Is Your Pillow a Pain in Your Neck?
As much as 70% of the population will experience neck pain at some point in life (Sinnott et 2017). In some cases, this pain becomes chronic and can have debilitating effects on a person’s health and quality of life. While lifestyle habits, such as poor posture and excessive screen time cause stress to the cervical spine during the day, the night can also be fraught with factors that cause neck tension. At the top of the list sits an item whose sole purpose is to bring comfort and relief: your pillow.
The wrong pillow can push the cervical spine out of alignment and apply pressure to the intricate structures of the neck. A pillow that is the incorrect height or firmness can cause a variety of issues, not only to the neck but to the entire spine and lower back. The body tries to compensate for a pillow that is too firm or lacks support, so the neck is not able to relax. A pillow that is too high can push the chin toward the chest, which replicates the same compromising position that puts strain on the neck during the day.
Choosing the Right Pillow
People have different pillow preferences. There is no single solution to the perfect night’s sleep, but studies point to clear recommendations that can guide consumers in the quest for the right pillow for them. Experts like Dr. Peter Martone, who see thousands of X-rays of patients who suffer from neck pain, agree that a good pillow is an important investment toward overall spine health. Martone, a chiropractor and exercise physiologist, is also the creator of the Neck Nest pillow. Learn the science behind the Neck Nest here. Martone advises that a pillow should:
- Be flexible enough to move with the body. A rigid pillow forces the body to adapt, which causes strain
- Have the right height and firmness
- Allow for a neutral sleeping position. Avoid pillows that coax the neck forward or to one side
- Provide neck support and stability
- Be allergy-tested and washable
Types of Pillows that Doctors Recommend
There are many kinds of pillows that contain a range of materials, but not all are created equal. Here are a few that meet the standards that research suggests will lead to improved sleep and better health.
Cervical contour pillows: Also known as orthopedic pillows, these pillows support the natural curve of the cervical spine and cradle the head in the center of the cushion. Several brands of cervical contour pillows like Neck Nest encourage a back sleep position, which Martone advises is optimal for the spine.
Adjustable foam and hybrid pillows: Several pillow brands have filling that can be added or removed according to preference. Some have two inserts: one foam, and one down or down alternative for customizable softness or firmness. Pillows made of foam materials provide support by molding to the body and filling the spaces between the pillow and the head and neck. Because some types of foam can be overdone, with the potential to trap heat or be too firm, the option to adjust is a nice solve.
Wedge pillows: These orthopedic pillows have a tapered incline resembling a cheese wedge. Several benefits come from the use of wedge pillows and they are common in hospitals where they are placed under the upper body or behind the legs of patients. Because they elevate the parts of the body that utilize them 30 to 45 degrees, they not only alleviate pressure to the spine, they can also improve conditions like acid reflux and sleep apnea.
Neck support is as essential to a pillow’s role and function as providing comfort. Ideally, a pillow will stabilize the head and neck in a position that assures neutral spine alignment for the duration of sleep. Many opinions exist about the best pillow material, whether it be foam, down, cotton or buckwheat, but in the end, it boils down to performance and position. Research shows that a neck pillow with firm support can aid in the treatment of cervical spine issues. Don’t sleep on finding the right pillow for you. Shop the Neck Nest pillow now.