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When you wake up with neck pain, it is usually because you slept with the wrong pillow. This is especially true for people dealing with health issues like arthritis or cervical degenerative disk disease. Aside from aching muscles, sleeping in the wrong position can also cause snoring and severe headaches, which is definitely not a good start to your day.
Cervical pillows have been specially designed to promote proper spinal alignment so you can wake up well-rested, pain-free, and ready to take on the day. How do they work? Designed to assist neck positioning and posture, they relieve pressure on the spine while sleeping. If you wake up with morning pain and stiffness, a neck support pillow is a wise choice.
But with so many options out there, finding the best cervical pillow for your particular needs is not an easy task. Fortunately, we are here to guide you. To help you choose the right neck support pillow, we have put together an informative shopping guide that includes our best recommendations:
Table of Contents
The Best Cervical Support Pillows
- Custom Craftworks: the best cradle cervical pillow
- Pettibon System: the best cervical pillow for spinal stretching, molding & correction
- Arc4life: the best cervical pillow for restoring the C Curve
- Cradle Me: the best cervical pillow for side sleepers
- Natures Guest: the best contoured cervical pillow
- Therapeutica: the best orthopedic cervical pillow
- Coop Home Goods: the best hypoallergenic cervical pillow
- Perform Pillow: the best wave contour cervical pillow
- Xtreme Comforts: the best breathable cervical pillow
- Mediflow: the best water-based cervical pillow
The Best Cervical Pillows Comparison Table
- Relieves muscle tension in the neck, shoulders, and back
- Helps restore natural cervical curvature
- Practice instructions are included
- Properly aligns the neck curve in any sleeping position
- Thin pillow with boomerang-shaped contours
- Extra support from denser, heavier filling
- Comes with a fitted zippered case
- Adjusts easily to your preferred sleeping position and comfort level
- Hypoallergenic and dust mite resistant
- Fully customizable for all sleeping positions
- Customizable and durable
The Best Cervical Pillows Reviews
Custom Craftworks - The Best Cradle Cervical Pillow
The Omni Cervical Relief Pillow by Custom Craftworks has been ergonomically designed to safely hold your head and neck in proper alignment. The simple shape allows the neck, shoulder, and back muscles to relax completely. The anatomically designed cervical pillow is contoured to provide gentle traction and correct cervical curvature.
This neck support pillow is perfect for people who suffer from chronic pain, tightness, or spasms, those who want to periodically relax the muscles in their neck, shoulders and upper back, as well as health care workers to use with their patients.
Pettibon System - The Best for Spinal Stretching, Molding & Correction
The Pettibon System cervical wedge pillow is designed to restore the natural curves of the spine by molding it into the optimal position. The wedge relaxes and gently stretches the spine. This, in turn, relieves muscle pain in the neck, shoulders, and back.
This cervical pillow will not flatten out over time because it is made out of durable, medical-grade foam. The wedge is firm enough to use as a passive exercise device on the bed or the floor to restore your optimum posture. Use the Pettibon System for as little as 5 minutes per day, progressing up to a 20-minute session per day.
In our opinion, this is the best neck support pillow for stretching, molding, and ultimately correcting the curvature of the spine resulting from spinal problems and injuries. This product is not only affordable, but it also offers the convenience of an at-home solution.
Arc4life: The Best for Restoring The C Curve
The Cervical Linear Traction Neck Pillow is precisely designed to help people who keep waking up with a sore neck. As anyone who has ever suffered from neck pain knows, it can last for hours. What is worse, it can trigger severe headaches, pain, and numbness in the limbs, fatigue, and lower back pain. The unusually contoured cervical pillow by Arc4life is the answer to these problems.
The pillow has a recessed center with varying side shapes to support the users in all sleeping positions. In fact, this neck support pillow apparently works well for everyone, whether they sleep on their side, stomach or back no matter what shape, size, or age they are!
In addition to relieving neck pain, the pillow helps you relax so that you can fall asleep more easily. It also helps you to breathe correctly and may even reduce or eliminate snoring.
The polyester fiber filling can be easily molded, allowing you to move freely throughout the night. Additionally, the hand-stuffed filling promotes airflow, which makes your sleeping surface cool and comfortable. Another plus is that the Arc4life cervical pillow can be folded in half for additional thickness if you want to sleep on your side.
