Bewildered by the choice of pillows?

I have many patients who have pillows stuffed under their bed or on top of their wardrobes who have struggled to find the one comfortable pillow that they stick with.

There are many choices of pillows out there in the marketplace and if you have neck pain the choice is somewhat bewildering. There are many different shapes and materials used to make up pillows ranging from Memory foam, to goose down and synthetic fillings. Some pillows have a contoured shape and yet others include an internal pouch that can be filled with water to change the depth of the pillow.

So, how do you go about choosing a pillow? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. And I would not consider the most expensive pillow to be the best. Nor would I say that you must aspire to sleep on a thin hard pillow or no pillow at all. Rather, I would follow the principle that if it feels comfortable and you wake up without pain then your pillow is just fine. If you wake up in the night and are struggling to get comfortable then perhaps it is time to do something about that pillow.

One factor worth considering is whether you tend to sleep on your back, or on your side or tummy. Of course you may thrashing around between all three positions.

Firstly, I would try to avoid lying in a prone position, that is on your tummy. If you do suffer with neck pain, when you lie face down or in a in a semi prone position, and the pillow is still under your head, this will result in your neck being very rotated and jammed up. If possible learn to avoid lying in this position. One trick that might help you, would be to use a pillow between your knees to discourage you from rotating in towards the bed.

As a general rule, if you lie on your back you may find that you don't need a pillow of great depth. But it all comes down to personal preferences and the relationship between your pillow and the softness of the bed. Consider a pillow with only a low contoured shape.

If you tend to lie on your side again, consider do you stay on your side or do you rotate in towards the pillow thus jamming up your neck? If you stay on your side you may find a contoured pillow helpful. One cheap and easy trick is to roll up a thin towel and place it in the pillow case along the front edge of the pillow. See if you get a better nights sleep like this or not. You can always try with the rolled up towel on the top or bottom of the pillow as another variable. If you find the shape does help you then consider buying a pillow with a contoured shape.

If you are considering buying a memory foam pillow, there are a couple of things worth being aware of. Some of them have quite a strong fire retardant smell to them so if you are sensitive to smells check this out. Also, memory foam can be a bit hot and clammy so if you tend to get over warm at night bare this in mind.

And just one final note. If you are struggling to find a pillow that is comfortable, then it may not be your pillow that is the problem but it is time to consider having some treatment on your neck! 

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