this thing's incredible

This Weird Plastic Pillow Alleviates My Tension Headaches

Photo: Retailer

After months of working from home, using my dining room table as a desk, I had begun to develop serious neck pain, along with pretty intense tension headaches. My remedies started with yin yoga and Advil, but they brought little relief, and I quickly realized that I would need to seek professional help. I decided to visit a chiropractor in Brooklyn in hopes that all I needed was a good cervical adjustment to set me right. Just as I’d hoped, my first chiropractic treatment seemed, magically, to solve the problem. But a few weeks later, my pulsating headaches returned.

So I saw another chiropractor. I wore a heated lavender neck pillow while working. I made turmeric tea from scratch (it reduces inflammation, and also turned everything in my kitchen yellow). I even changed my work setup to be more ergonomic by adding a laptop stand and keyboard. But the headaches persisted. Exasperated, I went to see my primary care physician who referred me to a spine specialist. The spine specialist told me that the long-term solution for my neck pain and headaches was physical therapy, which would eventually help to correct posture and strengthen muscles. For more immediate relief, however, I was advised to foam roll my back and to purchase something called a CranioCradle.

The CranioCradle is ambiguously described on its website as “home therapy system,” and it claims to encourage “joints to decompress and cramped tense muscles to gently release.” It’s made of 100% recyclable foam and looks sort of like a football tee, with a supportive base and two peaks that apply pressure depending on where it’s placed. There are two models available: the original and a deep-tissue version. As a newcomer to the CranioCradle, I opted for the former.

The day it arrived, I pulled the CranioCradle out of the box and laid down on it right in the middle of my dining room floor, careful to position the device so that it hit the base of my skull where I was experiencing the hot, nagging tension that often builds up there. The gentle pressure was so slight that it didn’t aggravate my already-tender skull and neck, but after about ten minutes I felt the pain in my head begin to let up.

The CranioCradle comes with instructions that illustrate many different ways to position the thing, but they also encourage you to “simply place the CranioCradle underneath your body wherever you are experiencing pain,” which I do liberally. Having lost the instruction booklet almost immediately, I was happy to find that I’m able to customize my pain relief by putting the Cradle wherever I happen to be feeling tension. Sometimes I watch TV on the floor while resting my neck in the foamy arms of my Cradle, or place it along my upper spine when I feel like my back needs to be cracked. If I have a tension headache before bed, I swap my regular pillow for my Cradle for about 20 minutes before I fall asleep, which is usually how long it takes to reduce my pain, if not completely eliminate it. Sometimes, I’ll need to use the Cradle daily for several days in a row if I’m experiencing particularly consistent pain, but most of the time I use it two to three times a week to keep pain and tension in check.

The CranioCradle isn’t a long-term fix for my headaches, but until I can return to a more ergonomic office setting — and until all those physical-therapy sessions start to work their magic — I’ll be soothing myself with this $50 blob of foam.

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This Weird Plastic Pillow Alleviates My Tension Headaches