Musculoskeletal problems like back and neck pain are the leading cause of disability worldwide. The reasons for this could vary from injury, ageing, or lifestyle problems. Research shows low back pain and neck pain disability has increased remarkably over the past 25 years and will probably increase further with population ageing.
Injury or ageing related reasons for neck and back pain are lifting heavy objects, trauma or injury, spinal diseases, infection, tumours, and spinal degeneration. But did you know that other lifestyle factors like being overweight, improper posture and using the wrong mattress and pillow also increase the chance of getting back and neck pain?
If you wake up with a sore and painful neck in the morning, it could be because of improper sleeping position and using the wrong pillow. A wrong pillow can cause pressure on your vertebrae and result in cervical pain and discomfort.
For people who suffer from frequent back and neck pain, selecting the right pillow can make a major difference in managing the pain symptoms. A right pillow provides good neck support and helps in easing pain and discomfort.
The selection of the best pillow for neck and back pain depends on various factors, such as body weight, sleeping positions and individual preferences.
Relation between a pillow and a correct spinal alignment
There is a strong correlation between your sleeping position, pillow, and spinal alignment. Scientific studies show improper pillow support causes an adverse effect on the cervical spine and leads to neck pain, which ultimately results in poor sleep quality.
Though there are no universal and evidence-based guidelines for selecting a pillow for correct spinal alignment, you can focus on some important pointers to make the correct decision.
Here are some important factors related to a pillow that cause an effect on spinal alignment.
- Adequate support and comfortable: A pillow should provide adequate neck support and should make you feel comfortable while resting.
- Pillow height: appropriate pillow height is crucial to maintaining correct spinal alignment. You should avoid using too high or too low pillows. When a pillow is too high, it abnormally bends your neck forward and puts a strain on your back, neck, and shoulder muscles, while a too thin pillow cannot provide enough neck support and can cause a muscular strain. An ideal pillow height should maintain the natural curvature of the spine and should provide adequate support to the head and neck. The experts usually recommend 4-6 inches of pillow height to support the head and neck - providing neutral spinal alignment.
- The shape of the pillow: Scientific studies show pillow shape should match the bony structure of the head, neck and shoulder to maintain the natural curvature of the spine. A cervical support pillow (like B shaped or U shaped) may maintain the spine in a neutral posture and allow the muscles and joints to achieve an optimal resting state.
- Pillow material: Nowadays, pillows can comprise various materials like memory foam pillows, latex pillows, feather pillows etc. each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Memory foam and latex are considered good material options for maintaining cervical alignment and help in relieving pain.
- The thickness of the pillow: The thickness of the pillow depends upon various factors, like your sleeping position and body weight. Medium-thick pillows work best for back sleepers. A firm pillow works best for side sleepers. For stomach sleepers, a flat or soft pillow is considered a good option for supporting natural spinal alignment.
- Sleeping posture: Your pillow should match your sleeping posture. You can place additional pillows as per your sleeping position to maintain a neutral spinal alignment and support neck, back and shoulder joints.
How can a pillow help manage back and neck pain?
Your sleeping posture and pillow play an important role in managing back and neck pain symptoms. Expert suggests that your pillow should provide excellent support to your neck and help in maintaining natural curvature. It should make you feel comfortable and help in relaxing muscles while you are sleeping.
Selecting a good quality pillow depends on various factors such as your body weight or diagnosed disease conditions, however, your sleeping position is one of the important factors to consider while shopping for a pillow for your neck or back pain.
Here is a general guideline to select a good quality pillow for your neck and back pain as per your sleeping position.
Back sleepers: Back sleeping position is considered one of the best options for relieving back and neck pain. Back sleepers are advised to use a thin profile and low height pillow to reduce their pain and discomfort. For extra support, you can place a thin rolled towel underneath your neck. Placing one or two pillows underneath your knees helps in reducing pressure on the lower back.
Side sleepers: if you are a side sleeper, you can use a thicker pillow to support your head and neck while sleeping. Placing a thin pillow between your knees helps in maintaining a neutral spinal alignment.
Stomach sleepers: Sleeping on your stomach is not an advisable option for those who suffer from back and neck pain. This sleeping position puts extra stress on your neck and can make your existing condition worse. However, if it is not possible to avoid sleeping in this position, then you can use a thin pillow underneath your pelvis to maintain a natural spinal alignment. Using no pillow at all is another good option for stomach sleepers. This position helps in maintaining better spinal alignment.
The best type of pillows for relieving back and neck pain
Nowadays, a broad range of pillow options are available in India, that are said be a good option for relieving back and neck pain. These pillows are designed by keeping various factors in mind such as sleeping position, use of material and different shapes etc.
There is a ‘no one size fits all” equation, when it comes to selecting a pillow for back and neck pain. Your individual preferences and experience are key to making a correct choice of pillow for back and neck pain.
Here is a list of commonly available pillows for back and neck pain. Each one has its unique features and can provide good help in dealing with back and neck pain.
A latex pillow is the next good option for relieving back and neck pain. They provide adequate support to the head, neck and shoulders and help in maintaining proper spinal alignment. Latex pillow is the most durable pillow option as they retain their shape for years. Latex pillow is a soft and quiet pillow. They do not make much noise while you are sleeping.
Latex pillow has amazing cooling properties. They stay cool throughout the night. It is a great choice of pillow for hot sleepers. They are also hypoallergic and provide excellent protection against dust, mite and microbes. They are the best choice for those who prefer eco-friendly and natural material options for their pillow.
Memory foam pillow
A memory foam pillow is another good option to relieve back and neck pain. Memory foam offers great body contouring. It distributes the weight evenly and provides a slow response to pressure. They come back quickly in their original shape when you take your head off the pillow.
A memory foam pillow can feel firm initially to touch, but it becomes soft after a while. Memory foam pillow is also good for providing relief to pressure points that cause pain. They come in various shapes and sizes and there are plenty of options to choose from. However, some memory foam pillows can have poor breathability and can retain your body heat. Before making a final decision, you should check the product information regarding breathability and sensitivity to temperature change. A memory foam pillow is not a good option for hot sleepers.
The cervical pillow is one of the best options for people who suffer from neck and back pain. Cervical pillows are designed to support your neck and help in maintaining a neutral spinal alignment. They also help in improving your sleep posture and relaxing tense muscles in the neck and shoulder while you sleep. The cervical pillow comes in various shapes and sizes. They are made up of a variety of materials like latex, memory foam etc. Choose as per your individual preference and comfort level.
As the name suggests, feather pillows contain feathers, or are a combination of both foam and feathers. The pillows are soft and lightweight. It can be customized as per individual preference and is a good option for back and side sleepers. They are not a good option for those who are allergic to feathers.
Scientific studies confirm the efficiency of water-based pillows in reducing pain and improving sleep quality. It has great contouring properties, as it adjusts instantly as per your position and provides good support to your neck and back. As a disadvantage, water pillows can be noisy and not considered a good option for light sleepers. The possibility of leakage is also real.
A buckwheat pillow is made up of small buckwheat hulls and offers good support to your body. They are considered a good natural option for relieving back and neck pain. However, it may feel extra firm to some people and may make noise while turning in bed. These pillows are more expensive than other traditional pillows.
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