Chiropractor, inventor, mother: Meet the woman behind the Zzz Pal pillow

July 17, 2019

When Christine Duncan was nursing her son, she noticed she would fall asleep in her chair and wake up with a sore neck.

She called it “affectionately broken-neck syndrome,” which, for a practicing chiropractor, was especially unpleasant.

Duncan scoured the internet and a multitude of health magazines for a product that would help mitigate her discomfort. When she couldn’t find one, she took matters into her own hands and invented the very thing she’d been looking for: the Zzz Pal pillow.

She launched her line of neck-stabilizing pillows in November 2017, just one month before her daughter was born, and she was able to bring her own Zzz Pal to the hospital and start using it immediately.

The underdeveloped market for a product like Zzz Pal had potential, and Duncan said she “just ran with it.”

Less than two years later, the pillow is carried by major retailers, including Walmart, Amazon, Scheels and Zulily. It’s also sold at South Dakota State University and Sanford Health Home Medical Equipment stores, as well as area children’s retailers Elegant Mommy and Eddy Joy Baby Boutique.

Her day job as a chiropractor at her father’s clinic, Lanpher Chiropractic, gives her the opportunity to promote her product to clients who need it the most — especially, she said, new mothers and anyone else who finds themselves sleeping at a harsh incline.

One customer told Duncan the Zzz Pal “saved his neck” while he recovered from a surgery that required he sleep upright for two weeks.

From a scientific standpoint, the pillow is much more supportive than a standard travel pillow that people often buy at airports, Duncan said.

The supportive neck roll, a tube at the bottom of the pillow, sits behind the neck to maintain proper curvature and keep the airway open. Other neck pillows force the chin downward because of the mass of cushion that sits behind the neck, restricting airflow.

The two wings, or as Duncan calls them “elephant ears,” on either side of the Zzz Pal hold the head upright, keeping the spine, neck and head where they should be.

A misalignment of the neck and head is what Duncan said causes some of the most painful migraines because of the amount of pressure put on the nerves — but the Zzz Pal’s innovative design can help avoid that pain, she said.

Zzz Pal comes in a variety of colors and patterns, which Duncan said rotate based on customer demand.

The company released an organic cotton line of Zzz Pal pillows June 22 during a customer appreciation baby shower hosted by Elegant Mommy.

Her goal for the upcoming year is to get her pillows into more baby boutiques, where she knows a lot of her customers are shopping anyway.

Though initially created to aid nursing mothers, Duncan encourages anyone who suffers from neck pain to try Zzz Pal.

“People don’t think about supporting their spine as a preventative health measure, so it’s a great bit of information we can give with this pillow as well,” she said.

Zzz Pal sells online for a range of prices, from the original pillow at $32 to the organic cotton pillow at $70. The website also offers a full-sized blanket and matching pillow package for $70.

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Chiropractor, inventor, mother: Meet the woman behind the Zzz Pal pillow

After this Sioux Falls chiropractor became a mom, she became an inventor with a pillow to help her own sore neck. Less than two years later, her product is carried by many major retailers.

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