What is the Best Pillow?

Reference:Gordon SJ, et al Pillow use: the behavior of cervical stiffness, headache and scapular/arm pain. J Pain Res. 2010 Aug 11;3:137-45 .

Pillows are intended to make us feel more comfortable by supporting the head and neck in a neutral position whilst sleeping. This Australian study investigated the influence of various pillows on individuals reporting of waking cervical stiffness, headache and scapular/arm pain.

Five different pillows (polyester, foam regular, foam contour, feather, and latex) were each trialed for a week. Attempts were made to blind subjects, by de-identifying trial pillows (by removing their labels) Basic Result #1: The feather pillow performed least well, producing the highest frequency of waking symptoms, and the greatest ‘drop outs’

Basic Result #2: The latex pillow performed best with respect to least waking symptoms

Basic Result #3: The foam contour pillow performed no better than the foam regular pillow

Clinical Application: If a patient asks you ?which is the “best” pillow? You can confidently say “…based on a number of studies feather pillows are generally not good. The curvy foam pillows are no better than the regular foam pillows either. If you can find a latex or natural rubber pillow, studies support that they can help reduce waking headache and scapular/arm pain in some people.”

Personal Comment: Is it possible that nature did not intend humans to sleep on soft comfortable mattresses with fluffy ergonomically correct pillows under our heads in the first place?

Could it be that the more we ‘baby’ ourselves during sleep the more vulnerable our spine becomes to injury? Could it also be that comfortable pillows do more harm than good to our necks by decreasing the amount and frequency that we fidget during sleep?

These are interesting thoughts to ponder about just before you go to bed tonight. I abandoned my pillow over 6 years ago, and so far so good! Unfortunately I haven?t been able to convince my wife to get rid of hers …despite my logic, she thinks I?m crazy!

P.S. I wouldn?t dare recommend a patient with neck pain or post MVA to throw away their pillow, as they would likely suffer a night of severe pain, hand numbness, shoulder pain, etc? I don?t want to blamed if their symptoms worsen.

Posted on: October 06, 2011

Categories: Cervical Spine

What is the Best Pillow?

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