After three solid months of waking up multiple times every single night with constant, searing pain in both my neck and shoulders, I decided to do what any intelligent human being in my situation would do: I ordered a bunch of crap off the internet in an attempt to fix the problem. Most of it didn’t help at all (this inflatable cervical collar wound up putting intense pressure on my lower jaw), but this crazy little pillow with a triangle-shaped divot in the middle did. The funnily named Tri-Core Petite Cervical Pillow (“cervical” also means “related to the neck”) stopped my neck and shoulder pain cold — and transformed my sleeping life. Turns out, the main culprit of my pain was the wrong pillow not providing enough neck support (too flat or too fluffy, both are bad), resulting in near-constant strain as I slept.
With the Tri-Core pillow, your head rests in a little recessed pocket in the middle of the pillow, resulting in stellar neck support and near-perfect spinal alignment. It also allows you to sleep on your back all night long, by supporting your neck without pitching your skull forward at an awkward angle. As a lifetime side-sleeper, I’ve now converted to sleeping on my back (and therefore not crushing my already-painful shoulder). The experience has been revelatory. On the occasions I do sleep on my side, I use the sides of the pillow—which keeps the pressure off my jaw (a problem with most other pillows I’ve tried). The Tri-Core Petite Cervical pillow is also great for C-PAP-machine users, those with hip pain, and TMJ sufferers.
Proper neck support is only half of this pillow’s charm. While you sleep, the padded edges of the pillow also slightly stretch the neck and spine area, the way a good masseuse or chiropractor does. There’s a thinner side for a moderate stretch, as well as a thicker side for more aggressive stretching. I tend to switch between the two depending on how much tension I’m holding in my neck that day.
A note about the size — I actually bought the petite by accident, and when I turned my boyfriend onto it, decided to buy him the full-size version. That was a big mistake. It’s way too big for even his six-foot-tall frame. The petite version is all the pillow one could ever want, as the bigger size engulfs and smothers you with it’s ultrahigh sides. The smaller size also makes it easier to transport — because once you sleep with it, you’ll never want to be without it. I carried mine along on a trip to Paris last summer, and befuddled French customs agents by attempting to explain it to them in my horrific, Texas-accented, high-school French.