Pillow causing back pain – and solutions

Is my pillow causing back pain?

In this short post I’ll explore how your pillow is causing back pain and what to do about it.  As an Edinburgh osteopath specialising in lower back pain and sciatica for nearly 30 years I’ve seen a lot of this.  Ready?  Let’s go.

What’s the job of my pillow?

Your pillow should support the natural curves of your neck and upper back.  It should not elevate your head.  I think one reason a lot of people have pillows that are too high is that they see this on the TV.  But on TV the characters have to have their heads propped up so that we can see their faces.  Otherwise we’d just be looking up their noses. And that could be a horror movie!

How to position my pillow not to cause back pain

Your pillow should only support your head and neck.  You should not have your shoulder or upper back resting on the pillow.

How thick should the pillow(s) be?

Remember the job of the pillow is to support your natural spinal curves.  If you’re lying on your back, your pillow should be thick enough and soft enough to hold your head at the right height.  And it should fill the hollow of your neck, supporting the curve.

But if you’re lying on your side, there are two risks – too high and too low. Simple really.  If your pillow is too high, it will push your head upwards.  If it’s too low, your head will drop down towards the floor.  Either of these can contribute to pain.

In our Edinburgh back pain clinic we sell Goldilocks pillows.  They are sized to fit you.  Why didn’t someone think of that sooner?  I have quite a few patients who take their pillows on holiday with them.  They’d rather do this than find the pillows uncomfortable.  Or worse still that the pillow causes a pain.  Not what you want on holiday!

How long will a pillow last?

Different manufacturers will tell you different lengths of time.  I reckon 2-4 years is reasonable.  The stuffing will slowly give under the weight of your head.

Summary of pillow causing back pain

  • Don’t put your shoulder on the pillow – it’s for your head and neck only!
  • Make sure it’s the right thickness
  • Be prepared to scrunch it up when you move from your back to your side
  • Remember to replace it after 2-4 years.

I think my pillow is still causing back pain

If you’ve followed all the steps above but you still wake up with back pain, you need help.  Call us to come into the clinic or book an online consultation for back pain.

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