PainShoulder & ElbowSpine

Feather Your Nest


Get creative in the bedroom…

Invest in some feather pillows and a good mattress. There are a lot of ways pillows can make your life better, and it’s not just in the bedroom. But since that’s where we use them the most, let’s start there. But we won’t stop there.

I like to look at the situation in your bed much like I look at a pair of shoes. Does it look like your foot goes there? Take off your shoe and stand up next to it. Look down at your foot and shoe. Does it look like your foot fits in there? Unless you are routinely wearing hippie shoes like Keens, Dansko clogs or Mephistos, most likely it doesn’t. And if it doesn’t, that means something is getting squished.

Same goes with the bed. Stand back and look at your bed. Does it look like your body goes there? Right. Unfortunately, there is no bed available to mankind which looks like your body goes there. We’re soft and hard in places, curved in all planes and angled this way and that. We roll around. We have to breathe, expand our tummies and inflate our lungs. We have to finish digesting late dinners. We like to keep our feet warm but our faces cold. We sweat. Trust me, there is no mattress which can accommodate all the above. They’re better now than they were twenty years ago for sure. But they’re far from perfect. And since it doesn’t look like your body goes there, then something’s getting squished.

What do doctors recommend? Just ask them. And every one will have a different answer. There is no scientific study I know of which tells us which mattress is the best. I listen to my patients. They love firm beds, soft beds, Sleep Number beds, water beds and Tempur-Pedic mattresses.

What do I like? A traditional firm mattress with a memory foam pillow top. I try to invest in the best mattress I can afford because my bed is the one place in which I spend the most amount of time at any one single time. No I don’t sleep most of the time, but there is no other place in which I stay in one place continuously for 5-6-7 hours. In my experience, a better quality mattress makes a difference.

Can’t afford a good quality mattress? Buy a 2 or 3 inch memory foam mattress topper. Top it with a nice thick mattress pad, and voilà! You’re going to have made yourself a more comfortable place in which to sleep.

But frankly this blog was not meant to be all about mattresses. It’s about pillows, because pillows complete the sleeping environment and frankly you can’t have too many. And we’re blessed to live in the times of Bed, Bath and Beyond and Linens and Things. Before that you could never go to one store and see all the different kinds of pillows, and have the ability to feel  and chose from a hundred different standard pillows; feather, imitation feather, foam, hypo-allergenic, soft, softer, medium and firm. This is a wonderful thing!

It is only through pillows that you can make that bed seem more like something your body fits into. My husband and I have about seven or eight pillows on our bed. Usually a couple end up falling on the floor, but we start out with a bunch. We have three specialty pillows which we use if there’s something wrong with us, like a sore knee or a crick in our necks, or a muscle spasm in our backs. I also have a book pillow so I can prop a book or my Kindle on it, thereby allowing hands-free reading so my carpal tunnel doesn’t flare up.

We have a small investment in pillows.

I use the basic pillows; one firm feather pillow and two soft ones to prop my shoulders and cushion my neck. Once ready to snuggle in, I simply pack them in around my shoulders and neck so that I’m supported in as close to a natural anatomic position as I can possibly get. I make sure my face is free and my neck isn’t crimped up in any way. I make sure nothing is getting numb.

If my bum knee is giving me grief, I rob the firm pillow from up top and put it between my knees, or I get out one of the specialty pillows. That’s the long body pillow. And if my husband is using that one, then I get out the super-specialty pillow; the one that’s shaped like a fat candy cane. I love the bedding stores. They have all those pillows and even have pillow cases for them!

If your feet swell, get a bunch of those big square “European” pillows and put them under your calves.

If your fourth and fifth fingers get numb when you fold your elbows up under you, get a couple of soft feather-like pillows. Wrap them around your arms and elbows to cushion the little place on the inside of your elbow where you get the “funny bone” sensation. That’s where the ulnar nerve gets pressed and stretched.

If you have chronic problems with your neck, in addition to the very moldable feather pillows, try a little u-shaped pillow, like the travel pillows you can buy at the airport. You can use them as well, but the real pillows are nice, again because you can buy little U pillow cases to go with them. They’re so cute!

I think those formed, memory foam pillows, like the Tempur-pedic neck pillow are nice too, but they are a little more formed and don’t work for everyone. Many stores have one you can try and you should take advantage of that. Go there and snuggle up with it for fifteen minutes. Your neck is worth that effort.

Travelling can be a problem. I have found that Hampton Inns have four pillows; two are usually soft and two are more firm. That’s really nice. Otherwise I will actually take a couple of feather pillows with me. If you put them in a plastic garbage bag, hold the opening closed with your fist and lie down on them, you can squish all the air out of them. Then twist the opening closed and tie it in a knot. The two pillows will be nice and flat and will fit nicely in your suitcase. Then just fluff them up when you arrive at your destination. Again, if you have any kind of neck problems, you should always travel with the little U pillow.

Creative pillowing can get expensive. I’ve been through many pillows which just didn’t work and they lie in some storage closet, perhaps for another day when I develop a new bony prominence, a crook or a numb spot. I also get rid of pillows once they lose their fluff or firmness or whatever shape it was that made them right for me in the first place. Again, your body is worth that expense and effort.

And remember…pillows aren’t just for the bedroom! Think padding. And think about the other places where some of you might spend a lot of idle physical time; your desk, your car, your easy chair. These are places where various parts of your body spend volumes of time in one spot.

One part which lends itself to padding is the elbow. Again, that ulnar nerve spends way too much time pressed against firm surfaces and stretched around the bend of the elbow. Pad it. Keep a pillow or a piece of memory foam in your car and put it between your elbow and the consoles. If you can’t lower the arms of your desk chair, then pad those armrests too. The makers of couches and recliners haven’t quite figured out just how sensitive our elbows are. You’ll grow old waiting for that to change. Use pillows.

The McKenzie Back Pillow is useful for those of us with mechanical back pain or sciatica. You slip it in the small of your back to get a little extension there. You can get them at Amazon. But you can use one of your old, squished feather pillows for the same thing. With all those pillows you’re going to look like you’re living out of you car. So what.

And again, don’t forget the travel/U pillow when driving long distances or sitting for long periods of time in one place. By the time you get all these pillows in place you’ll be all tucked in like a Nascar driver.

Got tailbone pain? Pad it. I see a half-dozen patients a month with tailbone pain. That’s too many. It’s frustrating because there’s really not anything we can do about it. And everyone who has it thinks there’s a shot or a surgery to cure it. Let me just say this; if you wake up one morning with tailbone pain and it’s not bleeding, infected or draining some kind of yucky fluid…then start padding it. Get a feather pillow, a Donut Pillow, or the Aylio Coccyx Cushion, and put one every place where you sit for more than two minutes. That includes your car, desk, kitchen, TV room, and even sneak one into the movie theater if you have to. Pad your butt now and don’t wait for six months.

Wow, all this talk about pillows has got me sleepy! See ya!












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