Cradle Me: The Best Cervical Pillow For Side Sleepers
The Cradle Me is the best contoured cervical pillow for side and back sleepers. Its innovative boomerang shape has multiple heights and provides support in all the right places. The breathable top-quality memory foam contours to the exact shape of your head, allowing for maximum comfort. This lets the muscles in the neck and shoulders to fully relax when they are tight from stress or from working too hard.
The Cradle Me is a well-designed orthopedic neck support pillow that ensures proper spinal alignment, which relieves neck pain, muscle tension, and stress.
Natures Guest: The Best Contoured Cervical Pillow
The Natures Guest Support Pillow is doctor recommended because it holds the neck in the optimal position for proper alignment during the night. This is a great cervical pillow for side and back sleepers due to the gusseted edge shape. The contoured design allows for changing positions from side to back for a more comfortable sleep.
The pillow comes with two zippers so that you can add or remove the filling and adjust to your desired level of firmness for both back (neck roll cushion) and side sleeping areas. For extra support, it contains a denser, heavier filling, so it’s not recommended for people who prefer the soft and fluffy feel.
This premium cervical pillow is made from all-natural materials. On the outside, it features a hypoallergenic cotton cover, and the inside is made of a 100% natural filling. Together this makes for a cool, comfortable neck support pillow that relieves neck, shoulder, and upper back pain.
Therapeutica - The Best Orthopedic Cervical Pillow
An ergonomic designer created the Therapeutica Sleeping Pillow in consultation with a licensed chiropractor. This is probably why its size and shape look so unexpected. It was designed to help restore the natural curve of the neck for people who mainly sleep on their back and occasionally turn to their sides. This orthopedically designed pillow cradles the head and provides cervical contour as well as upper back support. Firm, molded foam perfectly aligns the head and neck in a neutral position.
In order to ensure the proper fit, it is essential that you take accurate measurements. The instructions for taking the measurements can be found on the Seller’s Page on Amazon. Sleeping on the incorrect size of Therapeutica Sleeping Pillow may lead to headaches, increased neck, shoulder, and even upper back pain.
NOTE: If you are looking for a soft, squishy memory foam pillow this may not be the best option for you.
Coop Home Goods: The Best Hypoallergenic Cervical Pillow
The Shredded Memory Foam Pillow by Coop Home Goods is comfortable, flexible, and provides amazing support during sleep. The medium firm neck support pillow is comprised of a proprietary mix of microfiber and shredded memory foam. This allows you to position the pillow any way you like, which works perfectly for side, back, or stomach sleepers. On top of that, the pillow is fully customizable - you can add or remove shredded memory foam to fit your size, shape, and comfort level.
The air flowing between the shredded foam pieces keeps the Coop Home Goods pillow cool throughout the night. The blended bamboo and polyester fabric cover will not absorb moisture, which helps it stay cool and comfortable on the surface as well.
All of the materials in this product are non-toxic and 100% hypoallergenic. As an added bonus, the pillow is machine washable, so it’s easy to keep clean.
Perform Pillow - The Best Wave Contour Cervical Pillow
Whether you prefer sleeping on your side or back, the Perform Pillow is neither too thick nor too thin but just right.
The inner foam features an orthopedic design with the perfect density that chiropractors recommend for the ultimate support and comfort. The high-quality breathable memory foam contains no mercury, lead, or any other toxic heavy metals. Furthermore, this neck support pillow contains no formaldehyde, which means low emissions for clean indoor air quality.
The bamboo and polyester blended fabric cover feel soft and luxurious while being micro-vented for cool airflow. This is a removable and machine washable cover so you can easily keep it clean. As an added bonus, both the pillow and its cover are also hypoallergenic and dust mite resistant.
Xtreme Comforts - The Best Breathable Cervical Pillow
Made in the USA of top-quality shredded memory foam, this comfortable cervical pillow is soft and supportive. The dual airflow system includes breathable shredded foam and a vented bamboo moisture-resistant fabric cover. As the air flows through the foam pieces, it prevents a buildup of body heat during the night.
