Need a Pain-in-the-Neck Cure? Arc 4 Life’s Soft-Yet-Effective, Polyester-Filled (Non-Memory-Foam), Cervical Linear Traction Pillow

Introduction (feel free to skip ahead):

Sitting before a PC monitor now and again prompts many a computer user to lean forward more than they should. I know that's been the case with me. Compounding the problem is the fact that the configurations of many chairs don't encourage the sitter to hold his/her neck in an optimal position. The same could be said regarding car seats. And then there's the fact that the (more or less) conventional pillow on which a sleeper typically rests his head might very well exacerbate the problem.

These are likely only a few reasons why some folks--including me--eventually begin to experience a pain in the neck (and I'm not speaking figuratively). Such discomfort can also extend into the shoulders. Starting in the mid nineties I began using one or more versions of those ubiquitous "neck" pillows, some of which were made with cheap, low-grade foam, and one of which used ostensibly high-quality "memory" foam. The latter pillow had seemed to suffice; however, after using it for more than three years, I belatedly noticed that its foam had gradually collapsed to the point of being scarcely better than nothing.

Thus it was that two months ago I woke up with "suddenly" serious neck pain and stiffness, which got so extreme that I was pretty miserable for several days. I initially ran, er, drove to Wal-Mart and impulsively bought a couple of relatively cheap memory-foam pillows: one in a smallish, "neck-support" configuration, and the other in a larger, "traditional" configuration. Neither of those items seemed to help much (though they were at least slightly better than the worn-out memory-foam "neck" thingy I'd been using).

It was then that I went searching online and fortuitously found the subject of this review.

Arc 4 Life's "Cervical Linear Traction Neck Pillow"

Where to buy it?

Though you could certainly order this "Cervical Linear Traction Neck Pillow" via Amazon.com (if not still other third-party vendors), I myself ordered it directly from Arc 4 Life via their website (arc4life.com). [Note: Although nearly any conventional pillow slip would surely suffice, I simultaneously ordered the matching white-cotton, zippered pillow slip that Arc 4 Life's site mentioned vis-a-vis this pillow. That slip fits perfectly and looks and feels fine. Incidentally, once you've got a pillow slip installed over this unusual pillow, you'll scarcely discern the middle "V" ("traction" area) that's so conspicuous in the above photo. (But you'll still gratefully feel it.)

The pillow (together with the slip) was protectively packed in a box and delivered via FedEx (Connecticut to Kansas City) after only a few days. The pillow came cleanly enclosed in clear plastic.

In case you're wondering, this product comes with Arc 4 Life's "30 day money back guarantee."

Dimensions & contents:

This "non-allergenic" pillow measures (by my own, hands-on inspection) approximately 23 x 15 x 3 inches and weighs 2 pounds, 2.5 ounces.

One of its two sewn-in labels indicates that this pillow's permanent cover comprises 65% polyester fiber and 35% cotton, while its "hand-stuffed," "all new" filling is 100% polyester fiber. (There are no foam, rubber or latex fillers.)

Regarding "care," the other sewn-in label states:

"This pillow will last you a long time if you wipe it clean with a mild solution of soap and water instead of soaking or machine washing it. And if you let it dry naturally or tumble dry at the warm temp setting for 10 minutes tops. That's all the care this pillow needs if it ever gets soiled."

How does it work?

Another customer reviewer has aptly asserted that such "linear traction" benefits the neck by opening up the cervical disc spaces and removing pressure from the nerves while putting the neck into optimal alignment. The Arc 4 Life website itself asserts this pillow will stop your neck pain and improve your posture while you sleep. From my own experience over the past two months, I basically agree; however, I want to emphasize that such relief might not occur during the first night or few; moreover, for all I know, some individuals might not experience the same degree of benefit--if any.

A Tale of Three Pillows (in one):

The "support" side

You can opt to rest your head and neck upon this pillow's so-called "support" or "neck pillow" side (i.e., edge) simply by keeping the pillow flat upon your mattress while rotating it 180 degrees from its more conspicuous V-shaped "side." Actually, I myself virtually never use this "support" part of the pillow. For, while I don't exactly dislike it, its configuration and feel strike me as being fairly comparable to those ubiquitous "neck pillows" that you could easily find at neighborhood bricks-and-mortar stores--including Wal-Mart--for less money. [Well, to be fair, those cheaper "neck pillows" are generally fashioned from basic "foam rubber"--or a low grade of "memory foam"--that doesn't really match the comfort or longevity of this pillow's touted "top quality, hand-stuffed, polyester fiber;" thus, even if you only use this (arguably least significant) "side" of the pillow, you'll still likely end up feeling you've gotten your money's worth.]

Perhaps if I were a full-time "back sleeper" I'd be using that "support" side of the pillow pretty regularly (alternating its use with that of the "traction" side). But, frankly, I didn't shell out sixty bucks for this pillow merely to have it emulate the common "neck" pillow; nay, I bought it primarily for its V-shaped ("traction") side, which--along with the two adjacent "wings" (for "side sleeping") that I'll discuss shortly--is the portion of this pillow I myself actually use nightly.

