Osteopathy & pillow advice

News posted by Nikki Harris


Pillow Talk!

Which pillow is right for you? A good pillow is essential for a proper night’s sleep. It facilitates the relaxation of the neck and upper back joints, ligaments and muscles overnight and at times of rest.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you wake up in the morning with more aches and pains than when you went to bed?
  2. Do you encounter numbness or tingling in the fingers and hands?
  3. Does your sleep get disturbed by neck pain?
  4. Do you find yourself plumping the pillow with one or both hands?

If yes, then it is worth considering a change of pillow.

How many pillows?

Our general rule of thumb is to use one good pillow, which fills the space between your earlobe and outside shoulder. Two or more pillows will not remain neatly stacked during the night and therefore your neck and upper back may become strained for a prolonged period.

Sleep position 

Whether you lie on your back or on your side(s), a pillow should support the neck in a neutral position.  The shoulders and upper back should not rest on the pillow as it causes the neck to arch back over the pillow.  Similarly, the head must not rest on the pillow in isolation. The pillow should be tucked in underneath the neck, supporting both the head and the neck, filling the space between your neck and the bed.


Shopping around 

Choosing the correct pillow for you is not as straightforward as it may sound.

  1. We advise that you ask your osteopath for a recommendation based upon their understanding of your neck mechanics.
  2. In addition it is advisable to do some market research before committing to a new pillow, reading the reviews from people with similar neck symptoms.
  3. Think about the stuffing of the pillow, giving some thought to any allergy that you may have (e.g. feather pillows: animal dander) and your preferred sleep position.
  4. Consider the size of the pillow and your own upper extremity frame. Always aim to find a pillow that will hold your neck in that desired neutral position.
  5. Try the pillow before you buy it!


(a) Memory foam

These are designed to mould to the shape of your head and neck. They consist of a combination of polyurethane and additional chemicals which increase the viscosity and density of the pillow.  

(b) Orthopaedic

An orthopaedic pillow for the cervical (neck) spine is designed to give support at the nape of the neck, allowing for a horizontal position. They are available in a range of materials and shapes, adding extra cushioning in the lower portion of the pillow.

Contact Woburn Osteopaths for free advice and some treatment to alleviate your neck and upper back symptoms this week: www.woburnosteopaths.co.uk / 01525 290615

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