What Is The Right Pillow For Neck Pain
Get tips on how to pick a comfy pillow.
Question: Can you recommend an appropriate pillow for neck pain? A few months ago I lost my balance while on a ladder. I didn’t fall, but I jerked my neck with a whiplash action. My orthopaedist told me I had arthritis and gave me a rubber neck brace to wear however, I wake up every morning with a painful neck. Is it possible that the right type of pillow would alleviate my pain?
Answer:The right pillow can make a difference in your sleeping position and thus can affect how your neck feels the next day, particularly if you are getting over a sprain or strain, which is what whiplash really is.
In selecting a pillow for neck pain, you will need to carefully choose one that fits you. First, look for a pillow that supports your neck but does not tilt your head forward when you are lying on your back. If you sleep on your side, the pillow you choose should support your head in line with your neck, not tilt your head up or down. The pillow should fill just the space between the mattress and your ear.
There are a variety of pillows for neck pain, but you might want to check out some pillows you already have. Feather pillows are particularly good for punching into the shape you want. Also, many people with neck pain find that using extra pillows to support their arms at night makes sleeping more comfortable.
When Arthritis Causes Neck Pain
Arthritis, specifically spondylosis and rheumatoid arthritis, can cause neck pain. Both prescription and DIY treatments can help you manage your condition.
Two types of arthritis commonly lead to neck pain: cervical spondylosis and rheumatoid arthritis. With both types, it’s joint damage that causes pain and discomfort in your neck.
What Are The Symptoms Of Cervical Spondylosis
The symptoms of cervical spondylosis include:
- Neck stiffness and pain
- Headache that may originate in the neck
- Pain in the shoulder or arms
- Inability to fully turn the head or bend the neck, sometimes interfering with driving
- Grinding noise or sensation when the neck is turned
Less common, or “atypical,” symptoms include vertigo, headache, palpitation, nausea, discomfort in your abdomen or GI system, tinnitus, blurred vision, and memory problems . Some studies also show that chronic neck pain from causes such as spondylosis have been linked to higher blood pressure.
Symptoms of cervical spondylosis tend to improve with rest. Symptoms are most severe in the morning and again at the end of the day.
If cervical spondylosis results in pressure on the spinal cord , it can put pressure on the spinal cord, a condition called cervical myelopathy. Symptoms of cervical spondylosis with myelopathy include:
- Tingling, numbness, and/or weakness in the arms, hands, legs, or feet
- Lack of coordination and difficulty walking
- Abnormal reflexes
- Muscle spasms
- Loss of control over bladder and bowel
Another possible complication of cervical spondylosis is cervical radiculopathy, when bone spurs press on nerves as they exit the bones of the spinal column. Pain shooting down into one or both arms is the most common symptom.
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Use Of Herbs Or Ayurveda
There are many herbs and other foods that can offer relief from neck arthritis. Some of them that has excellent anti-inflammatory properties are ginger, celery seeds, flax seeds, cayenne pepper, alfalfa leaves, olive oil, salmon fish and turmeric.
Moreover, adopting an Ayurvedic lifestyle can do wonders to your health and offer significant pain relief. Avoiding foods that cause flatulence, gentle massage with sesame oil, and doing certain breathing exercises can help to decrease pain and swelling.
Can Neck Pain Be Prevented
The best way to prevent neck pain is to keep your spine flexible and your muscles strong. You can do this with regular exercise 30 minutes on most days. Make sure you take plenty of breaks throughout the day to stretch.
Its important to develop good posture especially when youre sitting, at work or driving. Try not to slouch or to poke your chin out. A supportive pillow is also important to prevent neck pain.
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Give Yourself Some Time
If you have neck pain, modify your activities for a few weeks to avoid putting additional strain on your neck. To relieve more severe pain, you can take an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug or get a prescription from your doctor. The drug gabapentin may help with nerve-related neck pain.
If you dont improve on these medications, your doctor might suggest an epidural steroid injection to decrease inflammation around and inside the nerve.
Once the pain subsides, Dr. Mroz recommends seeing a physical therapist or doing range-of-motion exercises to improve mobility in your neck and prevent stiffness. If youre still having pain after six weeks, see a doctor.
