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Chronic neck pain sufferers are always on the lookout for a pillow that will improve the quality of their sleep. If you're sleeping with the wrong kind of pillow, it may actually exacerbate your aches and pains. However, there are so many options. How do you make a wise choice?
The best pillows for neck pain are ones that offer pressure relief and adequate levels of support. A pillow that is too thick will tilt the neck and head up and out of alignment, while a pillow that is too shallow can cause your head to bend inward, and place strain on your neck and shoulder. Material composition is also very important. Some types of pillow fill offer more pressure relief and closer conforming than others. The other factor is temperature - many pillows are now designed to keep your head cooler, which is ideal for good quality sleep.
This guide will provide some great guidance on selecting a pillow and finding a neutral spinal position for sleepers with neck pain. Below you will also find our list of the best pillows for neck pain currently on the market.
So, let's do some pillow talk.
The Best Pillows for Neck Pain
- Hullo: the best support pillow for neck pain
- Coop Home Goods: the best adjustable pillow for neck pain
- Mediflow: the best waterbase pillow for neck pain
- Nature's Guest: the best cervical pillow for neck pain
- Sleep Innovations: the best cooling pillow for neck pain
- Ka Ua: the best neck roll for neck pain
- J-Pillow: the best travel pillow for neck pain
Table of Contents
The Best Pillows For Neck Pain Comparison Table
- All-natural buckwheat hull pillow
- The right balance between support & comfort
- Clinically proven water base technology
- Chiropractor and orthopedic recommended design
- Higher and lower contours for the best support
- Good for neck, back, knees, and other joints support
- Super soft and best neck support
The Best Pillows For Neck Pain Reviews
Hullo: The Best Support Pillow for Neck Pain
There are so many great things about buckwheat pillows, which are extremely popular in Asia. Firm, yet breathable, they conform to the body and offer the user comfortable natural support while also staying cool. This kind of pillow is ideal for people who have neck pain due to its ability to contour and alleviate the pressure around the head and neck.
There are about nine pounds of natural buckwheat hulls in the Hullo pillow. You can take the hulls out through the organic cotton twill cover to adjust the loft. By making adjustments to the thickness and shape of the pillow, you give yourself better neck and head support. However, no matter what the volume is, the pillow will stay firm. You can also buy more hulls from Hultex when you need to.
Another great aspect of this product is its breathable cotton cover, which keeps the surface cool. Most pillows lock in body heat, which can make you feel extremely uncomfortable, especially in the warmer months. However, buckwheat hulls allow air to move in and out of the pillow freely, so there is no uncomfortable heat build-up.
Coop Home Goods: The Best Adjustable Pillow
When you want ultimate comfort and flexibility, then look no further than the Coop Home Goods Shredded Memory Foam Pillow. It can cradle the neck while you sleep thanks to the medium-firm mixture of microfiber and shredded foam. Side, stomach, and back sleepers can get the benefits this product provides.
The neck pain pillow remains cool throughout the night due to the airflow between the foam pieces. The cover fabric is made of polyester, and bamboo-derived viscose rayon, which means moisture won't be absorbed and the surface will stay cool.
The inner foam material is superior to latex or down because the springy foam will stay molded to your body ad maintain its shape even when you move to give you the best support all night long. All materials are dust-mite resistant and hypoallergenic, which helps to foster a clean environment conducive for sleep.
Most pillows lose their shape, flatten, and fail to maintain the neck in the proper position. This may lead to a stiff neck when you wake up. The unique adjustable design of Coop Home Goods allows you to add or remove the memory foam to suit your size, shape, and sleep position. What's more, the company offers a five-year guarantee, meaning it stands by the products it creates.
Mediflow: The Best Waterbase Pillow for Neck Pain
This high-end pillow provides amazing comfort and support for the head, neck, and back while sleeping. Its inner water chamber is completely adjustable so you can have plenty of support and thickness, regardless of your preferred sleeping position.
Johns Hopkins University researchers carried out a clinical study where participants were given a Mediflow Waterbase pillow and found it was the best pillow for neck pain and sleep quality improvement.
The inner chamber of the Mediflow can be filled with water and customized to your liking so you can make it softer or firmer. The water moves with your head, so you will never have to adjust or fluff this pillow.
