Neck Pillows: Anatomically & Ergonomically Designed Pillows For The Cervical Spine
Everyone is different, however, having a variety of quality pillow allows everyone to choose a pillow that works best. If your wondering which pillow is best for me? We have some tips and plenty of information to help you choose from a selection of neck pillows that fits your particular sleeping needs. Have a look at some of our pillows, or <continue for tips on finding the right pillow>.
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Tips For Choosing Neck Pillows
Having well designed pillows for cervical problems is one important factor in achieving long term pain relief. Since there is no one pillow designed for every specific neck pain condition, an important consideration in choosing the best pillow is to choose ones according to your specific sleeping preferences.
It is always easier to choose from pillows that conform to the positions you are most comfortable when sleeping.
Pillows & Sleeping Positions
Sleeping in different positions is normal and we rarely stay in one position the entire night. There are benefits and disadvantages to each sleeping position, and it is important to choose from pillows that allow comfort and good alignment in your favorite sleeping positions.
Back sleeping is generally best for the spine and the health of your neck. This assumes a good mattress and pillow, allowing the spine to remain in a neutral position without any torsion or compression. This position allows a good mattress and pillow do their jobs of providing support. Another benefit of back sleeping is the effects it has on your face, with no direct pressure and in fresh air, it can help with reducing wrinkles.
A problem often seen is using a number of pillows under the neck for watching TV or reading, then falling asleep in this position. This not only causes pain in the neck, but can result in breathing problems and loud snoring. Another condition related to back sleeping is sleep apnea. Back sleeping can increase gravity’s influence on the tongue, allowing it to obstruct the airway. A contoured cervical pillow can help reduce this problem.
Most individuals sleep on their sides. Sometimes, which side to sleep matters. If you have acid reflux or heartburn, sleeping on the left side can help. The left side is often recommended for pregnant women to permit better heart circulation. It also helps support the belly and take pressure off the spine when back sleeping.
Side sleeping requires an adaptation with your pillow. Side sleeping requires an increase in pillow height due to the width of the shoulders. A baby does not need a pillow until the shoulder become wider than the head. Special cervical pillows will have separate back and side sleeping sections to allow for this change in support according to sleeping position. This can help prevent compression between the neck and shoulder, which often leads to waking with arm numbness or pins and needles in the hand. Because the body knows what is best for it, you will often change from left to right positions. This helps to reduce strain on internal organs.
In some instances, sleeping on your stomach can help with sleep apnea and snoring. There is also some research to indicate sleeping on your stomach can lower blood pressure. Yasuharu Tabara at the Japanese School of Medicine in Ehime, indicated that his study showed significant blood pressure drops when turning face down, and this may help prevent related cardiovascular events.
Sleeping on your tummy may straighten out the lower back curve, which can be associated with back pain. This may be reversed if you have a very soft mattress. So, depending on your mattress, sleeping on your belly can cause extremes of pressure on the lower back. Since you can’t sleep face down, turning the neck to the side can place great amounts of torsion into the ligaments, joints and discs; not to mention the constant strain on the neck muscles. This can lead to morning neck stiffness and pain.
Some will suggest using a pillow under the lower abdomen and hips to help the lower back, however, this depends on the mattress, your anatomy and any back condition – you will need to experiment a bit. For the neck, a lower pillow usually works better to minimize torsion strain. Fortunately, with a habit that won’t go away, or for some of the benefits of stomach sleeping, there is a pillow that is good for stomach sleepers, which also allows comfortable and ergonomic sleeping in the back and side positions as well. This versatile pillow prevents torsion of the neck and minimizes strain, allowing a better night’s sleep that die-hard tummy sleepers will appreciate. This can also be used with an orthopedic body pillow designed to get you side sleeping in 2 stages.
How Does Your Mattress Effect A Pillow?
We have discussed positions depending on your mattress. Here are some pictures to show how the sleeping surface can effect your pillow as well as your posture. This illustrates the side sleeping posture, but goes for any sleeping position. As a general tip, your mattress should be medium/firm to avoid extreme postures of the neck and back. Preference is personal, just like pillows.
Mattress Too Firm
Mattress Too Soft
Mattress Just Right
General Tips For Choosing Neck Pillows
As we have seen, there are some health benefits to different sleeping positions, however, most people will sleep in the position they feel most comfortable with, or the one they feel is the most natural. Even if one position is preferred, most use a combination of positions that changes throughout the night. Therefore a good selection of pillows to accommodate different sleeping positions is important. You may have a specific condition that requires a special pillow for your neck like a CPAP pillow. Most people will benefit from having a wide selection to suit their particular sleeping habits. Our pillows range from special neck pillows with contours to ease muscle strain, reactive pillows that change to accommodate different positions and specific pillows that have separate side & back sleeping areas. Choosing a pillow may require more research, and one of the best tips for picking a good pillow is to learn more and you are encouraged to spend as much time as necessary looking around and we are here to help with professional knowledge and experience.
How Neck Pillows Relate To Your Sleeping Posture
Pillows will come in 2 main categories: 1) Pillows with separate sections for back, side and/or stomach sleeping, 2) Pillows with a uniform surface for general back and side sleeping.
1) With pillows that have separate sections for different sleeping positions, you will need to change positions deliberately. This requires conscious maneuvering at night. This is not a problem for many that suffer with neck pain and is a reason why the therapeutic pillow is one of the most popular pillows. However, this may pose a problem for those who are very deep sleepers, or if you are on pain or other medications that cause you to fall in a deep sleep. This goes for the side sleeper pillow as well; it is meant for side sleeping only, so you don’t want to wake up on your back with a pillow that is meant strictly for the side.