The Xtreme Comforts Shredded Memory Foam Pillow provides the flexibility that a solid memory foam pillow cannot. It can be shaped to fit the contours of your neck and stay that way all night long even if you toss and turn a lot.
This neck support pillow works well whether you’re sleeping on your side, stomach, or back. Plus, you can customize this pillow to meet your needs. The inner foam can be moved around while still offering firm support and comfort for your head and neck.
Xtreme Comforts designed their pillow to relieve neck pain, and it works! What’s also great about this product, it doesn’t get lumpy or lose its shape and is easy to care for.
The fabric cover is hypoallergenic, and the inner foam core is mold resistant. Furthermore, the shredded memory foam is 1005 Certipur-US certified and doesn't contain any harmful toxic substances. This cervical pillow is perfectly healthy and safe to use, even during pregnancy.
Mediflow - The Best Water-Based Cervical Pillow
This luxurious pillow provides a great deal of comfort and support for your head, neck, and back during sleep. The neck support pillow is made with an inner water chamber, which is adjustable to the exact thickness and amount of support you need. This pillow works for any sleeping position.
Johns Hopkins University Medical School conducted a study on the Mediflow Waterbase Pillow and found that it was the best cervical pillow in its class, scoring at the top in every category possible.
The categories included in the study were as follows:
- How long it took users to fall asleep
- How many interruptions there were to readjust the pillow
- How long it took for users to get back to sleep
- Sleep quality
- If the pillow helped in reducing neck pain
The Mediflow Waterbase Pillow overwhelmingly won in every single category, especially in reducing neck pain.
The Mediflow pillow works by allowing you to fill the inner chamber with water, which creates soothing and relaxing waterbed support for your head. The outer cover is made of durable polyester that can be removed and thrown in the washer and dryer for easy cleaning. You can keep the inner chamber clean by wiping it down with a damp cloth.
Cervical Support Pillows Buyer's Guide
If you search for a cervical pillow on Amazon or another online shop, you are going to be absolutely overwhelmed with the number of results. With such a huge amount of different neck support pillows being sold today, which one should you buy?
Starting the shopping process with no idea what to look for would be a waste of time, not to mention extremely frustrating. You'd probably end up right where you began, without any idea of which cervical pillow might actually work to relieve your neck pain. Fortunately, we are here to help!
What Causes Neck Pain?
When we wake up with neck pain in the morning, we usually blame our mattress. But the truth is, most likely it's the fault of our pillow.
The reason for this is simple. The neck consists of seven tiny bones, some muscles, tendons, and cartilage. While being a part of the cervical section of your spine, these tiny bones are not connected to one another directly, but instead sit on a bed of spinal fluid safeguarding one of the most important parts of our body, the central nervous system. They also support our head and allow us to move the head and neck freely.
Nerves can be found running up and down inside the cervical column, going from the brain to every part of our body. The spine can be pinched or compressed at any point, causing numbness and/or pain, but the neck is particularly vulnerable, especially when we are asleep. This is why it is so important to keep the neck aligned with the head and upper back. In fact, it's the only way to avoid pain, stiffness, or even an injury that can hit us in the morning. The best way to keep the neck aligned is to use an effective support system - a good cervical pillow.
What is a Cervical Pillow?
Cervical pillows, also known as orthopedic pillows, have a very distinctive therapeutic shape: it dips in the head support area and elevates in the neck support area. It's possible to turn these pillows upside down because they sleep more comfortably when the concave side is face down on the mattress.
The best cervical pillow will support your neck in a properly aligned position while lifting your head to the right height for sleeping on your side or back. Furthermore, it can help you:
- Reduce or eliminate snoring by keeping your air passages open during sleep
- Gently stretch your shoulder muscles and relieve any tension
- Get a good night's sleep and wake up pain-free and refreshed
To avoid waking up with neck pain and/or to recover from neck injuries, you need the proper support and comfort during your sleep. A cervical pillow can help relax your neck muscles and strained joints, reduce morning stiffness and pain caused by neck arthritis, relieve military neck, tension headaches, whiplash injuries, and more.