The pillow comprises of highly-durable yet soft polyester fiber that you can easily clean. Just remove the outer cover and throw it in the washer and dryer. Wipe the inner water chamber down using a damp cloth. Within minutes, the pillow is clean and ready for use once again.
Nature's Guest: The Best Cervical Pillow for Neck Pain
You may feel uneasy about Nature's Guest contour shape since it's unlike any pillow you have seen previously. This unique design is created specifically to support the neck in all sleep positions. A deep depression in the middle and the different thickness of the sides allows any user to get the sleep they need without waking up to aches and pains.
Back sleepers can place their head comfortably in the center depression with the neck lifted by the outer rim, so the spine is aligned properly with the back all night. Both side and stomach sleepers can enjoy the thick padding along the edges that offer neck support without the padding being pushed into the face. And, if you move from back to side sleeping or vice versa, you can do so without waking up.
Nature's Guest cervical pillow for neck pain features a dual zipper design, giving you complete access to the filling. You can easily make adjustments to the firmness in the back and side sleeping areas. The materials of this product are extremely durable and easy to take care of. With the premium cotton fabric cover and microfiber filling, there is no build-up in heat, ensuring cool, restful sleep all night long.
Sleep Innovations: The Best Cooling Option
The latest gel memory foam pillow by Sleep innovations is the most-go-to for neck pain sufferers. The pillow is contoured to cradle the neck and offers amazing comfort for back and side sleepers. Side and back sleepers can choose between the higher and lower contours for the support that feels best. Since it's five inches high, it's not best for people who sleep on their stomach.
This neck pain pillow comes with a cooling gel foam on the top layer, which means comfortable temperature and deep muscle relaxation all night long. A blended 25% polyester and 75% cotton removable and washable cover is perfect for staying hygienic.
Sleep Innovations provides a five-year limited warranty for its hypoallergenic pillow that's also made in the U.S. – for individuals looking for such products.
Ka Ua: The Best Neck Roll
The Ka Ua firm support neck roll isn't your average pillow. It's not the usual rectangle, but long and round in shape – which makes it perfect for ultimate neck comfort. A single piece of memory foam has been molded to create the pillow cores. Do not go for cheap or shredded foam sponges for your support needs, as these can get too comfortable and soft. You want a solid, supportive construction that will never lose its shape or settle.
The pillow can be used in various ways. If used under the neck and head, the memory foam will mold to your body. You can also put it between your legs, under the knees and anywhere additional support is necessary. At just three inches, the neck pain pillow offers just the right amount of elevation. Some users keep the Ka Ua cervical roll in their car for effective lumbar support.
The Ka Ua measures 4 by 17 inches and has a soft bamboo polyester blend cover that can be removed and washed in the machine. It has a low-profile zipper that ensures convenience for users. If you have allergies, you can easily use this as it is hypoallergenic.
If you don't like your neck roll pillow, the company gives you a 30-day return policy for a full refund. However, customers have raved that the product is a wonderful option for side and back sleepers, and due to its size, can easily fit into a carry-on and won't take up a lot of space on the bed.
J-Pillow: The Best Travel Pillow for Neck Pain
It doesn't matter if you're traveling by plane, car or train, you're liable to be falling asleep if you're going long distances. Sleeping sitting up often leads to a sore neck, but the J-Pillow is the answer to that problem.
What makes J-Pillow unique is that it wraps completely around the neck and folds under the chin to keep the head from flopping forward. You'll feel a lot more rejuvenated when you wake up – no aches and pains the neck or shoulders. The pillow will twist to different positions – a design that's ideal for full support while sleeping upright, so you don't get a stiff neck. And, with a handy snap-loop fastener, you can attach it to your travel bags.
It's not only useful for sleeping but also for watching TV and reading, so the muscles in the neck and head can relax, especially for individuals who need some support staying in the straight position.
Common Neck Pain Causes
There are two primary reasons why people don't sleep well – neck and back pain. According to some new studies, one in four people will have some type of neck problem in their lifetime, and over 50 percent of people will complain to have neck pain upon waking up at least one time in a year.
Neck pain is the result of several factors, with some easier to address than others. Poor posture neck pain often resolves itself and goes away after several days – caused by three things typically:
- Sitting on a hard surface for a long time
- Bending over a computer
- Poor neck support while sleeping
Of course, other, more serious underlying causes, such as arthritis, nerve compression, inflammation, and accidents that lead to damaged vertebrae, should be watched carefully by a doctor. Injuries often need time (or surgery) to begin healing. However, it's not uncommon for those problems to become chronic and lead to long-lasting pain.
