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One Way to Help You Sleep Better - Use a Traction Pillow Versus a Regular Pillow

Updated on June 14, 2018

What Does it mean to "Traction" ?

Traction simply means stretching the neck.

Here is You Might Think of When You Think of Neck Traction

One way to stretch your neck. Similar to lying with your head off of the bed. This foam constructed pillow helps you stretch your neck
One way to stretch your neck. Similar to lying with your head off of the bed. This foam constructed pillow helps you stretch your neck
Here is something that is referred to as "over the door neck traction" - A device that you mechanically use to separate the bones in your cervical (neck) spine.
Here is something that is referred to as "over the door neck traction" - A device that you mechanically use to separate the bones in your cervical (neck) spine.
Here is another traction device. This one you can use comfortably seated.
Here is another traction device. This one you can use comfortably seated.

How Does Spinal Traction Work?

With spinal traction, it involves a a longitudinal force to the axis of the spinal column. Imagine your spine being literally pulled apart by a force. This stretching or pulling apart helps to stabilize or change the position of damaged aspects of the spine. One can do cervical traction, (stretching of the neck) or lumbar traction (stretching of the lower back). With neck traction, the force is usually applied to the skull through a series of weights or a fixation device and requires that the person is stationary in one position.

What type of Conditions does Traction Help?

Muscle Spasm in the Neck and Upper Back
Chronic Neck Pain
Stiff Neck
Herniated Disc
Tension Headache
Occipital Headache
Pinched Nerve
Bulging Disc
Occipital Neuralgia
Shoulder Pain
Jaw Pain
Numbness and Tingling
Pins and Needles
Weakness in the Extremity

Traction is used by many professionals- chiropractors, osteopaths, physical therapists. They use it for many conditions. Traction is often used in conjunction with other treatments such as tens, hot and cold therapy, muscle massage etc.

Another way to Stretch The Neck: A Traction Pillow

A Traction Pillow can help you stretch your neck just like one the devices mentioned above.
A Traction Pillow can help you stretch your neck just like one the devices mentioned above.

Can you Use a "Traction Pillow" at Night?

Looking at a traction pillow for the first time, you may think to yourself ... hmm this looks like a regular sleeping pillow. Well you are right. It is a pillow for sleeping that supports your neck and your head. But look a little closer. Do you see some different contours and bumps ? This is what truly makes this pillow unique.

This pillow can be referred to as a neck pillow, a roll pillow, a chiropractic pillow, an orthopedic pillow, a posture pillow, and more. The reason is that the neck roll and “V” in the pillow help to restore our normal neck curve (proper cervical alignment) and take unwanted stress or pressure off nerves.

You see, the two sides of this pillow have a unique feature and reason for being.

1. The traction V side gently stretches your neck just a like a cervical traction device

2. The support side of this pillow supports and aligns your cervical spine.

The First Question, What Size do I Need? Yes This is Important..

For this traction pillow, the size you that sleep on does matter.

The first question that arises is “What size do I need?”

Knowing the size of your neck pillows is very important. You want something that will comfortably cradle our head for a good night of sleeping.

There is a very simple answer for this pillow - Anyone 6’1” or taller, get the large. If someone is 5’1” or shorter get the small pillow. And for the in between heights, the vast majority, get the medium/standard size pillow. The pillow is proportionally bigger from small to medium to large.

Another way to think of that is, a larger size pillow will not only be bigger in width and height but will have a bigger neck roll and “V”. So yes, the size of the pillow is largely based on height, however you may be shorter than 6’1” but have a very wide neck (I often refer to it as a football player’s neck) and I think you’ll feel more comfortable with the large traction pillow.

Next Question is Firmness and Why The Composition of this Pillow Works

The next thing to consider is a pillows firmness. Do you want a firm pillow or do you want to soft pillow. You want something hard enough to hold the support however you don’t want something too hard or firm because it just won’t be comfortable; you try to get just the right mix.

Down or feather pillows may be very comfortable but can be too soft and don’t hold you in alignment and have any support versus a memory foam which is very firm. It may have support but is very uncomfortable. Now, overtime a pillow may wear down anyway and if you start getting your neck pain back or another symptom returns, it might be time for a new pillow. Let me take a minute to mention air pillows. Most people I find, don’t like them for a few reasons:

  1. They can leak or lose air. I don’t mind items that have their own pump and/or you only use them for a short time, but something you sleep on all night?
  2. You have to spend time blowing them up. Anybody with kids can agree that sometimes those pool floats or other balloons can be hard to blow up; let alone the fact you have to do it over and over.
  3. Last, they tend to be very firm when fully inflated. So you may start out with something to hard, then it’s okay, then your pillow loses all support by the end of the night.

One reason the Traction Pillow works so well is that it’s a fiber filled pillow. The fiber that is used in this pillow is hand rolled into it. On top of that, it’s hand stuffed for the right amount of support vs. fiber that’s blown in by a machine. I can tell you - there is a big difference!

For the medium and the large pillows in this type of pillow, you can get an extra firm version. This version has 25% more stuffing in it.The pillow is more dense and has less "Give" in it. Overall, a firmer pillow.

It is a personal choice. Overall, the regular support pillow is the most popular, but there any many who like this extra firm version.

How to Use It:

Many patients have been recommended by their chiropractor, physical therapist or osteopath to start some form of neck stretching, aka neck traction or cervical traction.

The traction pillow has a traction v side to it. You can easily set a timer for 20 minutes, lay on your back, and allow your neck to be stretched very comfortably. Once you are comfortable with this, move to an actual traction device. For those that are in an acute stage, or in a lot of discomfort or pain, starting traction like this can help you ease into it. Minimize muscle spasms and soreness.

It Works for Both Side Sleeping and Back Sleeping Positions

The pillow is ideal for back and side sleepers. Sleeping on your stomach is not recommended because you have to crank the head to either side so you can breathe. Really the only way to rebuild the neck curve is to sleep on your back on the neck roll. When you sleep on your side, one often sleeps on a wing of the pillow. This refers to the area just outside the “V” or neck roll. When on your side, the pillow keeps the spine level. Think about it, with a pillow too soft, your head bends toward the floor. To high and/or too firm and the head laterally bends to the ceiling. Either way you are putting a misalignment in the neck that shouldn’t be there.

© 2018 Matthew


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