PROPER USE OF PILLOW, PREVENT HERNIATED CERVICAL DISC DISEASE
Updated: Jun 28, 2018
Patients coming in for neck and shoulder pain say their necks feel stiff and achy in the morning after prolonged use of computer and phone. Many of this patients notice decreased quantity of sleep and quality after sleeping. According to research from a specific institute, when analyzing the reasons for sleep disorder, people struggle with sleep due to 67% neck and shoulder pain, 23% lumbar pain, the rest headache, followed by insomnia. The neck is supposed to restore energy and relieve fatigue, which has been stored up throughout the day, when sleeping; but because the quantity and quality of sleep satisfaction is low, people express pain or discomfort. Good sleep quality is the first step for a healthy life. Even though people are highly interested in improving their sleeping habits, they do not seem to know how. Let us explore right posture and pillow for good sleep.
The neck is actually shaped into a “C” curve. The reason for this curve is to disperse any pressure applied by the body, and to provide as a cushion so that the brain cannot be affected by trauma. But if you bend your neck forward or extend the neck outward, the shape of the cervical vertebrae straightens out. The neck cannot disperse the pressure anymore, and only one part of the neck gets affected, causing stress over the bone, muscles, and tendon. The reasons for neck pain or herniated neck disc disease are wrong posture, accumulated stress on the neck, and the lack of fatigue relief on the neck. The best position to achieve good sleep while lying down is when the cervical vertebrae and lumbar vertebrae form a natural curvature, and the muscles are not tensed up. Lying straight and facing the ceiling is generally to maintain the natural curvature of the spine and to achieve bilateral symmetry. Adjusting the pillow height in relation to the shoulder height when lying down sideways and having a pillow in between the legs ensures security.
Proper use of the pillow is important to prevent any straining on the neck while sleeping. If the pillow is too low or too high, neck strain can cause bone, muscle, and tendon aging and hastens degeneration. 6-8 cm high pillow should be placed under the neck when lying supine to keep the curvature, and 10-15 cm high pillow is appropriate for the neck when lying sideways. Or a simple way is to wrap a towel around the lower arm and place under the neck. Consider movement while sleeping, so using towel 10 cm longer than shoulder-length can prevent dropping of the head.
Checking sleeping position and adjusting the height of the pillow depending on the physique are important to those who express neck discomfort or have continuous pain. Pillow with great air permeability and made with either rice huff or buckwheat huff is suggested over very hard or soft pillow. Natural materials not only allow airflow to prevent accumulation of sweat but they also cave in where the head rests on, and this allows natural adjustment of the height. Latex or memory foam can absorb trauma and supports the cervical vertebrae thanks to its strong elasticity and fixed shape. Feather or pillow stuffing cottons may feel comfortable, but they do not help in keeping the curvature of the neck. Hard neck-rest or stone can strain the neck muscles and framework, and since it can interfere with blood circulation-- it is best to avoid it.
The following are methods to relax morning-after stiff necks that are hard to move.
First, hot pack therapy while sleeping can relax extremely tense muscles, and allow smooth blood circulation. If the neck and shoulders always tighten up, wrap Chen Pi (aged tangerine peel) in a gauze, boil, and apply hot back therapy. Chen Pi is effective in activating metabolism and relaxing muscle tension. However, hot pack therapy applied over fifteen minutes can strain the muscle.
Second, for good exercise, align the fingers together, place the hand over the front, left, right of the head, both hands on the back of the head, and push gently. Do not get pushed over, but rather put strength on the neck muscle to support. Repeat same action on all sides of the head for six seconds, five times each.
Published by KoreaTimes under <Health Column> on October 27, 2015.