If your neck pain is not the result of a medical condition, consider what in the environment or your actions may cause it.
Frequent travelers are often complaining of neck pain, and that's not that big of a surprise. With the ability to travel for long distances, people are falling asleep on planes, cars, and buses without adequate neck support in place. If you are traveling for a long period of time, you want to use a U-shaped travel pillow, which will keep your head from flopping about and reduce the pressure on your neck.
Your mattress is another culprit of neck pain. Once the mattress loses the ability to provide support to your back and shoulders, the spine will begin to suffer from the more pressure on the muscles. This increased pressure often results in strains of the neck and spine. Therefore perfect spinal alignment by way of pillow and mattress combined is necessary to avoid neck and shoulder problems. If you have a really old mattress (eight years or more) or you notice sagging in the middle, it's time to purchase a new one.
The number one culprit of neck pain is old pillows. Much as you may like your favorite pillow, time is not your friend. A pillow that has lost its durability won't give your neck the kind of support it needs. It's likely to be too soft, and bow in the middle with the center being indented. Old pillows are often floppy with dead spots that have little or no loft at all. With a new pillow on your bed, you may find immediate relief in neck pain and improve your sleep quality.
Your sleeping position could also have a role in constant neck pain. While the primary contributors are the pillows and mattress, how you sleep does have an effect on the pain you wake up with. Thus, the choice of the best pillow for neck pain needs to be based on your preferred sleeping position. For example:
- A back sleeper does not need a very soft pillow due to the lack of loft and support.
- A stomach sleeper should not get a memory foam contour pillow due to the high loft and increased firmness.
How to Choose the Best Pillow For Neck Pain
When you're in the market for the best pillow for neck pain, there is a multitude of considerations you need to factor in. From there, you need to determine which factors are the most important for you so you can find an option that will best meet your needs.
Wide shoulders increase the space between the mattress and a person's head and neck. For that reason, they need to use a high-loft neck pain pillow. People who have narrow shoulders will find that low- to mid-loft pillows will provide enough support.
For some sleepers, an option with adjustable loft may be a good choice. With this kind of pillow, a user can add or remove fill as they need. They're ideal for people who don't suffer from neck problems regularly or tend to change sleeping positions often during the night.
As expected, people with heavy and large heads will need to use high-loft pillows to handle the sinking into of the pillow. People with lighter and smaller heads can use a low- to mid-loft pillows.
Sleepers who weigh more than 230 pounds will sink deep into the mattress no matter what it's made out of. For them, it's best to use a low- to mid-loft pillow. People who weigh less than this should use a mid- to high-loft pillow to fill the gaps.
When it comes to size, you want a pillow that will fit your bed. Pillows are often listed as Standard, King or Queen, although cervical support pillows will have specialty sizes.
When it comes to the loft, it can vary from one manufacturer to another. However, there are three basic loft options:
- High-Loft – more than five inches thick
- Mid-Loft – three to five inches thick
- Low-Loft – three or fewer inches thick
The loft has a direct impact on how supportive a pillow is and how comfortable it feels. If you don't have the appropriate loft, you could suffer from neck pain.
The shape of the best pillow for neck pain is just as important as the size. The key is to find a shape that's ideal for you. Most sleepers find relief in pillows that offer elevated neck support or comprise contouring materials. However, there are two key pillow shapes – even surface and curved surface.
- Curved Surface – This pillow type (also called an orthopedic or cervical pillow) is typically made of memory foam. The area supporting the neck is elevated while the area for the head is recessed. People who need additional support and comfort can also place the pillow upside down.
- Even Surface – While the even surface is considered the pillow's standard shape, neck pain sufferers tend to not receive the proper support from this design. In saying that, even-surface pillows made of shredded memory foam or feathers are efficient, as they contour to the head and neck, offering a more supportive feel.
The inner part of the pillow is known as the fill. The kind of fill your pillow has will determine how much or little support your neck gets.
- Water Chamber – has become an extremely popular option with neck pain sufferers. You can fill the water chamber to achieve different lofts, and the malleable surface ensures close conforming. The majority of water chamber pillows have additional padding made out of foam or polyester to provide extra cushioning.