How a Cervical Pillow Can Help
The right pillow can make all the difference in the world – from suffering from neck pain every day to waking up well-rested and pain-free. People spend about one-third of their lives in bed, and the results of the wrong sleep posture during the night can be disastrous.
There are various styles of cervical pillows, each suited for a different type of sleeper. All of them are ergonomically designed to provide the right support for the neck while we sleep.
- Cervical roll pillows have several different functions. When placed under the head and neck, it properly aligns the cervical spine. Placed under the knees, it can relieve lower back problems like sciatica. Cervical rolls can also be placed behind the back while seated on a chair for additional lumbar support.
- Side pillows are designed to cradle the head to relax the upper vertebrae. Their edges are curved higher on the sides and much lower in the middle. The curve allows for space to rest the shoulders while keeping the neck aligned.
- Neck pillows tend to be smaller than most pillows. You can fit them behind the neck to help the spinal curve stay in a proper position. They work best for back and side sleepers and come in all sizes to fit any body type.
- Cradle Pillows are made to cradle the head while evenly distributing their weight, which reduces pressure on the neck and spine. For back sleepers who snore, a cradle pillow can help prevent it by aligning the airways and keeping them open.
The Science behind a Cervical Support Pillow
Orthopedically designed cervical pillows are designed to support the head, keeping the neck aligned with the spine. Harvard University's Health Department conducted a study that found that people suffering from neck pain would benefit from using a cervical pillow. The recommended materials were memory foam or a firm water-based pillow with an adjustable inner core.
Johns Hopkins University Medical School did a study that showed that memory foam and water-filled pillows are beneficial because they are able to redistribute your body weight as you move, which absorbs the excessive pressure on the vertebra. The study found that a water-based inner core is very effective since it can be adjusted to your preferred level of comfort and firmness.
$50 - $150
If you are looking for high-quality materials, larger size, unique design, and luxurious zippered cover, you can expect to pay more, perhaps from $50 to as much as $150. Expensive high-end neck support pillows should last quite a long time, especially if you get the appropriate shape and firmness, so spending a little more for a durable option may be worth it.
$30 - $50
If you're looking for a larger pillow or one with additional features like firmer support, cooling technology, or customizable loft, you should be able to find these options in this price range. Generally speaking, cervical pillows priced from $30 to $50 provide a superb balance of durability, support, and comfort.
$20 - $30
Cervical pillows with price tags ranging from $20 to $30 are available in a variety of materials, many of which can offer the needed support for a good night's sleep. However, most options in this price range are standard-sized smaller pillows and pretty basic in design.
Cervical Pillow Features
Removable Pillow Cover
Cervical pillows tend to have unusual shapes, which makes it hard to find a cover that fits just right. Besides, you will want to remove the cover and wash it to keep your bed clean. Look for a pillow with a removable and machine-washable cover; it can make your life so much easier.
If you get hot during the night, a pillow with a cooling technology can make you more comfortable and allow you to sleep better. High-density memory foam usually retains heat, so you may want to opt for a neck support pillow with a cooling gel pad or ventilation holes.
The best cervical pillows are adjustable so you can customize them in terms of desired height and support. Some have a cutout design that allows you to remove one or more layers, while others come with zippers for easy access to the pillow filling. You can also find water-based options that can be adjusted by adding or removing water.
Important Considerations Before You Buy
The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing a neck support pillow is that it needs to be comfortable. Although there is an abundance of products available on the market, your own personal preferences will help you narrow down the choices.
Some cervical pillows may come in just one size, but many come in different size options, including standard, medium, and large. Before selecting a pillow according to the size of your bed, think about how wide your shoulders are. Consider whether you're a small, average, or large-sized person. People with a small or average frame should be fine with a standard or medium-sized cervical pillow, but if you have broad shoulders, you may need something larger.
There are a number of different shapes for the various positions people sleep in. Some look like a regular pillow, but with a concave middle, while others have dips, wings, and curves to fit specific sleep positions.
Neck support pillows are typically contoured so they can support the head and neck where needed.
The most popular shape has a depression in the center to cradle the head, and two parallel curves, the larger one at the base for neck support, the smaller ones at the top. This shape often works great for side and back sleepers.