The "V-shaped" ("traction") side

Whenever you're lying on your back and looking directly at the ceiling (i.e., with your head properly nestled in the primary, "V-shaped" area), that's when this pillow is at its best. Mind, you don't necessarily have to be staring directly at the ceiling (though that's likely the optimal--most beneficial--position); you can, instead, somewhat turn your head left or right, such that you're looking upward at this or that angle. Again, keep in mind that (regardless of the slightly forbidding appearance of the above photo) that V-shaped part of the pillow is actually quite soft and reasonably "forgiving" whenever you turn your head somewhat leftward or rightward.

That said, I should stress that the middle "V" does pretty effectively and admirably encourage you to hold your head in such an "optimal" ("balanced" or "centered") position that your neck's cervical structure is more or less naturally, correctly aligned.

After having fully adjusted to this pillow's special configuration more than about six or seven weeks ago, I myself do find its V-shaped portion (and the "perfectly-centered-neck" position) to be suitably comfy. Nevertheless, my innate nature is such that I can only remain in that ostensibly "optimal" position for a while--not for the entire night. But methinks even some "cervical centeredness" is better than none. In any case, whenever I'm not thus "back sleeping" (using the "V" portion of this pillow), you can rest assured I'm instead "side sleeping" (using either the left or the right "wing" portion of this pillow.

The two "wings"

Indeed, regarding this pillow's left and right "wing" areas (on either side of the middle "V"), I do use them continually throughout each night as I alternate sleeping on my back with sleeping on either of my sides. Those "wings" feel very satisfying and comfortable, even if they do sort of seem to constitute a mere "adjunct" to this pillow's raison d'etre (i.e., its middle "V" or "cervical traction" portion). Using either of the "wings" (for side sleeping) generally necessitates that I slide the pillow a few inches leftward or rightward (so that my head is no longer upon the middle, V-shaped area). But this is very easily--and, by now, virtually habitually--done.

How quickly can it help ease neck/shoulder pain?

Again, don't necessarily expect miracles immediately. Although I myself adapted easily to this pillow after only two or three nights, some people might need up to several weeks before they feel fully comfortable with this pillow's "traction" side; and still other people (presumably a small minority) might never be able to use it. During your first night or few, you might want to use the " traction" side of this pillow for only an hour or so, allowing your neck vertebrae gradually to adjust to the "optimal" alignment.

CAUTION: You likely won't read this anywhere else, but please be careful not to use this pillow on a "slick" mattress with nothing "behind" (in back of) it, such that this pillow can slide (more or less) entirely off of the mattress while you're tossing and turning. This could result in your waking with your neck and head in an awkward, painful position, sort of dangling off the upper edge of the mattress. That actually happened to me when I'd initially experimented by using this pillow on a brand-new, four-inch-thick, memory-foam mattress that I'd temporarily placed on a carpeted floor. After that unhappy experiment, I temporarily placed a couple of concrete blocks directly "behind" that same memory-foam mattress (and simultaneously behind this pillow) so that the pillow couldn't slide off again. But, in more recent weeks, I've abandoned that memory-foam mattress altogether and have instead been using this pillow upon a conventional, high-quality, coiled-spring mattress whose proximity to a bedroom wall conveniently keeps this pillow from sliding off the bed. Since then, all has been going rather well, and my neck-and-shoulder discomfort is now greatly diminished.

"User manual"

I'd be remiss not to mention that a modestly illustrated, eight-page, black-and-white booklet is included with this pillow. Whatever pertinent information isn't sufficiently conveyed at the Arc 4 Life website is more than adequately explained (and illustrated) in this helpful (albeit obviously rather cheaply printed) little instruction booklet.

The upshot:

This unique pillow--once you've obscured its significant "V" by covering it with Arc 4 Life's matching pillow slip (or, for that matter, virtually any conventionally sized pillow slip of your own)--has an outwardly traditional size and shape that should appeal to consumers of a certain age who wistfully recall the "old-fashioned," full-size pillows of their youth but who now sorely need something better.

Regarding my neck discomfort that flared up two months ago, though it's by no means "100%" absent, it's now (knock on wood!) much more tolerable, such that I only occasionally notice it. I should note that this improvement is surely partly because I've simultaneously made some changes involving my body's daily "ergonomic" positioning (e.g., whenever I'm using this computer), plus I've dropped the bit of surplus weight that I'd recently regained, etc. But I do think this Arc 4 Life pillow has played a significant part in making me feel so much better. In any case (no pun intended), this pillow's more likeable than any other type I've tried, and I fully expect to stick with it hereafter.

After two months of nightly use (not to mention the occasional after-lunch nap), the middle "V" section of this pillow feels--agreeably--a bit softer than it did at first. Nevertheless, the modest, V-shaped depression (into which the back of the head comfortably nestles whenever you're on your back) remains effectively prominent in relation to the adjacent surface areas. Likewise, both of the contiguous, left-and-right "wings" continue to feel soft-yet-resilient whenever I'm using this pillow in either (left or right) "side-sleeping" mode.

Assuming that this pillow does last at least a year or few before evincing seriously significant wear, I'll likely be ordering an identical replacement when the time eventually comes. After all, isn't it well worth sixty bucks to be rid of a royal pain in the neck?

I wish you good health and blissful sleep!


Source: Epinions Contributor Mike, Olathe, KS USA November 1, 2009

Visit Arc4life.com for your online selection of cervical support neck pillows, orthopedic pain relief products and Home traction units. Products for pain relief.

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