Years ago, I threw my back out twice in one month. Once while loading the last of many boxes of books into a U-Haul, and again a few weeks later (once I thought I was healed) while folding a lightweight sweater. Since then, I’ve lived in fear of a lower back spasm. So when I saw the Neck Hammock on a friend’s Instagram story (and his purely joyful expression in a series of suspended selfies), I DMed him for more information and called one in to try.
My first time using the Neck Hammock was easy. All I did was hang the strap on the doorknob (I have the newer, sewn-in version rather than the one with the clip), get comfortable on the ground, and lay the back of my head into it. I tried a few different heights during that first session — the higher off the ground, the more intense the stretch — before settling at around three inches above the floor. I felt immediately relaxed, like I could melt into the ground Savasana-style. I may have dozed off with my toy poodle curled on top of me. It was like napping while floating, the way being in water can sometimes lull you to sleep. What I didn’t expect but found out after more use, was how quickly it would relieve a headache, how refreshed I would feel after just a few minutes, how it would improve my mood, and how I would look forward to using it every day.
The Neck Hammock bills itself as a cervical traction device, which is a fancier way of saying it works by stretching the vertebrae along the neck. I decided to evaluate its claims by calling an expert. “It’s a gentle stretching which helps to elongate the spine and separate the vertebrae to allow the discs to have some space and room. It can also take pressure off the nerve roots that are exiting out of the vertebrae and can help to stretch some of the muscles in that area, as well,” explained Dr. Christopher Brown, a licensed chiropractor at Align Brooklyn. If I had any doubts that it was doing anything, Dr. Brown confirmed that the Neck Hammock is an effective way to relax the spine and musculature. “It allows for complete cervical relaxation, not quite as much traction or decompressive force as others, but you will have an opening of disc-space and nerve-space, taking any kind of pressure off the nerves.” Like any good doctor, Dr. Brown did note that it’s a good idea to seek professional help before trying one of these at home.
Consider me sold. I’m a superfan of acupuncture and the mini-high I get from the Neck Hammock is similar to that of an hour-long acupuncture session. I feel the same increased connection to my body and this is a little crazy, but my vision feels clearer when I do it, too. On the days that I use the Neck Hammock I even have an easier time falling asleep. The best part is that it’s portable and comes with its own little drawstring carrying bag, meaning I can bring it home for the holidays when I’m sure to be stressed and cranky from too much sugar, lack of exercise, and a bed that’s not my own.
Another popular traction device
This creates traction on the neck via an inflatable pillow you control with your hand.
Some other Strategist-approved ways to relax
A time-honored solution for achey muscles and washing away the day’s stress, with relaxing lavender.
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