The relationship between neck pain and your pillow is more important than most of us realize! Though we all may have at one time or another slept on a variety of surfaces, and used any number of pillows (flat, medium, bulky) made of different materials (foam, feather, air, water, or memory foam), it’s usually not until neck pain and/or headaches start to become an issue that we start to think, “…how important is my pillow?” Thankfully, the question has been addressed in a randomized peer-reviewed study. So, what did they find out?
The goal of a pillow is to support the neck more so than the head. In a study headed by Dr. Liselott Persson, MD, of the department of neurosurgery at the University of Lund in Sweden, researchers tested whether specific neck pillows have any effect on neck pain, headache and sleep quality in people suffering with chronic (>3months), non-specific neck pain. They also researched whether there was an optimum or “best” type of pillow that was preferred by their 52 patient group. They used 4 different pillows, 1 “normal” pillow and 3 of which were specially designed, each having a different shape and consistency. Over a 4-10 week time frame, the pillows were randomly distributed to the neck pain group who then graded them according to comfort, the effects on neck pain, sleep quality and headache using a questionnaire, and also described the characteristics of an “ideal pillow.” Researchers and participants concluded the “ideal pillow” (for reducing neck pain and headaches and improving quality of sleep) includes a soft pillow with good support under the neck’s curve (lordosis).
There are many styles of contoured cervical or neck pillows that vary considerably. This study supports the use of a specially designed style over a normal pillow. So what are some of the things to look for? First, consider your neck’s length and girth. When you look in a mirror, do you have a neck that is short vs. long or, narrow vs. wide? This will direct you to a pillow that has a larger “hump” for your neck to be cradled in if it’s a long neck and, the height of the hump – taller for the slender neck or, shorter for the wide neck. Some pillows have 2 options of “hump” sizes (located on the long edges of the pillow) – one short and flat and the other side taller and wider. Others recommend lying in the middle of the pillow if you’re a back sleeper vs. lying on the edge of pillow when sleeping on your sides. A measurement taken from the neck to the point of the shoulder determines if the pillow should be a small, medium, or large. Water filled and/or air filled pillows can be varied by the amount of water or air added. The bottom line of which is “best” is based on comfort and support. Regardless of which you choose, it can take several days to get used to the new pillow, so we recommend using the pillow for at least 1 week. By then, you’ll know if you chose the right style.
We realize that you have a choice in where you choose your healthcare services. If you, a friend or family member requires care for neck pain, we sincerely appreciate the trust and confidence shown by choosing our services and look forward in serving you and your family presently and, in the future.
We sell Tempur-Pedic pillows at our San Francisco Chiropractic Clinic. We do this because we believe it is the best all around pillow and offers great value. However, it's not a bad idea to visit a store where they have a variety of cervical pillows so you can try them out and see what feels most comfortable.
To schedule an appointment with one of our San Francisco Chiropractors for a complimentary cervical pillow demonstration call 415-392-2225 or just stop by during open hours (9-6 M-F, 9-1 Sat).