One of the most frequent questions I am asked by those with neck pain is, “What is the best pillow for me to use when I am sleeping?” Unfortunately, there isn’t a hard and fast answer to that question (trust me, I wish there was). Several different factors come into play when selecting a quality pillow.

When viewed from the front or back, the cervical spine should ideally be in a straight line. When viewed from the side, a slight curve should be present such that it supports the weight of the head. The goal when selecting a pillow (in addition to comfort, of course) should be to maintain the posture of the cervical spine while lying down.

The firmness of one’s mattress and pillow determines support put on the spine. For example, a soft mattress and a firm pillow may cause a side-sleeper to sink into the bed, thus propping the head and cervical spine further upward than necessary. Whereas a firm mattress and a soft pillow would brace the body of the sleeper and cause the head and cervical spine to sag downward, also resulting in unnecessary stress on the cervical spine. This principle also applies to back-sleepers who may have too much upward/forward push on their neck, or who may let their head fall too far backwards.

You’ll often hear me say that everyone heals differently, but with an emphasis on the physiology that everyBODY heals differently. Therefore, the same pillow may not best fit the needs of every body. A healthy and supported cervical spine leads to a healthy and supported nervous system. Best wishes in finding the ideal pillow that best fits your needs, and feel free to share with us what you have found works for you!

Yours in health,

Dr. Eric

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