Pillow or No Pillow:A Pillow Talk

Pillow or No Pillow:A Pillow Talk

Pillow or No Pillow: what should you do?

Patients with neck pain often ask me “Should I use a pillow? Or not?”Maintaining a wrong posture during sleep or rest is a common cause of neck pain. If you get up in the morning with stiffness or pain in the neck, there is a high chance that the pain is related to your sleeping posture or the pillow that you use.

Once asleep, you may keep changing positions and have no real idea of the various positions you assume while sleeping, unless a certain position causes so much of discomfort that it wakes you up. The easier way to ease your neck pain is by choosing an appropriate pillow.

Given that you spend one-third of your life in your bed a properly chosen pillow is an insurance policy against the risk of a bad sleeping posture.


The function of the pillow is to support your head and to maintain the natural curve of the neck.

When selecting a pillow, the two things to consider are;

-Thickness of the pillow

-Material or Stuffing of the pillow


While lying on your side, a low pillow or no pillow would angle the neck downwards and a high pillow or multiple pillows would angle the neck upwards as shown in the figure.

Too low and to high pillow positionImage Courtesy : www.familyhealthchiropractic.com
While lying on your back, a low pillow or no pillow, would exaggerate the normal curve of the neck. A high pillow or multiple pillows would prop the head up and also flatten the normal curve of the neck as shown in the figure.

wrong pillow sleeping on back

Image Courtesy : www.familyhealthchiropractic.com

Therefore, optimum thickness of the pillow as shown in the figure is recommended. In this position, the head is in line with body, neck is in neutral position and the normal curve of the neck is maintained.

right sleeping position pillowImage Courtesy : www.familyhealthchiropractic.com

On the material of the pillow

The pillow should be soft enough to accommodate the head but firm enough to support the curve of the neck. A feather pillow or down pillow is recommended. An ideal pillow is one in which your head lies like it is resting in a dish shaped hollow.

The readymade moulded foam pillows (eg:memory foam or tempura foam) do not allow their contents to be adjusted. They adopt the shape of their original mould. This might not be suitable for your particular weight or shape. Hence, a custom made moulded pillow is recommended over the readymade ones.

However, if the pain still persists after following the guidelines above please get in touch with your doctor.


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