We spend so much time on our pillows and take for granted the effects that they can have on our neck and shoulders. A third of your day, is spent relying on a small piece of foam or latex to hold your head up. That’s a lot of work for a small object. But what if it fails to do its job?
We often see shoulder and neck dysfunction re-occurring repeatedly all because of poor support from pillows.
Everyone has a unique size neck, head and shoulders. Length, width, height, we’re all different. So why do we believe a single pillow bought off the shelf will suit everyone?
Pillows are like shoes. We have different size shoulders and necks, so we need different size pillows. Ideally the best approach is to be fitted for a pillow, but here’s a few key things you can look for to see if your pillow is at the root of your problems:
Head Height – Lay on your side. Does your head remain straight or do you tilt up or down? When we lack support from our pillow, we’ll naturally try and bring our body height down or our pillow height up. For many people this will involve rolling your shoulder forward and ending up on your stomach. This can result in breathing issues, jaw problems and neck pain.
Neck Support – When lying on your side have someone stand behind you and check for the straightness of your spine, especially around the lower neck area. If you’re not getting correct support from you pillow (whether it be too high or low), you will notice a significant bow in your neck or you may just see a gap between your neck and the pillow. Both of these are a sign you’re not getting adequate support.
We often see the result of this being people sacrificing the position of the shoulder. By moving your shoulder forward or shrugging it up we naturally lower our head and neck position to get closer. This position can lead to shoulder strain patterns, neck pain and poor sleep quality.
Pillow health – This might shock you, I mean really shock you! Too many people keep their pillows for way too long!! We see the average life of a pillow is about 18 months. After this time many pillows start to collapse, and they start accumulating high levels of contaminants such as dust. When this occurs pillows can become a health hazard. Place your pillow on a firm surface and gently apply force from one side to the other. Feel for changes in firmness. A healthy pillow has a continuous level of support.
Having a good pillow is critical for a good night sleep and a stable neck and shoulder. A few simple tests can quickly solve many recurrent issues and prevent needless amounts of suffering.