Neck pain is mostly caused by poor postures – be it when we are working, texting or even sleeping. In short, posture is extremely important no matter what we are doing. But how do you even maintain the right position when you’re unconscious at night?
For one, your pillow, is an extremely important support for your neck. That means choosing the right pillow will affect your quality of sleep (including how much you snore); no one wants to wake up in the morning with a stiff neck. To know how, you should first understand why we use pillows.
Fun fact: pillows first came into existence around 7000 BCE, when Egyptians used slabs of stones to prop up their necks and keep the bugs away from their ears, mouths, and noses. Nowadays, the main reason we use pillows is for comfort! When you lie down, the muscles in your neck and spine relax. As your head falls backward, unnecessary stress is induced on your neck, leading to neck ache. So which pillow is most suited to you?
The main factor to consider is the strength of support provided by the pillow. In other words, the pillow filling. Here are some common materials used to stuff the pillow:
The most popular of them all – polyester pillows! These are usually machine washable, inexpensive, and easily available. However, the synthetic stuffing does not provide much support for our necks, nor are the pillows well ventilated. In a climate like Singapore’s, such pillows may not be the optimal choice. Not to mention, it is more prone to dust mites!
Avg. Price Range: $10 – $60
Many prefer memory foam pillows for their “moulding” ability; these pillows can change their shapes according to the concaves of your head and neck, thereby making them well-suited for those with neck-aches. Interestingly, ‘viscoelastic’ polyurethane foam, the material behind such pillows, was first developed under NASA to improve the safety of their aircrafts’ cushions. Unfortunately, memory foams are not machine-washable, and not recommended for babies/small children due to risk of suffocation.
Avg. Price Range: $30 – 80
A direct competitor of memory foam pillows, latex pillows have similar properties too. Because of this, they can resume their original shape after usage and are therefore easy to maintain. Latex pillows are not machine-washable either.
Avg. Price Range: $30 – $80
Buckwheat pillows are filled with buckwheat hulls, and can be uncomfortable if you are accustomed to soft pillows. Nevertheless, they are spectacular in air circulation, and can be kept cool all night long. This makes them optimal in Singapore’s weather. They are also a form of remedy for those suffering from neck aches. The degree of support it gives is hardly present in most pillows.
Avg. Price Range: $50 – $90
Pure, natural, and breathable. Wool pillows are usually hypoallergenic, and are excellent at adapting to the external temperature i.e. they will stay cool during the summer, and warm during the winter. These pillows also have good circulation to resist the build-up of moisture and growth of dust mites. However, they flatten easily overtime, and do not contour to body curvature well.
Avg. Price Range: $70 – $120
Feather and Down
For those who enjoy a pillow’s ‘plushiness’, Feather and Down pillows are your match. They last longer than polyester, and are lightweight. However, because they are made out of feathers from geese or ducks, they take quite the heat from animal activists due to the apparently unpleasant methods used to gather the feathers/down. They also require higher maintenance as they are recommended to be dry-cleaned instead of machine washed, so you might want to think twice about this one!
Avg. Price Range: Feather $25 – $90, Down $90 – 200 (depending on the amount of down content)
But really, there is no hard and fast rule as to which pillow might be the best for you. The fail-safe way is to test them all out! What was written above is only a simplified list. Everyone’s demands vary, and so do different models of pillows that are made of the same material. Also keep in mind that the price of a pillow correlates to the comfort of it. Of course, having a good pillow is a worthwhile investment!
Besides sleeping posture, it is important to note your bearing when you are texting too. Actually, text neck arose long before smartphones became ubiquitous. And in fact, “text neck” was coined as such because the only usage people had for mobiles back then was for texting or calling. However, “text neck” only became a phenomenon after smartphones were popularised. With constant access to the internet as well as a wealth of information online, it is no wonder that we are glued to our devices wherever we go. This has resulted in severe health issues.
When you maintain a straight posture, your head exerts about 5 kg of force on your spine – almost equivalent to that of a bowling ball! However, when you bend your neck to look at a screen for a prolonged duration, additional pressure is inflicted on your spine. In the long run, if the habit is not fixed, aches can transition into acute pain, disrupting your daily activities. In the worst stage, it would become virtually impossible to look down, much less work with a computer.
Thus, it is important to practise good body posture. Ensure that your devices or books are at eye-level to maintain a neutral position. This can mean raising your arms (at the same time you can exercise too – kill two birds with one stone!), using a laptop stand (a box would do), or whatever way you can improvise. Also, the best posture to have when sitting in your chair is to have both feet flat on the ground! For more information, refer to the section on posture for working individuals under the article “Everything You Need To Know About Lower Back Pain”.
Work (or Sitting) Posture
Work is a major, underlying reason for neck aches today. Having to face the computer in the same position with your head lowered and neck strained all day long is detrimental to your health. There are some quick and easy fixes you can make while at work to mitigate the pain.
First and foremost, avoid hunching! When you slouch, your head leans forward, pulling your neck along. This creates excessive force on your spine and neck. Keeping a neutral position is the best way to reduce the strain. If you find yourself unconsciously sliding forward from time to time, move your laptop closer to you.
Secondly, you should take breaks regularly. This means walking around. You can drink more water to increase the frequency of your toilet breaks and at the same time stay hydrated! During breaks, you can also execute a few moves to diminish neck ache.
- Inhale deeply while raising your shoulder towards your ear.
- Exhale while dropping your shoulder back to its original position.
- Look side to side.
- Nod “yes” and “no”.
- Repeat as many times as you deem appropriate.
- Sit up tall on your chair, keeping your back straight. Raise both your hands over your head and interlock your fingers.
- Stretch your arms towards the ceiling.
- Slowly lift your chin and gaze up at the ceiling (pull your head back, as far as you can).
- Repeat as many times as you deem appropriate.
Lastly, a foolproof method is to treat yourself to heat therapy, which essentially means keeping a particular area warm. NeckHeat patches are non-medicated, which means they have no odour, and are cut out to fit your neck ergonomically, while being able to last up to 12 hours. Simply tear the package open, paste it onto your neck, and let the product heat up by itself.