Answers to Questions about Chiropractic:
Are Cervical Pillows Helpful?

Samuel Homola, D.C.

Question

I have a constant ache in my neck (at the base of my skull) that has been causing me to lose sleep. I saw some pillows ata chiropractor's office that have a section cut out in the middle but are high on each side. Do you recommend such pillows?

Answer

Some people with neck trouble can benefit from using a cervical pillow. No pillow will fit everyone's neck, however. Trial and error would be needed to find a pre-molded pillow that would be most comfortable for the individual.

Normally, a pillow should support the back of the neck as well as the back of the head. A pillow should not be so thick that it lifts the head up too high, or so thin that the head tilts back. A person with a humped upper back would need a thicker pillow than the average person, and so on.

I usually recommend a feather pillow that can be fluffed or molded so that it fits into the curve on the back of the neck with equal support for the back of the head, keeping the neck in line with the rest of the spine. A regular pillow can also be adjusted for side-posture sleeping.

A cervical pillow that restricts changes in sleeping postures and places more pressure on the back of the neck than on the back of the head might actually cause neck trouble. So don't use a cervical pillow if it causes discomfort of any kind.

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Dr. Homola is a second-generation chiropractor who has dedicated himself to defining the proper limits on chiropractic and to educating consumers and professionals about the field. His 1963 book Bonesetting, Chiropractic, and Cultism supported the appropriate use of spinal manipulation but renounced chiropractic dogma. His 1999 book Inside Chiropractic: A Patient's Guide provides an incisive look at chiropractic's history, benefits, and shortcomings. Now retired after 43 years of practice, he lives in Panama City, Florida.

This page was posted on August 27, 2002.