- Polyester Fiber Fill – will keep its softness and is highly affordable. While it does not contour as much as other materials, it's still ideal for people who are concerned with hypoallergenic products.
- Buckwheat Fill – contains thousands of husks that are responsive to the body, can be easily shaped and do not cause overheating. However, there are three reasons people overlook this option – cost, noise, and weight.
- Down-Alternative – uses synthetics such as polyester to create the feel-like down impression but without the expensive and allergy issue. This material is very plush and can be molded.
- Down – comprises of soft interior feathers from geese or ducks. It's often very light and moldable to all kinds of shapes. However, it's expensive and has more loft to it. Feather pillows will use exterior feathers, which means they're not near as soft. Another issue for some sleepers is allergies, which can happen with both down and feather. This type of pillow will collapse over time and needs to be replaced once a year.
- Memory Foam – is an ideal material because of the responsiveness it provides. While you can get one-piece foam pillows to give your neck the proper support, the shredded memory foam is lighter, moldable and won't lock in heat. You can also purchase gel-infused foam to decrease the chance for heat while sleeping.
- Latex – is bouncier than memory foam and is very responsive. You can find it in one-piece or shredded. Keep in mind that it's a bit more expensive and can cause allergies in some sleepers.
The best pillows for neck pain are made of memory foam, water, or feather. However, that doesn't mean you should count out other options. For example, buckwheat and latex are also worthwhile but do cost more and are not always suited for everybody. In general, people who have neck problems should avoid polyester, down or down alternative pillows.
If you have a mattress that sinks below your body, you want to use a low-loft pillow (latex or memory foam). These ensure that there is less space between the sleep surface and the head/neck. People who don't have a very responsive mattress (hybrids or innerspring) need to consider a mid- to high-loft pillow to compensate for the extra space.
People who sleep with a pillow that's partially beneath their head should go with a middle or high loft. Those who sleep with a pillow completely under their head will need to use a low or middle loft since there's not much space.
Since most people use a pillowcase with their pillows, the cover material isn't near as important as the fill. However, some materials are better in terms of breathability and keeping you cool.
For example, cotton is soft and breathable; thus, it's often seen in pillow covers. Polyester, on the other hand, doesn't allow air to circulate, so it's often blended with another material such as bamboo-rayon to improve the breathability.
The best pillows for neck pain often cost more, and the material type, size, durability, and brand reputation will affect the pillow's price as well. If you want a pillow that reduces or eliminates your neck pain, you want a high-quality product from a brand you can trust.
If you suffer from allergies, you need to be mindful of the pillow fill. You might need to avoid feathers or latex since they can cause allergic reactions.
After six months, you will need to evaluate if your pillow is still giving you the right support. If you're experiencing neck pain again or the support isn't as efficient as it was previously, it's time to get a replacement.
Warranty and Return Policy
Many manufacturers offer a try before you buy option (sleep trial). After several weeks of using the pillow, you can decide if it's right for you. They may also offer a warranty option that will safeguard you against defects in the materials or crafting of the product.
Sleeping Positions And Neck Pain Relief
When it comes to sleeping, a neutral spinal position is important – meaning you want the pillow to allow your spine to stay straight rather than overly-supported or under-supported. Your sleeping position is going to dictate whether you need a thicker or thinner pillow.
Back sleepers need to invest in a dual pillow system - a rounded pillow to support their neck and a flatter pillow to give the head some cushioning. You can accomplish this by buying a specialized neck pain pillow with elevated neck support and an indentation for head support. The other option is to tuck a rounded pillow into the pillowcase of a flatter pillow. Ideally, you want your chin and nose to be level with one another – this can ensure your head isn't too high or too low.
People who love to sleep on their side must keep their spine as aligned as possible. This means keeping the spine as level with the surface of your mattress (side view). A pillow that elevates under the neck and lowers below the head is ideal.
Sleeping on the stomach has been tied to both back and neck pain because it causes the back to arch. While it can be hard to overcome a sleeping position, people who have neck pain are encouraged to sleep on their back or sides instead. Stomach sleepers turn their necks to the side, causing muscle strains.
These are individuals who sleep in all kinds of positions during the night, often turning into a new position unconsciously. Most combination sleepers suffer from neck pain because their pillow is typically not made to suit more than one position (unless you're going from back to stomach sleeping).
