What’s The Best Pillow For Military Neck?
Lets look into the best pillow for military neck, which is a condition characterized by a straightening of the cervical curve, medically known as cervical kyphosis or hypolordosis of the cervical spine. Looking into the neck, we see that it consist of 7 spinal bones called cervical vertebrae, which make up the cervical spine. Looking from the side, if someone has their left shoulder pointed straight towards you and looking straight ahead, as in the picture, the cervical spine should form a curve shaped almost like a “C”, and this is called lordosis or a lordotic curve. This shape helps provide stability and muscle balance for the neck. It is a strong, yet flexible shape for supporting the weight of the head as well as maintaining flexibility.
So, military neck is when the cervical spine is straight instead of the normal curve and is perhaps a better way to describe this than hypolordosis, which could mean just short of a military neck or cervical kyphosis, which usually means reversal of the normal curve. If you have this condition, it is advisable to seek solutions in correcting the neck curve to as normal as possible. Among the best methods is to seek the best pillow for your neck.
Generally, it results from poor neck posture which is sustained or repeated for long periods of time. It can also result from a pillow that lacks proper support. A pillow that is too high or using 2 or more pillows when lying on your back is not the best pillow to help military neck.
Does A Straight Neck Hurt?
No, not always. A neck can be straightened without neck pain symptoms, however, a military neck is often noted with muscle spasm which pulls on the spine. This is often seen after a whiplash injury from an accident and is primarily seen on x-rays. A military neck may be related to stiff neck muscles, headaches related to neck problems and restricted or painful motion.
What Can Help Military Neck?
Correcting a military neck is a long term process, there are simply no quick fixes. Similar to wearing braces on your teeth, making changes to the curve of the cervical spine takes time. One thing is certain, as a postural problem, it will not magically fix itself. A combination of 3 methods can provide solutions for improving a military neck, as well as the health of your cervical spine.
1) Posture Correcting Neck Exercises – This is an active way to help a military neck by strengthening deep neck muscles responsible for supporting the cervical spine which have become weak, while lengthening other muscles which have become contracted.
2) Posture Specific Traction – As the spine becomes straight, pressure is placed on the discs. Like small wedges which also function as shock absorbers for the spine, the discs help maintain the correct shape of the curve. With a military neck, the discs become compressed, loosing their shape and shock absorbing capability. This can lead to degeneration of the spinal bones, placing stress on the cervical joints, causing a decrease in disc height, which can lead to pain in the neck as well as pain which radiates into the shoulders, arms, hands as well as the head. Traction devices which use extension, placing the neck in correct posture, can help reverse this process.
Think of this as an active pillow to help in correction of military neck. The effects are achieved by pumping the disc using an air inflation bulb that produces an elliptical expansion that directs a force to restore the curve. The process of pumping, deflating and pumping again, produces a traction force that restores disc function that helps form wedging seen in a naturally aligned cervical spine.
3) The best pillow for military neck that is passive therapy is the neck traction pillow. It uses a special design that allows passive traction when lying on it. It is NOT a sleeping pillow, but uses the weight of the head to provide curve correction. Lay on the pillow for 15 to 20 minutes, a couple times per day to help reinforce the lordotic curve. It requires no effort. Make sure you note the size, primarily the width to make sure you are a good fit for this type of correction.
4) Supportive Pillows – because so much time is spent sleeping, a supportive pillow is essential in helping to correct a military neck as well as preventing the loss of benefits gained through exercises and traction. There are 2 kinds of pillows which are the best pillow for military neck that can be used:
- A) Neck Roll Pillows – This type of pillow is mainly used for therapeutic reasons to place the neck in correct posture. By lying on a neck roll, the normal curve of the cervical spine is supported. In this position, the neck muscles can relax and a therapy session should be to relax with a neck roll under the cervical spine for about 20 minutes, 3 times per day. A neck roll with a comfortable feel and a therapeutic core design for support will be a great choice. This effect can be enhances by using one that accommodates a hot pack to assist the relaxation of neck muscles.
- B) Sleeping Pillow – A sleeping pillow can help with a military neck. A good one will have a contour to support the cervical spine in the back sleeping posture. Since a military neck is a straightening of the cervical spine from front to back and not side to side, the best pillow will have special support for back sleeping.
By supporting the neck in the correct posture, airways can open which helps with problems like loud snoring and sleep apnea. In the side sleeping position, the correct height needs to be maintained to prevent problems from side bending, but there needs to be a special area to rest the side of the head, so it does not stray to far forward on the pillow.
What Is The Best Pillow For Military Neck?
As we noted, a military neck may or may not involve pain, therefore the best pillow depends on 2 factors; 1) Are you in significant pain or 2) Is there no or some pain.
1) If you are in pain, you should use a pillow that has support for the cervical spine, but is comforting for sore muscles and sensitive nerves. In this case, the Pillo-Pedic makes a great line of pillows that would be a good choice as it will support the curve of the cervical spine. With the Ultra using memory foam, in a gentle way. With pain, the neck may react to a pillow that is too firm by producing more spasm.
This is a special pillow that is made in the US and has been used by Chiropractors for many years with great clinical results. By combining quality foam with fiber, it offers and offers four different options for pain and is very good at maintaining and/or correcting the neck curve.
2) If there is no major issue with pain or inflammation, or you have recovered from the initial stages of a cervical spine injury; it may be that your posture is a concern or you just feel some stiffness after a long day at the office or on the job. In these circumstances, the best pillow for military neck would be a functional pillow like the Therapeutic Pillow or the gentler latex functional pillow.
These pillows pillow allows measurement for correct height, providing separate areas for back and side sleeping which maintain the neck in the best ergonomic posture. They have a built in neck roll for back sleeping and raised areas for side sleeping. The raised areas provide specific locations for the head in side sleeping that will prevent the head from moving too far forward, which decreases the curve. You need to correctly position yourself on the pillow when changing positions and this requires conscious awareness.
A 2016 finite element analysis study in PeerJ indicates cervical curvature is a key factor in pillow selection related to bony structure and the surrounding soft tissues. The authors indicate “Pillow height may represent an important and influential parameter to be considered in terms of the biomechanical performance of specific pillow designs.”
Your size will determine height, therefore, making sure you have the right height is an important factor. Having a system to determine the correct height is beneficial, especially with a sleeping pillow. Because so much time is spent sleeping, this represents the best method for long term correction.
For those who need a pillow that combines both qualities, the inflatable sleeping pillow can be easily adjusted for height as well as shape. This allows a custom support, regardless of size and reacts to changing positions in order to maintain correct posture for both back and side sleeping.
The dual version permits control of the shape of the pillow; allowing a custom cervical spine support. This can be minimal at first and gradually inflated to provide greater correction as your condition changes.
Since the spine will be aligned in its natural way, the best pillow for military neck will ease pressure in the neck. In time, a sleeping pillow and/or a neck roll pillow will help the spine regain its natural curvature again, but you have to be aware that it won’t work alone. You should combine it with a specific exercise/stretching routine, traction as well as knowledge of correct neck posture habits if you want to fix a military neck.