Is Your Pillow Causing Your Neck Pain?
After waking up with a stiff neck several times in a row, it's time to investigate what's causing the problem. But don't jump to the worst-case scenario. A sore neck from sleeping might be caused by something more mundane — your old pillows.
That's right. Your beloved pillows might be the culprit of the frustrating aches. If you've Googled "Can certain pillows cause neck pain?" we're here to set the record straight.
Specialised pillows can reduce neck pain and waking symptoms, improving users' comfort (Pang, Tsang and Fu, 2021). In contrast, older pillows can make neck pain worse. So, to optimise your wellness, it's time to ditch low-quality pillows and switch to a more caring alternative.
Keep reading to discover how old pillows cause neck pain, which are best for neck pain, and how to make your mornings more comfortable. Ready? Let's dive in.
Understanding Neck Pain
If you've been waking up with stiffness, getting to the root cause is essential. Though it may seem like it, neck pain doesn't appear out of thin air. There are some common sore neck causes you should know.
The top five causes of neck pain include:
- Poor pillow choice
- Incorrect sleeping position
- Tossing and turning during sleep
- Poor mattress choice
- Pre-existing medical conditions
Living with neck pain affects much more than your morning routine. It can make sleeping difficult, as sufferers find it harder to get comfortable. Low-quality sleep has a knock-on effect on the rest of your body. For example, poor sleep can cause chronic health problems, including high blood pressure, kidney disease, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and depression (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 2022).
Reducing neck pain ASAP is crucial for your overall health. Luckily, you can get started today with a change of pillow and other lifestyle changes.
Can Old Pillows Cause Neck Pain?
Old and flat pillows can also cause spinal misalignment and worsening neck and back pain. Without enough height, poor pillows leave your neck twisted or at an angle overnight. This can be solved by switching to a specialised pillow (e.g. a memory foam pillow), but make sure you know how to sleep on one first!
Good pillows provide neck support and take pressure off your neck, back, and other sensitive areas.
However, a good pillow won't last forever. You must care for your pillow and regularly check whether it's actually helping your neck. As pillows age, you'll notice signs of a bad pillow appearing. They become too soft or flat and can't provide healthy neck protection. If this sounds familiar, it's time to hit the shops.
Types of Pillows and Their Impact on Neck Pain
Welcome to the world of pillows. You can find pillows in all shapes and sizes, from memory foam to feathers. But which is best for a sore neck? Here's a quick rundown of pillows and how they can affect your neck.
Feather pillows are lightweight and ensure you’re always at a pleasant temperature. They're also extra comfortable initially but don't provide sturdy neck support or stability. Therefore, these pillows tend to be the largest cause of neck pain.
Don't rush and throw yours out if you're not feeling any stiffness. However, keep in mind that they're not the healthiest when shopping for a pillow. Some studies have even found that they cause asthma and wheezing in young children as they attract mite allergens (Strachan and Carey, 1997).
Memory Foam Pillows
Memory foam pillows are designed to support your neck and promote a healthy sleeping alignment, alongside other additional benefits. Studies have even shown that memory foam is better at pressure distribution than other typical pillow materials, including inflatable cushions and cotton alternatives (Shen et al., 2012).
So, if your goal is to alleviate neck pain, a memory foam pillow could be the option for you. Not ready to take the plunge? Discover how memory foam pillows measure up against regular pillows here.
Orthopaedic pillows (also known as cervical pillows) are also specialised. These unique pillows have a dip in the middle where you rest your head. This structure keeps your neck and spine straight, reducing neck pain and aches overnight.
Studies have found that cervical pillows are more effective in treating neck pain, and using one while undergoing other neck treatments is more effective than treatments alone (Allwood, T.E. 2001).
Should I Change My Pillow if My Neck Hurts?
If your pillow is causing neck pains and aches due to it being too low, high, or soft, consider changing your pillow. Many specialised pillows are available on the market, so explore different options to find one that meets your neck pain needs.
You'll likely be ready to change after a few mornings of neck pain. You can try adopting healthy sleeping positions or sleeping on a different side. However, you might want to give up on your old pillow and choose a pillow that prevents neck pain.
If you're ready to make a swap, look for a replacement pillow with these features:
- Memory foam or latex materials
- Pillows with a cervical dip shape
These are the two key features all neck pain-relieving pillows will have.
The Original Groove pillow combines memory foam and the orthopaedic dip design to maximise your comfort and minimise neck pain. If you want the best of both worlds, consider this fusion pillow.
What Else Can Cause Neck Pain
While bad pillows can cause neck pain, they're not the only factor that can leave you waking up with an ache.
It can also be caused by poor posture, physical strain, emotional stress, herniated discs, pinched nerves, and other health conditions (Cleveland Clinic, n.d.). Consider all of the factors before you start looking for a solution.
You can improve some of these conditions at home by making positive lifestyle changes. For example, poor posture and emotional stress can be relieved by adding gentle exercise or mindfulness practice into your lifestyle.
You can even take ibuprofen or paracetamol to lessen the pain. But if the pain persists after medication, you might need to look into other options.
Some factors will need professional attention if they stem from a pre-existing medical condition, such as a herniated disc.. If your neck pain doesn't go away after a few weeks, gets significantly worse, or causes numbness, you should seek a doctor's advice (nhs.uk, 2017).
Neck pain can occur at any time, and often, it can be caused by something as simple as an old pillow. Make sure you frequently check your pillow's quality. This way, you can swap it out before any stiffness appears.
With a pillow change and some healthy lifestyle changes, you'll be pain-free again in no time.
If you're ready to change pillows, consider a memory foam alternative to keep neck pain at bay. The Original Groove Pillow is here to provide effective pain relief and improve your posture while you snooze. Explore the product online now to learn more.
- Allwood, T.E. (2001). The effectiveness of manipulation combined with a cervical pillow compared to manipulation alone in the management of mechanical neck pain. Dissertation.
- Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Neck Pain: 6 Common Causes and Treatments. [online] Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/21179-neck-pain#:~:text=Common%20causes%20include%20physical%20strain.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (2022). Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency - What Are Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency? | NHLBI, NIH. [online] www.nhlbi.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/sleep-deprivation#:~:text=Sleep%20deficiency%20is%20linked%20to.
- nhs.uk. (2017). Neck pain. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/neck-pain-and-stiff-neck/#:~:text=Non%2Durgent%20advice%3A%20See%20a [Accessed 6 Sep. 2023]
- Pang, J.C.Y., Tsang, S.M.H. and Fu, A.C.L. (2021). The effects of pillow designs on neck pain, waking symptoms, neck disability, sleep quality and spinal alignment in adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Biomechanics, 85, p.105353. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2021.105353.
- Shen, L.M., Hou, J.J., Zhu, Y.D. and Song, J. (2012). The Influence of Pillow Material on Body Distribution and Sleeping Comfort in Supine Position. Applied Mechanics and Materials, 201-202, pp.30–33. doi:https://doi.org/10.4028/www.scientific.net/amm.201-202.30.
- Strachan, D. and Carey, I.M. (1997). Reduced risk of wheezing in children using feather pillows is confirmed. BMJ, 314(7079), pp.518–518. doi:https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.314.7079.518.