The idea behind having separate areas for different positions is posture requirements change when you change positions, therefore, these pillows will have raised or higher side sleeping sections than for back sleeping. As you sleep on your side, a pillow needs to be higher to accommodate the shoulders. This keeps the neck in proper alignment, preventing a crick in the neck. Often, these pillows will require some measuring or may size according to your height in order to get the perfect fit for your body size.
Popular Neck Pillows With Separate Sleeping Position Sections
2) Pillows with a uniform surface provide a constant sleeping area for any position. These pillows do not require conscious changing of positions and are more like typical pillows in that respect. They can be a single height throughout or, typical of cervical pillow, may have contours that conform to the contours of the head, neck and shoulders.
In order to accommodate changing positions, these type of neck pillows use contours and/or different types of materials. Many will have a different height and/or shape in the front and back in order to permit personal preference. A typical memory foam pillow will have properties that conform to different positions. Some pillows employ a fill that will automatically react to changes in positions like water or air. Water or inflatable air pillows work similarly, however, require some set up and adjustment time. The benefits mean that you are not stuck with one pillow height or, in the case of the dual inflatable pillows, you can adjust for shape as well.
Popular Neck Pillows Without Separate Sleeping Position Sections
Just like proper ergonomics for computer use has proven benefits in reducing pain symptoms, proper ergonomics when sleeping can help. It will not work for everyone due to varying anatomical issues, however, efforts aimed at improving posture and reducing stress on muscles, ligaments and joints have been show to generally be helpful. It gets more difficult when you are choosing between 2 similar pillows or one that is similar to the one you have, which you do not like. A new pillow with a new shape and size designed to improve your sleeping posture can take some time to get used to, especially when you have been using the same old pillow for years, but this situation can also show the greatest help for those suffering from neck pain problems.
Chances are if you have bad neck posture resulting from pillows without correct support, this can result in snoring, headaches, lack of restorative sleep, tingling and/or numbness of your hands and arms in addition to neck pain and stiff muscles. So, having some of these problems can indicate that a good, supportive pillow can help. Since most of us invest approximately 33% of our lives sleeping, an important part of a neck pain management should include ergonomic pillows. You should not look for any pillow to solve all your neck pain issues, but it can help as part of a strategy to combat neck pain.
Sounds Good! How About Scientific Evidence That Neck Pillows Help?
This is a difficult area of research because there are so many different types of pillows. However, what evidence exists does indicate efforts to use pillows that are more supportive or ergonomic really does help.
A 2006 study in the journalAdvances in Physiotherapy revealed roll type pillows helps patients to alleviate pain and provide better sleep quality. It was noted that individually selected and tested pillows for cervical problems using an anatomically designed shape, which offer support for the normal neck curve can minimize neck pain as well as headaches, providing a greater quality of sleep.
A 1997 study in the Archives of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation noted chronic neck pain sufferers found water pillows reduced levels of morning pain and stiffness, as well as increased sleep quality.
A classic article that has been republished in 2010 by Dr. Ruth Jackson, in The Cervical Syndrome noted that a special neck roll pillow helps to restore normal neck posture as it supports the neck and head, while decreasing neck pain and increasing comfort levels during sleep. She indicated that cervical spine pain can be aggravated by sleeping on more than one pillow which causes neck flexion, sleeping without a pillow which offers no support under the neck, and stomach sleeping can cause excessive neck rotation. Dr. Jackson states. “In some instances this ‘cervical contour pillow’ gives relief of symptoms without other treatment.”
A study in Stuttg Rehabilitation (Germany) 1999; 38(3): revealed a considerable pain intensity reduction and sleep disorder improvement for individuals using neck pillows. The study indicated that individuals can reduce chronic neck and arm pain using supportive neck pillows.
Another study indicating benefits of neck pillows was published in the Canadian Chiropractic Association Journal in 2004, which indicated an ergonomically designed neck pillow was effective in reducing morning neck stiffness and in decreasing disability due to neck pain compared to those using standard pillows in chronic neck pain sufferers.
A comparative study in a 1998 Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics indicates neck support pillows have a positive effect on quality of sleep and neck pain in comparison to usual pillows. They found the ideal pillow to be soft, not too high, and has extra support for the neck, with recommendations of use as part of neck pain treatment.
Support For Neck Pillows
Neck pillows provide important ergonomic support of the neck during sleep. Many standard pillows often lose their support with time. Biomechanically, neck pillows offer support to inflamed areas of the neck and the normal relationship between the head, neck and upper back which can work to correct poor neck posture and allow injured parts to heal with less stress.
Scientific research is confirming clinical data that the use of neck pillows can aid in neck pain treatment. Clinical evidence indicates neck pillows to be employed for various neck and related issues like: sleep difficulties, headache, neck and arm pain, disc conditions, arthritis, as well as injury related sprains and strains like whiplash.
More Information On Neck Pillows
Because there is no clear choice that benefits everyone, we have articles to learn more about choosing a good neck pillow, please invest some time to read about How To Choose The Right Neck Pillow, which details specific functions of pillow designs. Additionally, there is information on the best pillow for neck pain, pillows for neck pain, as well as a Neck Pillow Ratings page to see which pillows bring the most satisfaction to our customers over the years.