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The neck makes up a small portion of the spinal column. Healthcare professionals refer to this section as the cervical spine. A specialist cervical pillow adds a layer of extra support for the neck while a person sleeps or lies down.
According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), the cervical spine consists of seven bones, or vertebrae.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) state that the neck has less protection than the rest of the spine and may be vulnerable to injury.
In this article, we look at a range of cervical pillows that might benefit some people.
According to an older study, a pillow’s primary function is to provide direct support for the head to minimize pressure in the neck.
The support helps prevent new neck pain developing and any existing neck pain from worsening.
Cervical pillows aim to provide support, and a person can use cervical pillows alongside other therapeutic approaches to help relieve neck pain.
A person’s sleeping position may affect the type of cervical pillow a person uses.
A person should also focus on the height of the cervical pillow. According to one 2016 article, the height of a pillow is an important factor that can influence spinal alignment.
Below are six of the best cervical pillows.
Please note, however, that the statements below are based only on research. No one at Medical News Today, including the writer, has tried these products.
The Pancake Pillow is height adjustable. The product comes with six thin pillows that can all fit in a single pillowcase.
The company claim that the Pancake Pillow is suitable for those with neck pain and those who sleep on their side, back, or stomach.
The K Ka Ua is a cylindrical cervical neck pillow.
It measures 17 inches (in) by 4 in and claims to provide support for the neck, knees, and back.
According to their website, the K Ka Ua is made of memory foam to conform to the shape of the neck and back.
The company also state that it comes in a hypoallergenic bamboo pillowcase.
The Tempur-Pedic Neck Pillow’s shape may help to support the neck and head.
According to their website, the pillow allows for comfortable sleep for both back and side sleepers.
The pillow is extra-firm and is available in three different sizes measured in inches:
- Small: 20 x 12 x 3
- Medium: 20 x 12 x 4
- Large: 20 x 12 x 4.5
- Travel: 10 x 12 x 4
Pillowise claim to offer a supportive pillow that helps to align the cervical spine throughout the night. It is available in its standard length and a travel-size alternative.
The company offers five different sizes of pillows. Before purchasing a pillow, the company explain that a person needs to measure their:
- neck circumference
- neck length
- shoulder width
The Pillowise pillow offers support for side, back, and stomach sleepers.
A person can also select the firmness they want in their pillow.
Pillowise pillows are not available to purchase online. The company sells these pillows through chiropractors and physical therapists. A person can use this tool to find a local seller.
The Water Pillow by Mediflow contains a pocket of water as part of its core.
A person can remove or add water to adjust the firmness of the pillow.
According to an older study, water-based pillows provide superior pain relief and overall sleep quality.
The manufacturer claims that this pillow helps to relieve headaches, neck spasms, and tension.
They also claim that this pillow is suitable for back and side sleepers.
The company provides different advice depending on a person’s sleeping position:
- Side sleepers should use the raised areas of the pillow.
- Back sleepers should initially use the thinner edge and progress to using the thicker edge of the pillow.
According to the company, it may take several weeks for the body to adjust to the pillow. To begin with, a person should alternate between using this pillow and their current pillow.
Other methods to help relieve neck pain are also available.
According to a 2019 article, a person can apply heating pads or ice packs to help relieve neck pain and tension.
A person can also perform exercises and stretches. One example includes standing with the back against the wall and pushing the head back to the wall for 20 seconds. This may help to strengthen the neck muscles.
However, it is essential to talk to a doctor or physiotherapist before trying exercises. They will be able to advise on how to do the exercises or stretches safely.
Other treatment options include:
- physical therapy
- prescription medication
- steroid injections
Anecdotal evidence suggests there may be some benefit to acupuncture. Although a 2019 article states that “No good-quality studies have shown that acupuncture can relieve neck pain,” it adds that the risk of any side effects is low.
According to the AAOS, a person should see a doctor if they experience neck pain that is not due to an injury, such as:
- persistent pain
- continuous pain
- neck pain with pain that radiates down the legs or arms
- neck pain with numbness, weakness, tingling, or headaches
Cervical pillows may offer a solution to people who wake up with neck pain.
When choosing a pillow, a person should keep in mind the position they sleep in and the height and firmness of the pillow.
A person should talk to their doctor if they experience neck pain that does not resolve, or has no apparent reason.