A wedge pillow is a recommended tool for patients suffering from prolapse, be it pelvic organ prolapse or disc prolapse. In both cases, it helps in aligning the spine with hips and waist giving temporary relief to the patient.
A wedge pillow, as the name suggests, is a wedge or triangular-shaped pillow. It can be placed under the pelvis and legs or under the head and neck. It is usually made of memory foam but can also be made of latex foam or polyester fibers. Wedge pillows come in different sizes. The selection of size depends on one’s comfort, weight and height. Wedge pillows are easily available online.
Below are some of the best wedge pillows available on Amazon.
Last update 2020-10-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
The use of wedge pillow has been an efficient tool to relieve pain and support the organs. It elevates the head and neck. Wedge pillows are known to help in the conditions of sleep apnea, neck pain, sinus problems. It can be used during pregnancy for elevating legs and hips. It is can help patients suffering from deep vein thrombosis.
There are two kinds of prolapse. Pelvic organ prolapse and disc prolapse. We will discuss how a wedge pillow can help in both the cases.
Wedge Pillow and Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition that can affect around 50% of elderly women1 who have borne children sometime in the past. Pelvic organ prolapse can cause bulging of pelvic organs. The most common symptoms caused are protrusion of lump through vagina or anus., urinary or fecal incontinence, abdominal pain. It can negatively affect the quality of life.
Prolapse is determined by different clinical stages from 0 to IV. These stages determine the line of treatment for the patients. Up to one in 5 women suffering from pelvic organ prolapse will need surgery.
How does lying down help with pelvic organ prolapse?
Patients suffering from pelvic organ prolapse complain of an increase in pain when in the upright position for a prolonged period of time. This is due to the gravitational force pulling the loosened organs downwards. Bodyweight acts as an additional force, contributing to the contractility of pelvic muscles, affecting the pelvic floor while standing. Prolonged standing causes the displacement of pelvic organs and their muscles.
Hence lying in a supine position is advised for patients suffering from pelvic organ prolapse. When in the upright position, the bladder is at its lowest position compared to when standing. Studies have shown up to a 5-millimeter difference between standing and sleeping position1.
How do you sleep with a prolapse?
Lying down also helps in the case of prolapse because the bladder fills up when lying down. A full bladder causes less displacement of the pelvic organs as compared to an empty bladder. This helps in reducing the symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse. The best sleeping position is to lie on the back as it uses gravitational forces to reposition the organs to its position. Patients should avoid sleeping on the stomach as it exerts pressure on the pelvic muscles.
Does wedge pillow help with pelvic organ prolapse?
Lying straight on the back with a wedge pillow placed under hips and legs is a suitable position to sleep for patients suffering from pelvic organ prolapse. The reasons behind it are:
- A wedge pillow provides good support for pelvic floor muscles and thereby prevent downwards descent of the organs.
- A wedge pillow also ensures that the pessaries (a surgical device used in the case of prolapse to support the vagina) are placed in the proper position as it inverts the pelvic region and prevents pessary displacement.
- It ensures that the spine, pelvis, and hips are in good alignment. If the back is curled up, it puts pressure on pelvic muscles, causing descend of the organs. If it is arched, it overstretches the pelvic muscle and causes more loosening of the organs for its wall. Hence maintaining a normal spinal position is effective in a way to support organs.
Wedge Pillow and Disc Prolapse
Disc prolapse is a condition of the spine which causes the inner portion of the spine to prolapse outwards, causing pain and discomfort in the back. It is also called a herniated disc or a slip disc. The soft rubbery cushion in the inner portion of the spinal disc tears out from tougher exterior (annulus) and sits between individual vertebrae.
Disc prolapse or herniated disc can occur in any part of the spine and it impinges the nerve in that region. This can cause pain and soreness around the nerve pathway, usually arms or legs. Many people are asymptomatic and no treatment is required for them.
The majority of prolapsed disc occurs in the lower back although few are seen in the cervical (neck) region. The signs and symptoms depend on which nerve is affected. It usually affects one side of the body.
- Pain: Legs are most typically affected when disc prolapse has occurred on lower back feeling pain in back, hips, thighs all the way down to foot and sole. This is called sciatica as the sciatica nerve is affected in this region. When prolapse occurs in cervical area pain occurs in arms and shoulder. The pain is elevated on sneezing or coughing. This pain is often described as a sharp or burning sensation.
- Soreness: Patients have radiated tingling sensation or numbness in the affected area of the nerve pathway.
- Muscle spasm: Muscles in that area tend to get tensed and can cause muscle spasm.
- Weakness: bones and muscle in the affected area tend to get weak causing patients to stumble or difficulty to lift objects.
- Redness or swelling: In some cases, swelling is also seen in the back area due to protruded disc.
What is the best position to sleep with disc prolapse?
Patients with disc prolapse are usually advised bed rest. They are recommended to sleep on their back or on the side they are most comfortable with. There are three sleep positions followed by people:
On the back
This is considered to be the best position to eliminate the stress on the back. It aligns the spine with hips and pelvis and relieves the spinal gaps and thereby the nerves. The use of a firm mattress is usually recommended and the use of a wedge pillow under thighs or lower back can be supportive. If the patient has cervical disc prolapse avoid the use of a neck pillow.
On the stomach
This is not a recommended sleeping position as it may augment the back and neck problem. It causes a reduction in spinal gaps causing more pain to the impinged nerve and its area. Some patients with an excess protrusion from the backbone may prefer to sleep on the stomach to avoid pressure on the prolapsed disc. Positioning pillows under a lower abdomen would be preferred if chosen to sleep under this position.
On the side
This is the most commonly preferred position of most people. The positioning of the pillow between the knees is advised in these cases. But avoid sleeping on the side affected side or the side with protrusion.
Use of wedge pillow for disc propalse or slip disc
The use of a wedge pillow is a useful tool to support and relieve back pain. The positioning and firmness of the pillow depends on the sleeping positioning of the individual. Most comfort is achieved when knees are slightly elevated and the spine is properly integrated causing relief to the spinal gaps thus avoiding pinching of the nerves. This can be achieved by placing a wedge pillow under the knees for patients sleeping on their backs.
A wedge pillow does not help much with the healing process for prolapse patients, it does provide temporary relief and helps them sleep comfortably. It also helps with proper blood circulation preventing soreness of the back.