Can the wrong pillow cause neck pain?

Are you waking up feeling like you slept on a curb? Your neck is stiff and sore and the pain is radiating down your back. You may even have a throbbing headache. And you certainly aren’t rested.

The culprit may be that soft, fluffy rectangle you’ve entrusted your head and neck to overnight. Many people underestimate the importance of a good quality pillow in getting a restful night’s sleep. The proper shape, firmness and size of your pillow actually plays a big role in not just your slumber, but your overall health.

According to Harvard Medical School, a 2008 study showed that people who complained of moderate to severe problems with sleep—including non-restorative sleep and difficulty falling and staying asleep—were significantly more likely to develop chronic musculoskeletal pain (which includes your back and neck) after a year than those who reported they slept well.

The reason the wrong pillow causes a stiff neck is because the pillow isn’t supporting your neck in a “neutral” position, meaning the slight curve of your neck is not changed or is bent at an odd angle. Before you go to sleep, just remember to check your neck. If you’re a side sleeper, is your pillow taking up the space between your head and mattress without tilting your head? If so, you have a supportive pillow. If you’re a back sleeper, you shouldn’t feel any sort of incline or decline when you lay your head down, otherwise, your pillow isn’t doing its job.

A few more tricks to try:

  • Try a memory foam pillow that will shape itself to the contours of your head and neck.
  • If you’re using a feather pillow, make sure to replace it every year, as the feathers will become less supportive over time.
  • Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach, which can be rough on your spine, because it arches the back and keeps your neck turned to the side.

Want to know exactly which pillow to get for your type of neck pain? Check out three of our pillow recommendations here.

If you’ve tried a new pillow but are still experiencing neck pain, it could be the symptom of a different condition, such as a pinched nerve. Other symptoms can include numbness or shooting pain down your legs, or in your neck, shoulders and hands.

If you’ve been told you need surgery to treat a pinched nerve or other chronic condition, contact Laser Spine Institute.

Comments (1)

[email protected] Pillow June 20, 2016

I never knew about the wrong or right pillow, as the only thing I was concerned about is, comfort. Now I will soon get myself a memory foam pillow and hope to get rid of my year long neck pain.

Leave a comment