When To See A Physician
Using home remedies for mild cases of pain or discomfort from neck arthritis is fine, but there are some occasions when checking in with your healthcare provider is important. Symptoms that may require you to visit your healthcare provider for your cervical spondylosis may include:
- Pain or tenderness in multiple joints
- Redness and swelling in your joints that does not resolve within a few days
- Pain or swelling that limits your normal functional activity
- Pain that is accompanied by fever, malaise, or sudden and unexplained weight loss
Since cervical spondylosis is a wear and tear condition, you may notice that you have some good days and some bad days. Most often, your home remedies should be able to help you maintain mobility and function when your pain increases.
Keeping the pain at bay may be done with exercise and with gentle stretches. If your neck pain from spondylosis lasts for more than a few weeks, check in with your healthcare provider.
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How Neck Arthritis Is Diagnosed
Your doctor will start by taking a history and doing a physical exam. Theyll check the range of motion in your neck and test your strength, sensation, and reflexes to find out if there is pressure on your nerves or spinal cord. Theyll ask when your symptoms started, when the pain happens, and what makes the pain better and worse.
Your doctor may order an X-ray to assess alignment and look for arthritic changes, says Dr. Shah. If there is a concern of compression of spinal nerves or the spinal cord, you may need an MRI to look at the neutral structure and discs, says Dr. Shah.
A CT scan may be ordered to look at the bone more closely, especially to see if any bony outgrowths are causing compression. However, X-rays and MRIs are the tests that are usually ordered, says Dr. Shah. A CT scan with a myelogram may be used if an MRI cant be done.
An electromyography, or EMG, may be ordered to assess for nerve compression, says Dr. Shah. An EMG tests the electrical conduction of the nerves in the arms. This test would be helpful if you have multiple nerves being compressed or compression of nerves at the neck and in the arm, he says.
Your doctor may order blood tests to see if you have any antibodies or systemic inflammation that would reveal inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, or ankylosing spondylitis.
When Should I See My Doctor
You should see a doctor if:
- the pain is getting worse
- the pain doesnt ease up in a week or so
- you have numbness, tingling or pins and needles in your arms or legs
- you start having difficulties with your bladder or bowel
- you have a fever as well as neck pain
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The Top 7 Cervical Pillows For Neck Pain
Through our research, here are our recommendations for the 7 best neck traction pillows of 2022. Below the table, youll find our full reviews.
- Size 3 sizes (small/queen/high queen.
- Cover hypoallergenic rayon/polyester proprietary blend
- Warranty 30-day trial
The Epabomemory foam neck support pillow is Amazons best-seller in neck pain pillows and is made with breathable memory foam, in 3 different sizes.
This pillows special design allows you to take out a removable piece of memory foam at the bottom of the pillow if it feels too high for you.
This mainly applies to stomach and back sleepers. The height on the sides stays the same. See the image below:
Control the height of the pillow with this special design
We also find this pillow is the best pillow for a military neck, see the image below:
EPABO helps to relieve and heal military neck
- Cover polyester/cotton machine washable zippered pillow cover
- Size 5 sizes
- Warranty 5 years
The Therapeuticaorthopedic cervical pillow incorporates 2 pillow shapes into one with different heights for back and side sleeping. Although it has an odd shape, it correctly positions the head and neck, both when sleeping on the side and back.
The center tongue, which supports the neck towards the area between the shoulder blades, works very well.
A unique feature in this pillow is the wedge extension which supports your upper back as well.
Spinal Arthritis Causes And Risk Factors
The causes of arthritis in the back or neck vary depending on the type of arthritis you have. Besides normal wear and tear and autoimmune triggers, in many cases the exact cause remains unknown. Genetic components have been identified in connection with some forms of spinal arthritis, meaning that it may be hereditary.
Other spinal arthritis risk factors include:
Presence of certain conditions such as diabetes, gout, psoriasis, tuberculosis, irritable bowel syndrome and Lyme disease
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Treatment Options For Cervical Osteoarthritis
Cervical osteoarthritis can usually be successfully managed without surgery. Common treatments include:
- Rest or activity modification. Going easy on the neck during a painful flare-up may ease pain. Also, you may need to modify some activities, such as using a different swim stroke if you enjoy swimming.
- Physical therapy. A physiatrist, physical therapist, or other medical professional can customize a neck exercise program for you. A stronger and more flexible neck has improved function, which may reduce pain.
- Over-the-counter medications. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may help relieve inflammation from osteoarthritis. A few examples include ibuprofen and naproxen . Remember to carefully read the instructions before using any medication to reduce the risk for serious complications.