Side sleeping calls for a higher loft than stomach or back sleeping. Some manufacturers designed contoured pillows with separate areas for back and side sleeping, but in most cases, you'll need to wake up in the night to be able to reposition yourself properly.
Questions To Ask Yourself Before Buying A Neck Pain Pillow
There are a host of benefits pillows can provide, but the biggest claim is the ability to alleviate neck pain by supporting proper spine alignment. What you need to remember is that your choice will come down to a combination of two things - support and personal comfort.
Remember, everybody's needs are different, which means there is no one-size-fits-all option out there… even if that's what is being claimed.
Are You A Snorer or Experienced Bad Headaches or Migraines?
Headaches, migraines, and snoring problems are the result of poor blood flow, airway blockage, and oxygen reduction that point back to poor sleep posture. The key way to address them is to find the best pillow for neck pain that will help alleviate these health issues.
Are You Suffering From A Disability Of Some Type?
If you have a chronic health condition already and need some relief, you want to find one of the best pillows for neck pain. However, before you make any kind of purchase, it's best to talk to your doctor and get some recommendations on how to get more comfortable. You want to find a pillow that can not only relieve your neck pain but is comfortable for your whole body. Doctors can often provide guidance on which products to go with and which ones to avoid.
Are You Suffering From Aches and Pains In Other Parts Of Your Body?
If you constantly wake up with aches and pains and don't have arthritis or inflammation, chances are you have a spinal alignment issue. The body's soft tissues are always under stress, as they have to keep the spine up. This is why choosing your sleep products is so important. Pillows should be placed strategically – under your hips and between your knees as well as under your head – to reduce the strain the spine is put under.
Why Am I Still In Pain If My Sleeping Position Is Fine?
You could do everything right in the book – for sleeping position, pillow, and mattress – but a 2008 Swedish study found that there is a link between sleep quality and pain in your muscles.
While sleeping positions are the largest culprit to poor sleep quality, it's not always their fault. Your sleep quality could need improvement in other ways, such as getting exercise, eliminating alcohol, curbing caffeine intake, etc. Look at what you're doing in your life, if there are any medical conditions and other issues that could have a negative impact on your sleep health.
When Should I Replace My Pillow?
If you notice an increase in neck or back pain or find yourself having trouble falling asleep, it may be the pillow causing you aggravation. Older pillows often go flat and don't provide your body with the proper support. Though high-quality products can last for many years, it's always good to evaluate your pillow every year to ensure it's still working as it should. If your sleep quality isn't what it used to be, your pillow may need replacing.
What Is The Best Pillow For Neck Pain?
Your sleeping position is going to affect the pain you feel in your neck and shoulders. A pillow can make a positive impact, but sleeping on your back offers the best neck pain relief. When it comes to buying the best pillow for neck pain, you want one that will align the spine naturally and alleviate pressure on the neck and shoulder muscles.
Should I Use A Soft Pillow For My Neck Pain?
A pillow's firmness is going to be based on your particular sleeping position and the ability to get a neutral spinal alignment. Generally, the heavier a person's head is, the more firm the pillow needs to be. People who have a smaller and lighter head may benefit more from a softer pillow. The average head weighs roughly 12 pounds, so keep this in mind when considering what the best pillow for neck pain is.
What Is The Best Pillow For Side Sleepers With Neck Pain?
People who sleep on their side need to pay special mind to the pillow's thickness. This is especially true if a person has broad shoulders. If you fall into this category, you want to find a pillow that allows for neutral spinal alignment.
Besides the right thickness, you need to consider the material being used. According to an Australian study that looked at pillow material for side sleepers, latex pillows were very effective at decreasing headaches, arm pain and neck stiffness compared to foam regular, foam contour, polyester and feather materials.
What You Need To Keep In Mind…
Pillows are certainly one of the most important bedroom purchases, and if you wake up with neck pain or stiffness, you will need to find the right pillow for your situation.
When it comes to the best pillows for neck pain, the ones on our list are definitely worth checking out. They can help alleviate neck pain while also assuring your ultimate comfort. The wrong pillow will only exacerbate the problem, leading to further issues. When choosing the best pillow for neck pain, stick to ones that meet the following: your filling preference, size needs, and sleeping position.
When in the market for a new pillow for your bed, check out the above-mentioned options. Each one is tailored to help alleviate neck pain and assure you a better night's rest.