You have woken up in the last week with a stiff neck and feelings of tightness, maybe even a headache. What could be could be causing this. Let’s discuss one factor: Your Neck Pillow. What is it or is it not doing for you? Is it the source of your neck pain?
What do you think of when buying a pillow? Is it comfy? That’s probably your #1 concern. You may also ask yourself – will I get a good night’s sleep? Do you need a specialty pillow because you are suffering with a pinched nerve or numbness and tingling? Others might be thinking- okay I have a king size mattress, I have to get larger pillows. Lots of things to think about when purchasing a pillow because its going to have an effect on your sleep.
Here is an important question to ask, that not many people first think of: Does your pillow keep you in alignment? This often comes into play with contoured neck pillows. You know those pillows with a “neck roll”. They can often keep you in good posture in all sleeping positions. The neck roll helps to improve and maintain that natural neck curve. This is referred to as the cervical spine lordosis. The mid-back is your Thoracic spine, and the low back is the Lumbar spine.
What exactly does good posture or alignment look like? Imagine a person standing in front of you. From the anterior-posterior (front to back), your spine should be straight up and down. From the lateral view (from the side), you should have smooth flowing curves. A “C’ curve in the neck and one in the low back. Actually the low back is more of an elliptical curve (a wider, more elongated ‘C’). With a Neck Pillow you can align the spine while getting a good night’s sleep!
One of the most common misalignments is loss of the neck curve. So that “neck roll” built into a neck pillow is very important. Always remember that posture is a window into the spine. This means that if we have good posture our spine is aligned, and vice versa. And if the spine is in alignment, then the nerves are free from pressure and there’s no pain.
Now, the question becomes: will this keep me out of pain? We know that if we keep the nerves free from pressure, then we keep pain and problems away. With a properly aligned spine, we have minimal pressure on the nerves. An aligned spine also holds the discs in position. The disc is a ‘shock absorber’ of sorts, and lies between all the bones or vertebrae. This translates in minimal pinching. That means you won’t have neck pain, shooting pains, numbness and tingling or weakness in the upper extremity.
So are you Sleeping on the Wrong pillow? Ask yourself: is it too high? Too Low? Is is too Soft?, etc… Too high means your head may be pushed forward if you’re on your back and if you’re on your side, you’re tilted or laterally bent. The opposite is essentially true for a pillow that’s too low or too soft. This may also be the case for an old/worn out pillow that’s too soft..
What if the pillow’s too firm? The big issue here is that it may be very uncomfortable. You just cannot get used to it. It’s too much for the muscles of your head and neck. Comfort is actually a big deal. This is one of the most important qualities of a pillow: Is it comfortable with side sleeping and back sleeping? Getting good sleep is of utmost importance and a pillow that’s too hard can hinder your sleep. Worse, you wake in up in pain, discomfort or a headache.
So next time you are humming or hawing over what pillow you should buy, consider all the above points. Next time you wake up in pain, consider going pillow shopping. It will do your body and your sleep some good. I guarantee it.