Neck pain? Working hard in PT will help decrease symptoms and improve postural control during the day, but sometimes nighttime positioning can continually aggravate symptoms and undo your hard work during the day! While you are sleeping, it is difficult to be aware of your neck alignment and avoid positions that can limit the mobility of cervical facet joints or impinge nerves. Having the right pillow that matches your cervical spine can make a huge difference in the speed and effectiveness of your recovery.
The key principle: your pillow should provide adequate support to maintain neutral alignment of your neck. Regardless of whether you are a side sleeper or back sleeper (stomach sleeping is not recommended for the health of your neck), maintaining neutral cervical alignment and support provides optimal spacing for vertebrae in your neck.
This is especially important if you already have changes or narrowing of the spacing between your vertebrae due to gradual degenerative changes or disc bulges that are putting pressure on your nerves, and the APTA recommends using a cervical contoured pillow as one part of best treatment for cervical radiculopathy (www.moveforwardpt.com). It is ok to experiment with pillows of varying thickness, but a cervical contour pillow is the most simple and effective solution for maintaining the normal curve of your neck.
A word of encouragement from the personal experience of Coal Creek PT founder and owner Julie Byrt: her sister was having horrible neck pain from a C5 disc bulge that did not respond to other treatments and she was scheduled to have surgery. Julie recommended that she use a cervical contour pillow, and within a week of using each night her sister had no pain and was able to avoid surgery!
We sell a generic cervical contour pillow for your convenience in the clinic. You can also check out our online store at here.
Remember: it is always important to consult a physical therapist if you are having pain that travels down your arms.
Questions? Come in to the clinic, bring your pillow, and get fitted to make sure you are getting the support you need!
Steve Rayner PT, DPT