Neck pain is a real problem for many people. Unfortunately for many people, their pillow is a main contributing factor. Also unfortunate is the fact that pillows are confusing. In desperation, many people will pay ridiculous amounts for a “perfect” pillow that promises to miraculously reduce their neck pain, improve sleep, and allow them to move their neck better throughout the day. All you need to do is spend $80-$200. However, many of the designs behind these pillows are flawed.
What should you look for in a pillow? You want a pillow that helps to keep your neck in neutral position. What is neutral position? Neutral position is a position that reduces the stress on your joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Each joint has this ideal position. For your neck this means that when you lie on your pillow you shouldn't feel like your head is dropping down, or rotating, or getting forced up.
Find Neutral Position
This woman pictured has too much pillow & is straining her neck as she sleeps. The midline of your head should be straight with the midline of your torso to reduce stress on your body and prevent neck pain or arm numbness/pins & needles.
I suggest getting an inexpensive, soft, yet supportive pillow. Soft, yet supportive, is tricky. You want soft, but sufficiently full so that it gives support. Get a pillow too fully packed and it's no longer soft and adaptable to your head and your body position. Get a pillow that's too flat and it will not be appropriate for lying on your side. To get your neck and corresponding joints into their neutral position, you need the pillow to be just right, so do not be surprised if it takes time to find the right pillow for the size and weight of your head and the proportion of your body. For example, when lying on your side, you need the pillow to be the right size to take up the space between your head and the bed, created by your shoulder and torso. Too big relative to your body and your head will get pushed up, compressing the top side of your neck and pulling the lower side. Too small and your head will dip down, similarly causing strain to your neck but in the opposite pattern of too big a pillow.
I have a little trick for how to take any garden variety pillow from your favorite inexpensive store and make a winner, comfortable, soft, yet supportive pillow and look forward to sharing that with you in a future post and possibly even in video format. In the meantime, please save your money and don't buy that expensive pillow promising to save the world, starting with curing your neck pain and insomnia.
Questions? Comments? I'd love to hear them.