Finding the right pillow to sleep on at night can be a challenge and with all the various options available now the process is overwhelming. Ultimately the best pillow is going to be one that can support your head and neck in proper alignment with your spine and conforms to your preferred sleep position. Pillows that are too flat will likely cause your head to be lower than your spine causing too much extension in your neck. Conversely, pillows that are too thick will cause your neck to be in too much flexion and thus your head is too far forward. It is important to select a pillow that is made from a material that gives slightly, is comfortable, and can be easily shaped into a proper position or can contour to your body to maintain a neutral head and neck position.
For side sleepers, it is best to find a pillow that is thick enough to fill the space between your mattress and your ear while keeping your head in neutral alignment. The pillow should be positioned up against the shoulder you are lying on and should not cause your head to tilt to either side too much.
For back sleepers, it is best to find a pillow that keeps your neck in neutral alignment allowing the nose and chin to be level with one another. It should also be positioned up against your shoulder to help support the back of the neck.
The type of material your pillow is made from is also important to consider. Most people find that memory foam, latex, buckwheat or feather pillows provide the best balance of both support and pressure relief. It is important to replace your pillow when it is no longer providing your head and neck with proper support.
If you are having cervical, thoracic, and scapular pain and are unsure if your pillow may be contributing to your symptoms, contact our office to schedule an evaluation and let us help you manage your pain and improve your sleep quality.
For more information regarding pillows check out the Sleep Foundation Website at www.sleepfoundation.org.
Jen Buono, PT, DPT