One of the most common concerns I get from patients is that they believe their pillow is contributing to their neck pain or headaches. “What is the best pillow for me, Dr. Funk?”, I hear all the time.
I have to be honest. I didn’t learn this in chiropractic school, although you would think that it would be taught. I actually had to do some research on my own to find the answers. And the answer is that you have to choose the right pillow for the way you sleep.
A pillow is designed to support the neck at night while we sleep. Proper alignment of our neck is a must to prevent or eliminate neck pain and stiffness.
For individuals who sleep on their back, their pillow should be medium sized so that the head is not at an upward angle. A pillow that maintains the natural “C” shaped curve of the neck is a bonus, and placing a pillow under the knees will reduce pressure on the low back at night. One caveat of back sleepers, is that they tend to snore more. The good thing is that back sleepers develop less wrinkles on their faces over time. (Hmmm…Snoring or wrinkles…got to weight the risks..lol!)
Side sleepers need more firm and higher pillows. Again, you want the head to be parallel with the bed, so no pillows that are super high or doubling pillows. Since your shoulder is in the way when you sleep on your side, a firmer pillow will not only support the head but protect your shoulder as well. I also suggest a flat pillow in between your knees to keep the pelvis in alignment. Side sleepers snore less, so if you struggle with snoring, try sleeping on your side.
If you sleep on your stomach, you may not need a pillow. If you feel you need one, use a flat pillow, so your neck can maintain it’s proper alignment. This is the position that I recommend the least. I think it is the hardest to maintain proper posture. Many of my stomach sleepers come in complaining of tingling in one or both of their hands when they wake. This typically happens because your body is not well supported during sleep in this position, and your pectoralis minor muscles can be overstretched. Tight pec minor muscles will compress the brachial plexus causing a tingling sensation in the hands.
- The body pillow is good for pregnant women and the side sleeper.
- The Memory Foam contour pillow is good for people with neck or spine pain and can be used for back or side sleepers.
- The four position pillow works well in any position.
- The U-neck pillow is designed for traveling and supports the neck.
- Create your own perfect pillow with Select Comfort- Pillow[ology]
If you have any other questions, please feel free to e-mail or comment.