When selecting your cervical pillow, make sure that the one you buy suits your sleeping position, especially if you toss and turn, flipping from your side to your back all night long.
Dense and firm texture provides more support; however, it can be difficult to get used to. While neck support pillows are not known for being soft and plushy, they can be very effective without being rock hard. Unless you have a specific health reason to opt for an extra firm option, it may make sense to look into the various firmness levels. For example, a well-designed softer cervical pillow can provide sufficient support in all the right areas and relieve neck pain while still being comfortable.
- Water: We've all heard of waterbeds, but most people have no idea that there are water-based pillows as well. You can find a durable neck support pillow with an adjustable water-filled core surrounded by a comfortable fiberfill layer. A contoured inner pouch can be taken out, which allows you to fill or empty water to give your pillow the firmness and loft you prefer.
- Polyester: If you find a product made with "polyester fiberfill," "cluster fill," or "microfiber," they all contain polyester. This is a breathable, moisture-resistant, and inexpensive synthetic material. On the downside, polyester is not as durable or supportive as memory foam or latex. If you're seeking for a softer cervical pillow that will last you year or so, you may want to consider polyester.
- Latex: Latex is more springy compared to the other options, but if you want a firm, long-lasting neck support pillow, it may be the answer. Latex does offer more support than polyester, so it likely does a better job of relieving neck pain. However, latex isn't very breathable, and many people tend to be allergic to latex, so you need to consider these issues.
- Memory Foam: Many experts believe that high-quality memory foam is the best material for a neck support pillow. Memory foam is able to conform to the exact shape of your head, neck, and shoulders to provide the perfect support, something other materials can't do. Memory foam also absorbs body heat, and once it cools off, it returns to its original shape. This means you can expect to get the same consistent support every single night.
- The type of material the cover is made with can make a big difference, so take this into consideration. Bamboo fabric covers are great because they're naturally hypoallergenic while being breathable, comfortable, and durable. Another good choice is pure cotton because it makes a nice soft sleeping surface and won't cause an allergic reaction as well.
- If your main concern is to get a supportive cervical pillow, memory foam is probably your best bet. If you've been sleeping on a soft cushy pillow up until now, fiberfill will feel more comfortable until it starts flattening out. You'll get much better support and durability from memory foam for the same money.
- Accept that you're going to need a period of adjustment to your new pillow. If you are used to memory foam or feather, the shape of a cervical pillow is going to feel a little odd in the beginning. As long as you are not waking up with worsening aches and pains, and you have the correct loft for your sleeping position, your neck will eventually feel better with time.
- It's important to choose the right neck support pillow for your sleeping position. If you sleep on your side, you'll likely need more loft than a back sleeper. If you're not sure, or if you alternate sleeping on your sides and back, choose an option that works for both sleeping styles.
Frequently Asked Questions
How often should I replace my pillow?
How often your cervical pillow needs replacing will depend on the type materials it's made of. For example, memory foam usually lasts 2 to 3 years with normal use, whereas fiberfill options need replacing every year. It's time to replace your pillow when it starts flattening out or loses its shape.
How long does it take to feel better after starting to sleep with a cervical pillow?
Each person is different. You may notice the benefits right away, waking up with no aches and pains, or it might take longer. We suggest that you allow yourself at least a week before deciding whether it's helping you or not. If your symptoms seem to be getting worse or you haven't been able to get comfortable during this time, it might be wise to invest into one with a different height, shape or level of firmness.
Will I need to use a pillowcase with my cervical pillow?
Covering your pillow will protect it against body oils, makeup, and perspiration. The high-end options will often have an attractive removable and machine-washable cover they come with. But if you already have a pillowcase that matches your bedding, you might want to put it on so that your oddly shaped pillow isn't so obvious.
The cervical pillows discussed here can help relieve chronic neck pain while enjoying a good night's sleep. These offer a great solution for people who regularly wake up with a stiff neck or deal with it during the day. However, if you choose the wrong neck support pillow, it can end up causing more harm. This is why it's so important to do your research and take the time to find the best cervical pillow for your sleep position as well as your support comfort preference.
Whether your neck pain is the result of your wrong sleeping position, illness or injury, cervical pillows we've discussed today should give much-needed relief and a good night's sleep.