Pillow Talk

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It seems nearly every day there’s pillow talk (pardon the pun) going on at the clinic – ‘Hey Doc, what kind of pillow should I use’. Considering 1/4 to 1/3 of your day is spent on (or wrestling with) one, where you choose to rest your head can be a dream or a nightmare.

A poor choice of pillow is not always the root cause of headaches, neck stiffness or shoulder pains.  For those with a tendency for chronic or recurrent symptoms however, it could be a factor.

Here are the basics.  First, the pillow must fit you! The goal of the pillow is to support a neutral position. That means the joints of the spine and position of head and shoulders are aligned not to create strain. And you thought you only needed to pay attention to your posture during the day.  Second, because you are shaped differently from the back than from the side the pillow you choose will greatly differ depending on what position you sleep in most of the night.  

If you are a back sleeper, you will need a single pillow with a slight curve to it.  This will support your spine while keeping your alignment neutral.  Too small of a pillow, or a traditional flat pillow, can stress the lower part of your neck. Too many pillows will place excess stress on the upper part of your neck

Side sleepers need a different looking support.  The requirement here is to hold the head in place so that the spine stays straight, and then support the spine in place.  A pillow too small or too large with cause the neck to rest at an odd angle and will lead to morning stiffness in the neck. 

If you toss and turn through the night, your body might be looking for the right support.  Again, if your pillow is too small for side sleeping, shoulder pains could develop from tucking your shoulder too far forward.

Once you have found a pillow that fits you, my advice is to record the brand and size so you can stick with it. Depending on the wear and material, you should plan to replace it every 12 – 24 months. If for any reason the pillow no longer supports you, start the process over to find the right pillow for your body.  Still have questions?...  Stop by and have a ‘pillow talk’ of your own.

Dr. Joel Weisberg is the Clinic Director and Principal Doctor at Downsview Chiropractic The difference it makes to a patient when they learn, receive appropriate care, feel cared for, and are empowered to self-manage, is often bigger than the relief they were seeking. Dr. Weisberg is driven to make that difference to people in their pursuit of a life lived well™.