All about forces affecting the neck-Zabdi Salazar

Original Photo: Zabdi Salazar Current progress on design proposal; bio-medical and physiological background information.
Original Photo: Zabdi Salazar
Current progress on design proposal; bio-medical and physiological background information.

Vertabend is now in the process of composing our second deliverable. Throughout the week, the entire team has been focused in researching, brainstorming, and finally designing our neck support pillow. The design is still in the form of a pillow, however we have completely changed the insides in order to accommodate both sleepers in supine and lateral positions. Considering the fact that Karry has already sufficiently explained our innovated pillow in her last blog, I will provide a brief description of our proposed design: a rectangular pillow with two elevated sides, a moldable dip in the middle to hold the head, and an adjustable roll to provide neck support. In this manner, a person could lay on their backs with their neck in the correct position. My contribution to this design was proposing the idea to only have the elevated roll in the middle of the pillow and not all the way across. I also thought of making sure there’s a dip at the center to support the head.

Recently, I have been expanding my research, and I gained a greater awareness of how posture can easily affect your cervical spine. I was surprised at how the structure of your body really plays a key part in its function. I was amazed at how by just slouching you are placing more stress on your neck for every inch that you are hunched forward (Wassung, K. 2010). This causes many discomforts especially since your neck has to support the weight of your head at greater pressures per vertebrate. Other information that I found is that if we were to have a straight neck, we could not withstand the compression of each vertebral disc as gravity takes its toll. The unique backward C-shape allows for the neck to absorb ten times as much of shock then a straight neck (Wassung, K. 2010). I cannot believe that this odd shape is quite ingenious in the way that this lordotic curve helps us so much if we maintain it yet at the same time hurt our overall health if it is stressed.

Ideal cervical spine alignment while sleeping.  From:
Ideal cervical spine alignment while sleeping.

I am now also more aware of why so many people feel neck discomfort while sleeping— it is because their current pillows do not align their entire spine properly. The neck and head are both leveled upwards since the pillow is just a straight soft plane which does not adjust to the lordotic curvature of the neck. Many times the head is elevated higher than the neck which causes a lot of discomfort during sleep.

Studies prove that the least intradiscal pressure (this is the compression between discs) experienced is when people are lying down in a supine position. On the other hand the study also discussed that prolonged lying down actually increases the pressure on each vertebral disc. It is critical for our necks to be supported as research has informed our team that when someone is lying down in a supine position for seven hours, the pressure upon their vertebral discs increased by 140% (from 0.10 to 0.24 megapascal) (Orndoff, D. G., Scott, M. A., & Patty, K. A. 2012). This can be explained by the effects of gravity and how our natural S-shaped spine has no support as we lie down on a flat bed for a long time.This is a reason why many doctors also recommend side sleeping since it decreases pressure on the spine.

Intradiscal pressure affecting a slipped/abnormal intervertebral disc From:
Intradiscal pressure affecting a slipped/abnormal intervertebral disc

The study also analyzed the pressure on the vertebral column from other common positions and postures. Relaxed standing was used as a model of comparison of pressure at 0.50 megapascals. The article states that as one strengthens their back when standing up as well as while sitting down with their back straight, the intradiscal pressure increases by 10%. The cause of an increase of pressure while sitting down was postulated to be due to “increased muscle activity”. The article also states how there were surprising results of a decrease of pressure by 10% while sitting down relaxed and without a backrest. Another odd result was a 42% decrease while resting against the backrest and slouching (Orndoff, D. G., Scott, M. A., & Patty, K. A. 2012). The study says this result was probably due to gravitational forces being transferred to the backrest in a relaxed position. I personally find these results quite uncommon since through other research, slouching places a ton of pressure on the neck. On the other hand, the postulation of the backrest helping relieve pressure is quite interesting but the backrest is basically a hard flat plane. Still, the study never explained what type of chair patients sat on.

Throughout all of my ongoing research about the physiology of the neck and spine, I was able to find good sources that explain the forces (pressure) that affect the cervical spine. Still, it has been difficult to find measurements on the width and length of the average neck which is essential since our team must have an idea on what dimensions our pillow should be. Thus my research will continue just a little bit more. Overall everything I’ve learned up to now through researching is quite new and interesting.


Wassung, K. (2010). Optimal structure of the cervical spine. Retrieved October 25, 2014, from The Cervical Curve: Function, Structure, Health website: 2012-0212_0_THE_CERVICAL_CURVE.ABUTT.pdf

Orndoff, D. G., Scott, M. A., & Patty, K. A. (2012, September). Intradiscal pressure and posture. Retrieved October 25, 2014, from Force Transfer in the Spine website: Orndorff%20Force%20Transfer.pdf

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