Cervical pillows are simple! But when you first get one, you may need clarification on the best way to use it. Consider this page your guide to the proper way to use a cervical pillow to relieve neck pain.
The Anatomy of the Neck
When you understand the anatomy of your neck, it becomes clear how important it is to care for this area. From important glands to crucial bones and more, your neck contains many vital pieces. Unfortunately, these ligaments, muscles, and bones can cause soreness, discomfort, and pain if forced into unnatural and unhealthy positions. The neck is the area between your mandible (jawbone) and clavicle (collarbone), connecting your head to the rest of your body.
- Bones: Bones are easily one of the most important parts of your neck. Your neck contains eight bones: the hyoid, Atlas (C1), Axis (C2), C3, C4, C5, C6, and C7. This part of your spine is the cervical spine and naturally curves backward to support your head.
- Muscles: Your neck contains several muscles, including suprahyoid stylohyoid, digastric, mylohyoid, geniohyoid, infrahyoid, omohyoid, sternohyoid, thyrohyoid, and sternothyroid muscles. These help you hold your head, control where you look, and more. These muscles can become fatigued when placed in taxing positions without proper support.
- Cartilages: Your larynx, pharynx, and trachea are located in your neck and allow you to speak using nine different pieces of cartilage: thyroid (1), epiglottic (1), cricoid (1), arytenoid (2), corniculate (2), and cuneiform (2) cartilages.
- Glands: The neck region is home to a few important types of glands. It houses your salivary glands, lymph nodes, parathyroid, thymus, and thyroid glands, which perform vital functions for eating, immunity, and digestion.
As you can see, many essential muscles, glands, bones, and more are located in your neck. All of these components are broken up into spaces and triangles. The neck has four compartments or spaces: vertebral, visceral, and two vascular. It also has two triangles referred to as the posterior and the anterior. The triangles are made up of bone, ligament, and muscle combinations. But the compartments are more complex. The vertebral compartment contains the cervical vertebrae and postural muscles. The visceral compartments house the glands and cartilage. And lastly, the two vascular compartments have main arteries, veins, and nerves that connect your brain and heart to the rest of your body. As you can see, this compact part of your body is wildly complex and vital, so you must care for it properly. Knowing how to use a pillow for neck pain can keep all these body parts in tip-top shape so you can feel your best.
Proper Posture to Maintain Cervical Lordosis
Before discussing proper posture, let’s define Cervical Lordosis. It is the natural curve of your cervical spine, meaning the bones in your neck. A healthy spine should form an S shape, with the portion in your neck forming a C shape. Cervical Lordosis is the term for proper spine curvature, although people often confuse it with an irregularly curved spine. So, how can you maintain proper Cervical Lordosis? First, knowing how to use cervical pillows can help, but we have a few more tips!
Ideal posture can be achieved by doing the following:
- Stand straight and tall with your shoulders slightly rolled back.
- Ensure your head is level so your chin is parallel to the ground.
- Pull in your abdomen gently and comfortably.
- Place your feet shoulder-width apart.
Consistently achieving and maintaining this position can reduce neck stress and back pain. If you notice that you hunch over often or experience chronic back pain, try adjusting to this position as often as possible.
There are also some exercises you can do to maintain Cervical Lordosis. Try the following steps to relieve pain and realign your spine:
- Sit in a chair as straight as possible with your eyes facing forward.
- Place one hand on the front of your chin and gently push your head straight back as far as possible without causing discomfort.
- Maintain this position for two to three seconds.
- Next, slowly move your neck forward as far as you can comfortably.
- Slowly pull your head back to the position in steps two and three.
- Repeat this backward and forward movement eight to ten times.
Maintaining proper posture is challenging for many people, so you’re not alone if you struggle with this. Hopefully, these tips help you practice better posture, but a high-quality neck pillow can also help!
Right Way To Use A Neck Pillow
So, what is the right way to use a neck pillow? Knowing how to position a pillow for neck pain is essential in reducing discomfort and caring for your neck and spine. This section will explain how to use a cervical pillow for neck pain to maximize your comfort and wellness. The position you sleep in will impact the right way to use the pillow, but we’ll go further into that topic in the sections below. If you do not know how to use orthopedic neck pillows, the most important thing to note is the height of your neck versus your head. Most pillows are one height, so your head is higher than your neck when you lay down. You want your neck and head to be at the same height, so ensure your neck pillow is raised where your neck will rest. And make sure you place your head on the compressed section and your neck on the raised section. Your head and neck should feel comfortable and naturally positioned when lying on the pillow. If you are uncomfortable, you may be using the wrong pillow.
Sleeping Position For Neck Pain
If you have a cervical pillow, how to use it varies depending on your sleeping position. Below are some tips for using your neck pillow in different positions.
If you sleep on your side, you can use a pillow that is even higher under your neck. The difference in the neck and head height from the side is even more drastic. So a higher neck pillow is ideal if you sleep on your side.
If you sleep on your back, you can use the neck pillow as discussed in a few sections above. Place your head on the compressed part and your neck on the raised area. Your head should be flat, not propped up at an angle.