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Choose the Rright Pillow for Neck Pain

November 18, 2016


Smother your neck pain with the right pillow

Let’s face it. Yes, your job is a pain in the neck. Literally. Yes, the drones you work with give you a dull throb between the eyes. And yes, screaming at your computer all day is bound to build some tension in your neck and shoulders. But why, after five (five and a half - if you’re lucky!) hours of blissful sleep does your spine still ache like you’ve been moving pianos? Why does your neck feel like the muscle fibres and sinews have been replaced with barbed wire? Does unexpectedly looking to the left cause a starting pistol of pain to go off in your ear? The most likely cause: you’re using the wrong pillow.

Whatever your favoured sleeping position (back, stomach, side, downward dog, depending bat...) it is vitally important that you maintain and support the natural curvature of your neck’s vertebrae (in relation to the rest of your spine). What does this mean?

First off, your pillow should never force your head up or higher than your shoulders. As a reference, pretend you are standing upright: if your head is angled slightly upward or downward, you’re in for some neck pain, come morning. Your head and neck should be in the same position and at the same angle, relative to your body, whilst lying down as when standing up. This is called a neutral alignment.

A common mistake is using more than one pillow at a time. You should have a favourite, proprietary pillow that is perfect for you. If it doesn’t go with your color scheme, hide it under the heap of scatters that have been giving you neck pain.

Second, once you’ve got your head at the right angle and you’re ready to count some sheep, ask yourself this question: can I feel my pillow actually supporting my neck? It is shockingly easy to forget this critical step because few people actually think of a pillow as anything other than a place to lay their heads - forgetting they’ve got to lay their necks as well. If your pillow does not support your neck whilst sleeping, guess what picks up the slack? … Your neck!

Get a pillow large enough to fit your neck as well as your head. If your favourite pillow is a feather pillow, you’ve got a problem, since feather is generally too soft to provide support (unless you move the stuffing around manually - which is analogous to herding geese, in more than one way). Similarly, if your pillow is as tired and downtrodden as you are and has no more give, it’s time for a new one.

Seriously consider a foam-, memory foam- or latex pillow, for its durable support and ability to conform to your sleeping style. If you habitually sleep on your back, get one of the funny-looking pillows with the extra thick lip on the bottom: to cradle your neck. This will serve you well during those times you turn on your side as well. But if you favour sleeping on your side, get a firm pillow with some extra stuffing to make up the distance between your head and the bed, created by your shoulder. If sleeping on your stomach is your idea of rest, you should look at a flat, thin pillow. If you are flat and thin yourself, you might even consider going entirely without a pillow.

Go test a pillow today. Make it fun: go in you pajamas and insist the salesperson organize you a coffee. Or… you can just shop for pillows online!

 


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