Are you looking for the best way to sleep with occipital neuralgia? Occipital neuralgia is a condition that can severely affect your ability to sleep. The good news is, once you learn the best sleeping position for occipital neuralgia, you can finally get a good night’s rest.
What is occipital neuralgia?
Another name for your occiput is the base of your skull. You have nerves called occipital nerves that come out of your neck and into the suboccipital muscles located on the back of your head. These nerves can become injured and if they do, it can lead to occipital neuralgia. Occipital neuralgia causes symptoms such as a headache, migraine, numbness, tingling, tenderness, blurry vision, vertigo, or neck tightness.
How to sleep with occipital neuralgia
The key to sleeping with occipital neuralgia is to sleep in a relaxed posture with neutral spinal alignment. This is easy to do with the help of wedge pillows. The best news is, you can support your spine correctly whether you like to sleep on your side or on your back.
Sleeping on your back
When you sleep on your back with occipital neuralgia, you’ve got to sleep with a pillow that cradles your occiput. Remember, your occiput is the back of your head where your occipital nerves are inflamed.
You don’t want a pillow that is going to put additional pressure on the back of your head. Rather, find a contoured orthopedic neck wedge pillow that will remove pressure from the back of your skull. Not only will the contours alleviate pressure from your occiput, they will keep your neck in perfect alignment while you sleep.
Additionally, patients with occipital neuralgia need to sleep with a knee wedge pillow to ensure total alignment of their spine. When you sleep flat on your back without your legs elevated, your lower spine is arched. This can increase tension in your already inflamed occipital nerves.
Elevating your legs relaxes the middle and lower portions of your spine. Supporting your upper and middle spine with an orthopedic neck wedge pillow will relax the upper portions of your spine. With your entire spine in alignment, you are perfectly primed for a good night’s sleep.
If you are having severe migraines, blurry vision, or vertigo due to occipital neuralgia, consider sleeping at a slight incline. Sleeping inclined on a wedge pillow can improve circulation throughout your head and neck. This promotes healing and prevents gravity from allowing pressure to build up in your head overnight which can happen when sleeping flat.
If you decide that sleeping elevated would benefit you, place your orthopedic neck pillow on top of your triangle pillow. Your legs will continue to rest on a leg wedge to ensure your spine is fully supported. This creates a position that completely supports your spine and lets your muscles rest in a relaxed state.
Sleeping on your side
What if you like to sleep on your side? Sleeping on your side with occipital neuralgia can be done in two ways: sleeping on an incline or sleeping flat.
To sleep on a slight incline, which would be a good idea if you are suffering from headaches, migraines, blurry vision, or vertigo, use a contoured incline wedge designed especially for side sleepers. The contours will support your spine in a neutral position so that your nerves and muscles are able to relax.
Use an orthopedic neck wedge pillow to support your head and neck. To support your middle and lower spine in a neutral position, use a leg separator pillow that can hold your hip, leg and ankle parallel to the bed. This position ensures that any tight leg muscles won’t be pulling on your spine which could cause tension on your spinal nerves.
If you would be more comfortable sleeping flat and on your side, use an orthopedic neck wedge pillow, a side sleeper wedge, and a leg separator pillow to support your spine. A side sleeper wedge is a small wedge that fills in the contour of your waist. This small wedge makes a big difference by supporting your lower spine and spinal nerves. This is important so that they are not experiencing any tension while you sleep. The leg separator pillow will ensure that your lower body muscles are relaxed and not pulling on your spine.
The best way to sleep with occipital neuralgia is to fully support your spine. This allows your nerves to heal and rejuvenate overnight and happens when you strategically use wedge pillows to align your body.
-Bryan Blare, Doctor of Physical Therapy