The wrong pillow can strain your muscles, compress your nerves, and wear out your joints. That's no way to start the day, so follow these pillow-picking principles to find the bedtime support that's right for you.
Conformity Called For
Conforming to the norm may not be great for humans, but it's exactly what we want our pillows to do. Harvard Health suggests using either a memory foam pillow or a feather pillow to make sure the pillow conforms to the shape of your head and neck each night.
Another option may be to get a high-quality water pillow.
By conforming to the shape of your head and your neck you ensure your neck muscles don't have to work all night long to keep your head in a comfortable position.
Hard or Soft?
It depends on how you sleep.
If you sleep on your stomach experts recommend a soft pillow. You're not putting as much weight on your neck that way, and you want something that you can position for breathing.
But if you sleep on your side or your back, a firm pillow is what you'll want.
What if you toss, turn, and change positions throughout the night? In that case, you'll want an ergonomic, concave pillow with plenty of support. Try searching for pillows made exclusively for combination sleepers when you go looking.
The Mattress Matters, Too
If fixing your pillow doesn't fix your neck pain you might turn your attention to your mattress, next. According to Consumer Reports, your best bet may be an adjustable mattress like a Sleep Number, which lets you switch up the firmness of the mattress as well as the position. Through trial and error you should be able to find the firmness that's right for you.
If a Sleep Number mattress is outside of your budget, Consumer Reports recommends going to a firmer mattress, instead. Again, support is the name of the game.
Still no relief?
If you've changed up your sleeping habits and still can't get your back and neck pain to stop, it may be time to consult a chiropractor. If your neck is already out of alignment your pillow and mattress might not matter much. Get an adjustment, follow your chiropractor's instructions about additional therapies, and try again.
You might just find the combination of prevention and cure is enough to give you way more pain-free days.