If I had a dollar for every time a patient came in for an emergency morning appointment with neck pain....well I'd be getting paid $1 extra per appointment (I didn't really think that through did I).
But seriously, if you spend 6-9 hours a day lying down on your back or sides (hopefully not your front, or some hybrid front/side twisted up position) it stands to reason to use the correct pillow to support your neck. We always seem to be discussing the correct chair or sit/stand desk for your office but forget completely the other activity you do every single day.
So how do you pick the right pillow for you? This is an highly individualized choice but some simple questions can help point you in the right direction.
1. It will always be a trade off between comfort and support so try them out.
A pillow can't be so supportive that it is uncomfortable. It will end up on the floor at the side of your bed and never used. Likewise, if a pillow is so 'comfortable' that it provides no support and ruins your neck its again not doing the job.
So find a pillow that you like that is comfortable to you, but is also providing the necessary support needed so your neck remains in a neutral position during the night, allowing the nervous system to relax, the musculature to relax and all structures the time to repair and recover from the preceding day.
2. How do you decide if a pillow is supportive?
From the picture above (which funnily enough is the brand of pillow I have stocked for patients from day dot; 18 years now), you can see that the pillow fills the gap from the tip of her shoulder to her neck. By doing so it keeps the shoulders in line and neutral which in turn keeps the neck straight. The pillow isn't so fat that her neck is propped up nor is it too squishy or flat that her head dips. The big benefit with this pillow (and most contoured pillows) is that if you choose to lie on your back, the contour still keeps the neck in a neutral position as it has a shallow that allows the head it sit lower and therefore keep the neck straight and supported.
By keeping the shoulders supported and the neck in a neutral position, less muscles will be working at night which in turn allows more rest and healing to occur. You will wake up refreshed and unsore.
If you have questions regarding your pillow or mattress, make sure to ask me at your next appointment.