Do you wake up with a pain in your neck? Your pillow may be partly to blame. A poor pillow fit for your preferred sleeping mode can make neck pain worse, contribute to headaches, and more.
The human neck has a wide range of motion, making it prone to injury. The vertebrae in your neck are the thinnest ones in your spine, yet they support the weight of your head, a full 10-11 pounds. Think of a 10 pound bowling ball at the top of your spine. If your neck isn’t at rest when you’re at rest in bed, a lot can go wrong.
If you have chronic neck pain or want to avoid it, what’s the best type of pillow for your head? The aim is to ensure your head isn’t leaning too far in any direction. When in bed, it should simply rest on top of your shoulders in a neutral position, like it looks when you’re standing up. So what kind of pillow should you use? In this blog, Dr. Bonaventure Ngu of Premier Spine Institute gives five tips for selecting the right pillow.
Cervical pillows are specially constructed to provide neck support and keep your spine in proper alignment while you’re asleep. A cervical pillow conforms to your body’s structure. It’s higher where your neck is and more compressed where your head lies. Just like having an ergonomic chair when you’re working on your computer at your desk, your pillow should work ergonomically to support your neck. Cervical pillows come in different shapes and materials.
If you’re transitioning from a regular pillow to a cervical pillow, you may find the cervical pillow feels strange at first. Using it for short periods during the day when you’re in a recliner or taking a short rest can make the transition easier.
Part of finding the right pillow for your neck depends on how you sleep. If you sleep on your back, try choosing a pillow that molds to your head and neck so that your neck is adequately supported. Memory foam pillows or water pillows are good choices. They keep their shape but adjust to your body’s structure.
If you sleep on your side, a firm pillow is a good choice. Place the bulk of the pillow under your neck rather than your head, which helps keep your spine in alignment.
It helps if the pillow has a gusset. A pillow with a gusset is one with extra material in it, with the seams sewn into into rectangular panels on all four sides of the pillow so that the filling adjusts when you move your head. A pillow without a gusset has only two pieces, a top and a bottom that are sewn together. Side sleepers may also need to get a special pillow to put between their legs to help maintain spinal alignment.
You’re putting stress on your back when you sleep on your stomach. Your back arches while your neck is twisted to the side. Use only a thin pillow or no pillow if you’re a stomach sleeper to avoid extra stress on your back. Using another thin pillow under your abdominal area can help reduce the stress on your back.
When you’re in a car, plane, or train, a horseshoe pillow is a great support for your neck. If you have issues with neck pain, don’t let your head droop to the side when you sleep on the plane. Make sure your neck is supported.
To learn more about how to sleep well, or if you have neck or back pain that keeps you from living life to the fullest, call or book an appointment online with Premier Spine Institute.