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Recommended Pillow for Neck and Spine

How often should you change your pillow? What is the best pillow for optimal neck and spine support? Here is an article that answers those questions and more.

August 21, 2017 Pillow | Sleep Disorders

One in three Americans report difficulty sleeping, so it comes as no shock to me when the questions of what pillow I recommend comes from patients, or people in the community.

The most common problems I see is most people don’t put much thought into their pillow purchases, and their pillows are not properly changed.

Tips for Selecting a Pillow

Let’s start with the first problem: not thinking before you buy a pillow. All pillows are not created equal. And the pillow that is right for me, may not be right for you. Your pillow, just like your mattress is a personal choice, but regardless of that choice there are many basic truths that that pillow should have to provide you, your neck and shoulders with adequate support for a full night’s rest.

  • Your pillow should support your head at its proper height, weather your lying and sleeping on your side or back.  Proper height indicates that your neck is neutral, not hyperextended (too high) or hyperflexed (too low). Neutral means your neck is as close to 90-degree angle where the head and shoulder meet, putting the spine in a straight position.  Sleeping on your stomach is not recommended ever!
  • Your pillow should provide adequate support to the cervical and thoracic spine, or your neck and shoulders. There should be no “gap” between your neck and the pillow.
  • Basically you need a pillow that is going to support the kyphotic cervical curve of your neck, and cushion your shoulders, all while keeping your spine in alignment.
  • The pillow should be comfortable! Because you need to sleep on it, and sleep in vital to health! A new pillow can take up to a month to break in, so don’t get discouraged if you purchase a new more supportive pillow and it’s uncomfortable in the beginning. Don’t give up on it!

How Often Should You Get a New Pillow?

The second mistake is not replacing your pillow often enough or at all. I know this may sound foreign to you, but your pillow should be changed at least 1x a year!

Why you ask? For starters, the pillow is nasty and dirty after a year of sleeping on it! You have sweated, drooled, and who knows what else all over that pillow. And no, just because you used a clean pillow case on it, does not mean it is clean. Sorry.

Besides the obvious unsanitary portion of a year old pillow. The main reason to replace it after a year is the structural integrity of the pillow is degraded and/or gone. That means that your cervical lordosis is not getting adequate support while you sleep, which can lead to neck and shoulder pain, headaches, jaw pain and in general loss of sleep and fatigue each night.

I personally use a cervical contour pillow, and professionally recommend this style of pillow to most all patients or anyone asking advice. This type of pillow aids in proper cervical alignment, and natural lordosis. But again, pillows are a personal choice! Find a Pillow that will support the alignment of your neck and shoulders and is comfortable! And then remember to buy a new one at least 1x a year!

Struggling with Neck and Back Pain

If you’re suffering from neck and shoulder pain, or headaches, maybe you need to reevaluate the type and age of your pillow. And you should also have your spine evaluated by a Chiropractor to determine if there are any structural misalignments that could benefit from care. If you have any questions of concerns, please feel free to contact us at the office, 919-977-5744.

~Dr. Danielle Vann


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If you are looking for a whole-body approach backed by skills and compassion; look no further. I suffered with chronic head, neck and back pain for numerous years and tried many aspects of treatment. It wasn’t until I landed in Dr. Vann’s care that I began to have serious improvements.

Laurie Frederick
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