Sleeping with a pinched nerve.

Posted by jpicbec @jpicbec, Mar 27 11:17am

I have a pinched nerve in my neck that causes sharp pain to radiate down my left arm and it seems that it is aggravated by the way I sleep. Do I need a different pillow or need to sleep in a particular manner??

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Hi @jpicbec. Welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect.

There may be solutions for you by changing pillows. I've gone through neck surgery and have experimented with lots of pillow types. I suggest looking online for ideas of pillows specifically designed for folks with pinched nerve type challenges.

I currently use a sobakawa which has worked for me for years. Memory foam might be a good option as well. Some pillow companies even have a no-risk trial period which is a good idea for you since it might take a few tries to find what you want.

What type pillow are you sleeping on now? Have you experimented with different pillows already?


I have a memory foam pillow but it’s just the standard shape. I was thinking of trying one of those shaped memory foam pillows that provide additional neck support.


@jpicbec I wish to also welcome you to Connect. Like @upstatephil , I am a cervical spine surgery patient. I also have thoracic outlet syndrome which can be more common in spine patients if an injury like a whiplash was the cause of a spine injury. This involves the brachial plexus which is a bundle of nerves and blood vessels that exit the spinal cord through the scalene muscles at the side of the neck, and pass between the collar bone and rib cage. For patients with TOS, head position or turning the head can cause nerve compression pain and cut off some of the blood supply to the arm. I have to juggle my pillows to make sure my neck is supported and not side bent up or down when I am laying on my side.

This may be something to inquire about with a neurologist. Many doctors miss the diagnosis of TOS, so the best places to inquire would be at a medical center that lists this condition as something they treat. Treatment is usually long term physical therapy.

Did you have a diagnosis of where a nerve may be pinched?



jpicbec, oh, yes the levator scapulae. I've found that it isn't helpful to have a pillow that extends beneath the shoulders. For me it is best to have a two inch pillow and a smaller neck roll. But, it will or might be different for you. I sleep on my back, though I can get comfortable on my side with a neck roll or a small rolled pillow. It isn't advisable to read in bed because of the neck.


For those of us that tend to fall asleep setting in the chair or car this helps

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