35% of the population can recall experiencing neck pain at some point in their lives. The cervical spine is the source of a significant proportion of disorders referred to the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, and it is the chiropractor's role to determine whether the cause is indeed in the neck or in the region affected by the pain.

The human neck has a limited range of motion, which varies from person to person and tends to decrease as age advances, but it's generally around 160 degrees or 80 degrees to each side from the neutral posture, with the eyes focused forward. When sleeping on your stomach, you end up forcing the vertebrae to rotate beyond their normal movement (much of this movement is carried out by the first two cervical vertebrae, just below the back of the head), and this rotation causes a stretching of the muscles that rotate the neck, leaving them tense, sore, and with limited movement. It's not uncommon for people to wake up with stiff necks and/or headaches that can take days to go away. Chiropractic care can assist in these conditions by realigning the vertebrae and releasing these muscles with specific techniques, but the ideal approach is to change habits. Since it's not easy to change sleeping positions (stomach sleeping), mainly because we are not conscious of this posture, it's recommended to make this change gradually and without tension. You can try falling asleep on your side or back, as this way your body will gradually get accustomed to that position, even if you end up returning to the improper posture after falling asleep. By doing so, you would have gained several hours of restorative sleep without burdening your neck with rotations that would cause tension and pain, which you might only feel upon awakening. CIPRIANO, Joseph J. Photographic Manual of Orthopedic and Neurological Tests. Artmed Editora, 2016 EVANS, Ronald C. Illustrated Orthopedic Physical Examination. Manole Editora, 2nd edition, 2003.


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