How your pillow can affect back pain

Using the right pillow for both comfort and support can make a major difference in alleviating or avoiding back and neck pain. 

Sleep expert Dr Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist says: “Pillows can not only impact the quality of our sleep, but also how well we rest and recharge.” 

The wrong pillow can worsen headaches, neck and back pain, shoulder and arm numbness, discomfort, sneezing, and wheezing. 

The pillow itself won’t be the cause of any of these problems, but a bad one can exacerbate many of the underlying symptoms. 

Experts believe people with sleep problems, which can be caused by using the wrong pillow experience more problems with back pain. 

It can be difficult to part with your favourite pillow, but it’s important to find the right pillow for your sleep needs, including your preferred sleeping position. 

Each sleeping position puts strain on your spine in a different way. The goal of using a pillow is to help keep your head in what is called a ‘neutral alignment’, meaning your head is sitting squarely on your shoulders without bending back too far or reaching too far forward.

If you sleep on your back: Back sleepers generally need thinner pillows, so their head is not thrown too far forward.

If you sleep on your side: Side sleepers need a firmer pillow to fill in the distance between the ear and outside shoulder.

If you’re a stomach sleeper: Look for a very thin, almost flat pillow. Also consider tucking a pillow under your stomach to avoid lower back pain. 

Long body pillows can be effective at relieving the strain from your spine so that it remains in a neutral position throughout the night, no matter how much you turn in your sleep. In addition, the body pillow allows your muscles to relax fully, which also increases circulation. Pain and stiffness are greatly alleviated once circulation is improved. The extra support helps increase oxygen flow throughout the body, which also impacts on how quickly your body heals. 

For more information, view our article on sleeping positions to ease back pain here.

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