Q: Which Will Work Better For My Painful Arthritic Joints Heat Or Cold
A: Applying heat or cold to a painful area is a simple, inexpensive method for relieving pain. Cold reduces swelling and numbs the area. Heat loosens up muscles, increases flexibility and increases circulation. For an acute injury, such as a pulled muscle or injured tendon, the usual recommendation is to start by applying ice to reduce inflammation and dull pain. Once inflammation has gone down, heat can be used to ease stiffness.
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For a chronic pain condition, such as osteoarthritis, heat seems to work best. However, some people find that cold also helps to dull the pain.
So whats the answer? Try them both and use whichever works best for you.
Exercise is an important part of treatment for osteoarthritis. Heat and cold can also be used to make exercising a little easier. Try using heat before exercise to loosen up muscles and cold afterward to minimize any achiness.
For heat, soak in a warm bath, hot tub or whirlpool for about 20 minutes. Or take a warm shower. Dress warmly afterward to prolong the benefit. A heating pad is another good way to warm up an area. You can also buy moist heat pads. Or, heat a damp washcloth in the microwave for about 20 seconds. Test it to make sure its not too hot. Wrap it in a dry towel and apply it to the painful area.
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Neck Pain Prevention Is Key
You can prevent some neck pain with these steps:
Learn stretching exercises. Consult a physical therapist if necessary. You should stretch every day especially before and after you exercise. If after exercising, your neck hurts, apply ice immediately.
Keep your back and neck supported. This is a must, especially sitting at your computer. If your computer is at eye level, it will keep you from having to look up and down and constantly change your neck position. Use a headset when talking on the telephone to avoid straining your neck.
Sleep with support. Use a firm mattress. If your neck is sore in the morning, you might want to buy a pillow that supports your neck as well.
Protect yourself from trauma by always using a seat belt when riding in a car.
Managing neck pain requires a consistent approach and carefully following the treatment plan outlined by your healthcare provider. Youâre the one in charge of making sure you take the time to exercise, strengthen, and soothe muscles. At times youâll feel challenged, but if you stay determined, youâll have the best possible outcome.
What Are The Signs Of Neck Arthritis
Pain is the most obvious symptom of a disk problem in the neck, yet the degree of damage has little to do with how much it hurts.
You can have 100 people with the same amount of degenerative changes in their cervical spine, and only a small percentage have neck pain, says Dr. Mroz. Among those who do experience neck pain, the discomfort is usually short-lived, improving on its own within six to 12 weeks.
Sometimes, cervical arthritis narrows the space where nerve roots exit the spine, pinching the nerve. You can feel this as a radiating pain down your arm, or as numbness and weakness in your arm and hand. If a collapsed disk or a bone spur pushes into the spinal cord and causes compression, it can produce more serious symptoms
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What Can I Do
Neck Exercises For Arthritis
Setting your neck straight
We put a lot of impact on our joints over the years. Eventually they start to show the signs of wear and tear. With age, arthritis can cause the joints in our knees, hands, wrists, and feet to become stiff and sore.
Arthritis also affects the vertebrae in our neck, which get worn down from years of supporting our head. After age 60, more than 85 percent of people have arthritis in their neck, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons .
If your neck is sore, see a doctor to find out exactly whats causing your pain. You can visit your family doctor or see a specialist like an orthopedist, rheumatologist, or osteopathic doctor. Your doctor can also advise you on therapies to help relieve the pain such as postural changes, physical therapy, yoga, or Pilates. And your doctor may recommend pain relieving medication or steroid injections.
You can also try basic exercises at home. Though you might be tempted to keep your neck still when it hurts, staying immobile will only increase the stiffness. It will also cause you to lose even more movement. Stretching and strengthening exercises will help keep your neck limber and reduce your arthritis pain.
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Exercise For Managing Symptoms
If you’re just getting to “that age,” you may be looking for the escape button that will enable you to avoid this condition altogether. Most likely such a magic button does not exist, but exercise, particularly a range of motion exercise, is probably your best bet.
And if you’re well into your senior years, your healthcare provider may have strongly suggested that you exercise regularly to address joint stiffness and pain.
Movement is the first line of defense when preventing spinal arthritis and limiting its development in the early stages, says Debbie Turczan, a clinical specialist in Physical Therapy at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York. “It’s also a good strategy for decreasing the pain,” she adds.
While flexibility and range of motion exercises are crucial for managing neck arthritis symptoms, neck strengthening also plays an important role.