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Pain Management/Sleeping with neck and back pain


QUESTION: I have severe sleep apnea and use a cpap, but I also have four herniated cervical discs and two fused lumbar discs. I have a lot of problems with sleep positions that aren't so uncomfortable that I wake up in pain. My preferred position is on either side and I get a lot of discomfort across the middle of my back. I've got a body length pillow and a gusseted pillow that claims to be for side sleepers, and a "regular pillow. There is always Ibuprophen and Percocet, but I don't like the idea of using them as "sleep aids." I am going to the YMCA four days a week to do water exercise. Can you make any recommendations for pillows or anything else that might help?

ANSWER: Hi, Helen.

No recommendations for pillows. They do nothing, anyway, for the problem -- which is that you are highly contracted throughout your neck, which compresses discs (herniation) and changes head position -- which in turn leads to a narrowed breathing passage.

Please start with this article:

You need to learn what it takes to relax throughout your neck -- and no external manipulation therapy will accomplish that, adequately. There is a process for that involving changing muscle/movement memory. Ask, after doing the reading, and I'll expand on the subject and point you to something to do.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I have read the article. It is interesting that it is on "whiplash" since that was not my problem, but I see how it relates  I have been having problems with my hands and arms as described. I'm curious about the techniques mentioned. Is it something I can learn to do via online resources or do I need a somatic specialist?

Hi, Helen,

You would do best with a somatic educator competent in dealing with neck conditions like yours. Not all are. You would ask. LIST at:

Alternately, you might work with relevant somatic education exercises to develop the ability to free that region in yourself. Relevant is the key term.

One would have to know exactly where you are contracted to select relevant exercises.

Alternately, you could work with a general collection of exercises to free neck movement. Ask.

Here's another relevant article:  

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Lawrence Gold


back pain exercises -|- back muscle pain -|- back muscle spasms -|- degenerative disc disease -|- disc bulge -|- dizziness -|- groin pain -|- groin pull -|- lifting injuries -|- lower back pain -|- lower back exercises -|- sciatica -|- whiplash injuries -|- Hanna Somatics -|- headaches -|- iliopsoas bursitis -|- iliopsoas muscle -|- iliopsoas syndrome -|- iliopsoas stretches -|- movement limitations -|- psoas stretch -|- psoas muscle pain -|- psoas stretches -|- psoas major / minor muscles -|- somatics -|- somatic exercises -|- somatic education -|-


In practice since 1990. Two years on staff at a hospital Wellness and Rehabilitation Center.

Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, American Journal of Pain Management, Somatics: Magazine-Journal of the Mind-Body Arts and Sciences. More complete listing at

Certifications: Hanna Somatic Education, the Dr. Ida P. Rolf method of Structural Integration (partial list)

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