If you are struggling with neck pain in the morning, your pillow may be a part of the problem. If you have a pillow with poor support, then your neck muscles and ligaments may be stressed during sleep, which can lead to pain, pinched nerves, and headaches. You should reach out to your chiropractor about chiropractic pillows and orthopedic cushions that can provide cervical support for your head, neck, and shoulders. A chiropractor can prescribe specialized pillows that help keep your spine in alignment, or he or she can recommend brands that will work for your needs. Here are three factors to consider when choosing a pillow.
During sleep, you'll want to maintain a neutral position, where all the natural curves of the spine are supported. Medium-firm pillows are usually the best at supporting the neck. You don't want a pillow that's too soft, your head will sink down and your body will fall out of its good alignment. Avoid feather pillows if you can; although these pillows are plush and comfy when you fall asleep, they provide little support which can cause neck pain. Latex or memory foam pillows are good options since they are firm and supportive but still comfy.
One study found that latex pillows could improve neck extensor muscle endurance in patients with cervical spondylosis, a condition that causes spinal wear and tear. Lastly, keep in mind that firm pillows are typically recommended for side or back sleepers. Since stomach sleepers' necks are prone to neck extension, a flatter pillow is actually recommended.
Orthopedic pillows from chiropractors tend to have more sizes and shapes than a standard pillow you'd find at a mall. For instance, cervical pillows often have bolsters on the edges and cylinder-shaped curves to cradle your head and help it maintain the natural curve of the cervical spine. One study found that align-right cervical pillows were able to reduce pain in chronic neck pain sufferers. If a person sleeps on his or her back, then he or she should find a pillow shape that has higher edges—to support the neck—and a shallower center for the head.
You may want to visit your chiropractor to get measured for the pillow height (also known as the loft). You may have the right firmness and shape, but if the height of the pillow is too tall or too short, it will throw your cervical spine out of alignment. For instance, if a pillow is too short, the rotator cuff can become compressed, and your sternocleidomastoid and scalene neck muscles can be overstretched. If a pillow is too tall, neck muscle insertions at the base of the skull can place pressure on nerves.
As you can see, there are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a pillow. Reach out to chiropractic care for more details on orthopedic pillows and how to get measured for one so that you can improve your neck pain.