Do Travel Neck Pillows Really Work?
When it comes to travel, neck pillows have become a near necessity for most. These compact cushions promise to provide comfort and support during long flights, road trips, and train rides. But among the many options, do these travel neck pillows really live up to their hype? Dr. Deryk Harting, a chiropractor at one of the highest rated auto injury medical facilities in the Tampa Bay area, explores the science behind travel neck pillows and whether they are a must for comfortable travel.
Neck pillows are designed with a specific purpose: to support and hold the head and cervical (neck) vertebra in proper alignment while resting. When muscles relax during sleep, the neck’s curvature becomes susceptible to misalignments and poor posture. This is when a quality neck pillow should step in to provide essential support, prevent discomfort, and promote restful sleep during travel. A well-designed neck pillow aligns with the natural curvature of the neck whether you are sitting upright or lying down. These pillows are often crafted from memory foam, microbeads, or inflatable materials that mold to your neck’s contours. The key is using a pillow that matches your specific anatomy and body structure for optimal support to prevent strain, muscle tension, neck pain, and misalignments that can arise from prolonged periods of awkward sleeping positions. By maintaining a neutral spinal posture, neck pillows should alleviate pressure points on specific areas of the head and neck by distributing weight evenly.
However, not all neck pillows are created equal. U-shaped pillows, often marketed as the ergonomic solution for comfortable travel, have received criticism for their lack of efficacy. Experts argue that these pillows fall short in offering adequate support and alignment. The issue primarily lies in their design, which may cause excessive strain on neck muscles and pressure on nerves, leading to discomfort, pain, and even numbness. Opting for a traditional pillow or a well-designed neck support pillow may offer better results. It is important to scrutinize the design and features of any travel pillow before buying to ensure it truly meets your requirements. Like choosing a bed pillow that suits your preferences, selecting the right travel neck pillow is equally personal. Travelers should select pillows that fully contour the neck and base of the head while also limiting excessive extension or side bending as seen with the U-shaped pillows and other designs. Other factors such as the covering material, filling material, adjustability, size, shape, and ease of cleaning should also be considered.
The research on neck pillows lacks a clear consensus. A review of five studies in 2006 did not find sufficient evidence to recommend neck pillows for neck pain relief. However, earlier research compared different types of pillows and discovered that water filled pillows were better than roll pillows or standard pillows in reducing pain and improving sleep quality. Another study noted that roll-shaped pillows were effective in alleviating chronic neck pain.
Concerns have also been raised about potential health hazards associated with certain materials. Some pillows are made from memory foam containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can release harmful chemicals. These compounds can irritate the nose, mouth, throat and are linked to neurological and respiratory issues. To ensure a safe and comfortable travel experience, consider pillows made from natural latex foam which is a more eco-friendly and healthier alternative.
In summary, the effectiveness of travel neck pillows depends on finding the right fit for your needs. A properly designed neck pillow can make a significant difference in supporting your head and neck during travel by promoting optimal alignment and preventing discomfort. While U-shaped pillows might not provide the level of support that manufacturers claim, other options like contour pillows may offer better results. It is essential to prioritize your comfort and health, selecting a pillow made from safe materials and offering the correct support for your unique body structure. Finding the perfect travel neck pillow is truly a personal one. With research and consideration of different factors you can enhance your travel experience and arrive at your destination feeling rested and rejuvenated. Discovering the right neck pillow might just make your next journey as enjoyable as the destination itself.
— This article is written by Deryk Harting, DC, one of the members of Chambers Medical Group’s team of car accident chiropractors who offer a variety of treatments and therapies ranging from diagnostic testing to various soft tissue therapies for car accidents and injuries in Florida.
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