A few weeks ago, in the midst of playing a high-paced game of Ultimate Frisbee, I sprinted, jumped, and…. fell down embarrassingly. While I used my hands to break my fall, because I was running and jumping at top speed, the front of my head still bounced off the ground. Fortunately the ground was not concrete but soil, so I did not suffer much head trauma or concussive injuries. Unfortunately, however the whiplash effect of my head hitting the ground caused some other effects, none of them good. I shook of the fall, finished the game (we lost), and went back home.
It was only when I woke up the next day that I noticed that something was different, and not in a good way. My neck was stiff and painful, there was a throbbing pain radiating down my spine, and turning my head from side to side only increased this pain. I also felt a tingling feeling that ran down my right arm. This is very, very, bad, I thought to myself. Not wanting to take any chances, I called in sick to work, and headed straight to the doctor for a checkup and X-ray scan. The result: a herniated disc between my C3 and C4 vertebrae on the cervical spine.
That was the bad news, and when the doctor delivered his diagnosis my mind immediately raced to dark and dire thoughts of surgery, of being unable to perform vigorous physical activity for the rest of my life, even visions of me woefully sitting in a wheelchair as an aged nurse pushed me around with a look of pity on her face. I was soon snapped back into reality when the doctor then followed up by saying that it was only a very minor case and that it was highly unlikely that I would require any sort of surgery whatsoever. All I needed was a week’s rest and careful monitoring of the situation; the human body is highly resilient, he went on, and many athletes still enjoy fruitful athletic careers even with herniated discs.
My doctor’s confidence gave me hope, and indeed I did start to feel much better after a few days, but did notice one thing: the pain and numbness was at its apex right after waking up and gradually got better throughout the day until I barely noticed it at all, at least until I woke up the next morning groaning and clutching at my neck like a geriatric patient in a deep heating rub commercial. This didn’t make sense, I thought to myself, shouldn’t I feel at my best in the morning since my neck would have just had seven hours of complete rest? Instead, my situation was the other way around.
After pondering on the situation a little bit, it suddenly hit me, what if it wasn’t the rest itself that was causing the pain, since that didn’t make any sense whatsoever, but rather my sleeping conditions? I took a look at my mattress: it was new, expensive, and the brochure claimed that it offered ‘the highest quality back and spinal support’. I really liked my mattress and compared to my old one, I noticed that the quality of my sleep had improved considerably since switching. Then I looked at my pillow: as far as I could recall, it was approximately five years old, a little lumpy yet still fluffy and soft, which I really liked. But then I thought to myself: could it be a little too soft? A-ha!
I believed I had found my answer. My beloved pillow, which had cradled my head to sleep for almost 2,000 days in its beautiful cotton embrace, did not provide adequate support for my current condition. It looked like a divorce was both imminent and inevitable. I went online, fired up my trusty Google search engine, and began doing my research. After running through endless comparison sites (who knew that there would be so many sites specifically dedicated to pillows? I wonder if there are ‘pillow enthusiast’ forums for these sort of people) I finally managed to select a good pillow for my cervical herniated disc that seemed to be the most trusted brand. When my pillow arrived in the mail, I put it on my bed and moved my trusty soft pillow to the ‘guest’ side of the bed. I swore that after my neck troubles were over, I would return to my sweetheart.
So how did that work out? Well, I’ve been using my new pillow for a couple weeks now and I must say, I don’t think I’m ever going back. My neck feels at least 90% better and it’s no longer stiff or painful in the morning. I’ll probably return to Ultimate Frisbee soon. And as for my old pillow? Well, I moved it into the storage closet; I know, I really have no loyalty.