Almost everyone has a favorite pillow. This pillow may be low or high, soft or firm or natural or synthetic. In any case, it is comfortable and trusted to allow for a full night sleep without morning neck pain. Unfortunately, this pillow may not be as comfortable when it is placed on a different bed. A soft, thin pillow may be best for a softer mattress or water bed. A firm mattress may require a thicker pillow to support our neck and keep it in general alignment with the rest of our spine. If we sink into a soft mattress, the higher pillows maintain our upper spine at an abnormal angle and may aggravate neck arthritis to the point that sleep is interrupted by frequent turning. Pain and stiffness may be noticed in the morning in the lower part of the neck or shoulders. Imagine sleeping for hours in a position where your neck is tilted. It is no wonder that pillows are as important as a mattress for spine support.
If you sleep on your stomach, a thin pillow is preferred. Unfortunately, as we age, we are not able to sleep in this position. Arthritic changes that normally occur in the lower spine are aggravated by the extension of this area when sleeping in the prone position. We are forced into becoming side or back sleepers. If we imagine that the spine is a flexible column of loosely connected vertebra, it follows that the least stressful position is one where the alignment of the vertebra is as straight as possible. Sharp angulation of the vertebral column, such as often occurs at the base of the neck, will not be comfortably tolerated for long. Side sleeping requires head and neck support to keep the alignment straight. Back sleeping requires very little pillow thickness for the head but does require neck support to maintain the normal bowing of the neck vertebra. If someone rolls from side to side, occasionally sleeping in the side and back positions, then a specially design pillow may be needed. This is the theory behind cervical support pillows.
Cervical pillows are designed to offer support for back and side sleepers. Some are made with just a cervical roll in the front of the pillow to maintain the normal curve of the neck vertebra. The better cervical pillows have three zones. There is a zone on either side that affords neck and head support for side sleeping and a central zone that has a cervical roll and a slight depression for the head to provide the optimum support for the back sleeper. The appearance of the pillow may be different than you are used to but the design works. If you do have neck problems and you are in the market for a new pillow, we strongly suggest this product.