Sleeping is a wonderful experience for most people, but not everyone. People who have trouble falling asleep or getting comfortable in bed might find that their pillow is to blame. Environmental balance is the key to good health and comfort. The type of pillow you choose has an affect on that balance, so I would like to address three things: Spinal Health, Pillows and Pain.
How can you minimize your pain by choosing the right pillow so that you can optimize your spinal health? Back pain is the most common condition managed in primary care and the primary cause of disability in Western society. Taking preemptive steps against back pain is good for your health, our economy and adds to the possibility of getting a good night’s sleep.
A Consumer Reports survey published in April of 2009 found that about eighty percent of the adults surveyed had been afflicted by back pain at some point. More than half of the people that said they experienced back pain without having had any surgery said that their pain limited their normal daily routine for a week or longer. A higher percentage said that the pain recurred throughout the year.
Lower-back pain disrupts many aspects of life. Forty-six per cent of those that participated in the survey said that back pain interfered with their sleep. Another thirty-one percent reported that their pain severely limited their efforts to maintain a healthy weight. Twenty-four per cent said that back pain hampered their sex life.
One key to spinal health is sleep. Your sleep environment typically involves at least three things: a bed, some covers and a pillow. Today the topic is pillows and if you are confused about pillows you are not alone. The right pillow will not necessarily solve all of your sleep problems, but choosing the right pillow can make your night and the next day a lot more comfortable.
People that come to my office often tell me about pain that began during their sleep. They will say things like, “Doc, I slept wrong and woke up with pain in my…”. While there are many reasons why this pain may begin, having the right pillow is a good first step toward a restful and comfortable sleep.
There are a number of options available when it comes to pillows. Let’s choose three to focus on: Foam, Down and Water Pillows. Although you may have discovered some comfort in using a plastic, gel or buckwheat pillow, by addressing foam, down and water pillows we hope you will gain an understanding of the critical factors that are needed to create a good pillow experience.
Foam pillows are the most common. They are available everywhere and create a soft support that lifts your head off of the bed to allow room for your shoulders (if you are on your side) and room for your airway if you are on your back. These are found in many different styles from basic foam to moldable foam. They are great for those without problems, but the challenge with them is creating a truly customized fit.
Down pillows appear to be the cat-nip of the pillow world. They are what many people love, but their necks hate. Although down is fluffy and soft, it doesn’t hold its shape well and quickly loses the ability to provide the support necessary for your shoulders and airway. This lack of support can create a strain on the neck that many people suffer from without actually realizing it. This makes them more susceptible to injury.
Water based pillows combine water and foam to allow the support necessary for the shoulders and airway. They also provide the adjustability required for the different body types we all have.
Rules for Pillows:
1. Adjustability – your pillow should be able to be modified over time to make a comfortable, custom fit.
2. Support – if you are a side sleeper you will need more support and might require a thicker pillow than if you are a back sleeper.
3. Natural position – your pillow should create a situation where your head is still in proper balance with your body. You should not be reaching for your pillow, and your pillow should not be pushing you away.
4. Persistent pain requires professional treatment. Don’t throw your money away on a pillow collection if you are in pain. Seek assistance from a spinal care professional that you can trust.
If you are constantly trying different types of pillows and cannot find just the right one, you may have a problem that is bigger than pillow comfort. Don’t throw your money away. If you have tried more than three pillows in the last year and are still not comfortable, consult a professional. We see people like that in our office all the time.
Ninety per cent of those with neck pain report a significant improvement after just a handful of visits. Get an appropriate pillow by following our simple rules, but if that doesn’t work chose a professional that you trust to help guide you.
Dr. Justin Schallmann
Back In Balance Chiropractic
152nd Ave NE
Redmond, WA 98052