I’ve had a low-grade headache for the past several days. It’s not bad enough to render me a vegetable on the sofa, but it does put a crimp in my desire to see projects through to the end – and in far too many cases, to even get them started.
This particular headache, making me feel as though my skull might crack, woke me the other night and had me wondering if I was prepping for a stroke. I had already taken enough pain reliever to give me an ulcer (which would have at least taken my mind off the headache), and I thought I’d try using a small, relatively flat pillow to minimize the discomfort by taking the strain off my neck.
The irony here is that pillows are often the problem in the first pace and usually make things worse. I rarely use one when I go to bed, but if I’m on my side, a small, thin pillow sometimes helps keep my neck and spine properly aligned, avoiding the strain that brings on the headache.
Symmetry in all things is my motto.
Pillows shouldn’t be used under heads. They should be behind backs and under knees where they take stress off the body and ease tension. When placed under the head, pillows force the head forward and down, opposing its logical extension on the spine. Just lie on your back on the floor. Feel the spine straighten out. And where your head and neck? – in perfect alignment with your spine, forming one, long, beautiful, vertical line.
To achieve that perfectly straight line, ballet dancers are taught to think of their bodies as attached to strings coming out of the tops of their heads, like marionettes. They use these imaginary strings to pull them into erect positions, and perfect alignment. Perfect posture.
Still on the floor?
Now, stick a pillow under your head. What happens? Your head bends upward with your chin heading for your knees, but the rest of you is still flat on the floor. If you lie in this position for a short while, and especially if you’re prone to headaches, you won’t be comfortable for long. First your neck will begin to ache and gradually morph into a nice headache.
To achieve some measure of comfort, your pillow must support the head, neck, and the entire upper back to reduce the sharpness of the angle. Even so, the spine-neck-head combination will adopt a curved appearance in response to a pillow the way a tall reed bends when the wind blows. Better that, though, than a plastic straw standing straight in a glass until its upper section is bent over the edge to reach your lips in the 2 o‘clock position.
I view pillows as decorative items. They add a splash of color to a room and fill out a piece of
furniture giving it character and softening its surroundings, allowing a house to become a home extending its open arms in welcome.
Occasionally, I start out with a big, soft fluffy pillow (because they are so nice) but wake up later with my head lost at the bottom of the ravine it has created with an eiderdown version of the Swiss Alps rising on both sides. Annoyed, I toss it on the foot of the bed or on the floor (no biggie, it’s carpeted) to dispel the imposing sense of claustrophobia it engenders.
Now that I think of it, I dislike pillows for the same reason I harbor ill will toward those pesky, if life-saving, head restraints in some cars. All cars have them now, but only some cause problems. Bill has an Acura from which he removed the head restraints because they kept giving us migraines – and don’t think we don’t worry about that every time we use that car.
I asked the Acura dealer why the angles were so egregious, pointing out they were not nearly so in my Honda Accord, but they defended this alleged flaw by referencing “studies” that have shown this angle to be the best at keeping the body’s natural alignment intact
Let’s be grateful these people aren’t doctors.
When you sit in the car and pull on that imaginary marionette’s string on the top of your head, you can’t, you know, sit up straight. Not with head restraints like that. Your head is forced forward and slightly down on your poor neck at a wrenching angle.
The Acura Angle.
My Accord’s head restraints are angled, too, but not as severely. Even so, I still got headaches at first, so we pulled the head restraints out of the seatbacks and turned them around, facing backward. This way I still have adequate protection without the headache. Not possible with Bill’s Acura – the manufacturer having curved the steel posts that keep its head restraints in place, making it impossible to turn them around.
I’ve yet to find this head restraint issue a problem on a train in this country or any other I’ve been fortunate enough to visit, but it is certainly a problem on airplanes. And just like with cars, the angles vary from one make of plane to another. And the worst of it is that a little relief, once yours for the asking, comes at a price. At one time a couple of extra pseudo-pillows covered with gauze-like “pillowcases” could be had from the stewardess and put behind your back to ease the strain on your neck. She might even have helped you place them properly. But now those pillows cost extra – per pillow. And she’s busy making change while someone’s kids are running back and forth, so don’t expect help positioning them. So much for comfort, or stress relief for the back and neck – or the wallet.
Manufacturers’ time might be better spent at the ballet barre – they could use what they learn there, watching their posture in the mirror, to author a study that might mean something.