What Kind of Pillow Should I Buy?

This question and “which mattress should I buy” are two of the most common questions physical therapists hear when treating patients with neck pain.  I’ll refer you to the article that was posted earlier about finding the best mattress on how to determine if you should get a new pillow and the other things that need to be addressed in addition to trying a new pillow.  
The short answer to the question is that you should look for a pillow that keeps your neck and upper back in a neutral alignment.  When lying on your back, someone should be able to look at you from the side and draw a straight line through your ear, shoulder and hip.  Comfort trumps perfect alignment, however, and some people with certain postural deviations may need a thicker or thinner pillow.  This is where you need the guidance of a physical therapist to help you find the best fit.  Here is what you’re generally aiming for with respect to neck position while lying down:
 Pillow
Image courtesy of http://www.backdesigns.com
 The tough part with pillows is picking them out in the store.  To increase your chances of finding a pillow that is well-suited for you, I usually advise this:
•    Get a couple of pillows of different thicknesses  in the store
•    Find a wall that you can stand against
•    With you shoulder blades and glutes up against the wall, slide the pillow in behind your head
•    If you don’t find yourself arching backwards for the pillow or if your head isn’t being pushed forward, the pillow you have may be a good one for you.  Here is the general idea,
 Pillow1

If you’ve been having neck or shoulder pain in the morning and would like to know why, call us to schedule a free consultation or see your doctor and ask for a prescription for physical therapy.

 

 

 

 

Image courtesy of http://www.frankfortphysicaltherapy.com