In a world where we are constantly leaning over our laptops and phones, slouching over on the couch, and getting stiff on long car rides, our necks are under as much stress as our minds. Neck pain and discomfort is very common, but it doesn’t make it any less irritating.
Your neck and spinal health can have direct effects on your posture, nervous system, and overall well being. But before you spend the money on an expensive chiropractic visit, you can try a cheap alternative that won’t break the bank, or your spine.
Here are some tips for how you can make the most out of a travel neck pillow.
What Is A Neck Pillow?
You’ve probably seen busy commuters propping themselves up with one of these on their train ride to work. These specially designed, u-shape pillows to create a natural resting position for your head, maintaining the lordotic curve of your spine and providing neck support that a headrest just doesn't give.
If your spine suffers from a loss of cervical lordosis, it means your spine is without the natural curvature that keeps your body healthy and your posture defined. Bad posture eventually leads to neck and back pain, among other physical ailments such as joint degeneration.
This is why it’s important to do everything you can to keep your spine’s natural curves. And luckily, doctors and chiropractors recommend neck pillows as a great tool for alleviating neck pain caused by bad posture.
Where Can I Use a Neck Pillow?
The great thing about a neck pillow is there is really no wrong way to use one. However, you can definitely make the most of one if you continually use it in certain situations.
Most people forget that neck pillows were originally designed to be used for sleeping in a bed! You can use a neck pillow to support your neck and spine when you sleep to ensure that you are keeping your back’s natural curvature healthy.
Neck pillows shouldn’t be used when sleeping on your stomach. In fact, sleeping on your stomach is generally bad for your overall health. Not only can it unnaturally bend your neck backward, but it can also prevent you from breathing properly as you sleep.
These are best designed for sleeping on your back or your side. If you sleep on your back, your normal pillow may be pushing your head slightly forward during a night’s rest. A neck pillow can help to straighten out your head, ensuring that it does not tilt unnaturally forward or backward.
If you're a side sleeper, a neck pillow will keep your nose in line with the rest of your body. This is important because if you think about the way your spine is situated when using just an average pillow, it bends slightly to the left or right, depending on the side of the body you sleep. A neck pillow can straighten that out, reducing possible chronic neck pain and back pain once you wake up.
As neck support pillows progressed, doctors realized that they could be used in situations where the body remains stationary for a long period of time, such as traveling by car, plane, or train. Since TSA doesn’t count them as separate carry-on items, so you should definitely consider bringing one along on your next long-haul flight so you can get a good night of rest. In this case, you also may want to accompany your pillow with an eye mask and ear plugs to make sure you're able to get some rest.
Stiffness and soreness are typically caused by muscle weakness over time because of poor posture. The seats in your car or on a plane are not designed with your posture in mind, and since we spend so much time driving or riding as passengers, these moments can add up and lead to poor cervical posture. Not to mention, if you fall asleep on a long road trip, you’re likely to slump over and hurt your spine.
In these circumstances, a neck pillow is a great tool. Their design will help to keep your head upright in almost any sitting position, so you won’t have to worry about stiff and aching bones when you arrive at your destination. In addition to being super useful, they’re also just overall comfortable and can help you get a more comfy, healthy sleep during your traveling escapades.
You could even use one while driving. Since people tend to lean over their steering wheels when driving, a neck pillow can help to hold your back in alignment. This makes your trip more comfortable while simultaneously supporting a healthy posture.
The Dos And Don'ts Of Travel Pillows
Not all neck pillows are made out of the same material. And while any support is better than nothing, there are a few options that won’t do much good for healthy posture.
Don’t: Use Cotton, Polyester, And Inflatable Pillows
Cotton and polyester are very common materials used for sleep devices, such as pillows and mattresses. They are usually very inexpensive and do a good job of feeling soft and keeping your body warm.
The problem with these materials is that they are often too soft and will do very little to support your bones. Since they are so cheap, it means they were probably made very quickly with little thought in mind. They may feel soft in the store, but once you actually try them out, you might realize that it doesn’t make much difference.
Similarly, inflatable neck pillows are made inexpensively and from cheap materials. You can usually find these options anywhere, but they are usually extremely uncomfortable and can cause irritation to your skin. Also, an inflatable one won’t do much in the way of support, as the air inside the pillow will move with your neck, rather than holding it upright.
Do: Use Memory Foam
Memory foam is one of the best materials for sleeping and is often used for proper support on mattresses. Memory foam is perfect for any type of sleeping material because it will adjust to your body’s habits, eliminating soreness and aches associated with the typical pillow.
A travel pillow made from 100% premium memory foam has natural body heat-responsive qualities, allowing the pillow to mold perfectly to your neck and head, providing maximum support. If you enjoy relaxing your head in multiple positions, you’ll want to consider a pillow with ergonomic raised lobes, as this will foster healthy posture and support neck tilt while ensuring that the pillow feels comfortable.
Newer models even use something called gel infused memory foam, which allows for even better support and enhanced comfort. A foam one will allow for a bit more breathability in the fabric, keeping you nice and cool during a night’s rest or on your next flight. The gel infusion is still TSA friendly, so their luxurious u-shaped designs can make your flight in coach feel like first class (or at least business class). The best travel pillows will also have removable machine washable covers, so you don't have to worry about getting the pillow dirty during your travels.
Unlike cotton or air, a memory foam pillow will adjust to your body and support your neck in healthy positions instead of just giving your neck a soft cushion to rest on. This travel accessory will provide instant neck pain relief and help to prevent problems in the future.
Other Accessories For Healthy Posture
Although neck pillows work great on their own, they’re best used with other products designed for maintaining a painless posture no matter where you are.
With working from home being the new normal due to COVID, neck and back problems are becoming more prominent than ever before. Most office chairs are made of stiff materials, and when you’re looking down at a laptop all day, these won’t give you the maximum support needed to prevent neck and back pain.
If you’re beginning to notice new or worsening back pain, a seat cushion might be the solution. Putting this underneath your tailbone when sitting in an office chair will promote proper seating posture, bringing relief to your back, neck, and legs. Plus, you could use this on a long car or plane ride, acting as the perfect companion to your neck pillow.
In addition to the seat cushion, you may also want to look into a lumbar cushion to specifically target your spine. This straps to the back of your chair, bringing pain relief and lumbar support and improving posture with its ergonomic design. Most are hypoallergenic and breathable as well, so you won’t need to worry about them causing any irritation to your skin.
Incorporating any of these products into your life will make a difference, but using all of them will make a huge difference in your overall health and comfort.
Back and neck pain are extremely common, especially with the growing stressors associated with working from home. This is why posture correcting accessories, such as a travel neck pillow, are important tools to help. Choosing a memory foam neck pillow for long car rides or days at work is important to keep your neck straight and your spine in alignment.
Neck pillows are best utilized when combined with other correcting products, like seat and lumbar cushions. Not only can these prevent neck and back pain, but they might even fix any problems that have already arisen.