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Unfortunately, neck pain can occur from any number of unforeseeable and impossible-to-predict causes. But once you have it, what can you do? The reality is that dealing with it quickly and effectively is the best course of action. And while rest is a big part of the pain relief process, you should check to ensure your sleeping habits aren’t the root of the problem.
A pillow that’s the wrong height for your sleeping needs can interrupt your slumber and leave you with chronic neck pain. This is due to it twisting or misaligning your upper spine. Whether it’s too thin, too thick or too lumpy, a misshapen pillow can throw off your alignment, and while it’s tempting to stock up on a few cheap pillows from your local department store, investing in the right pillow is a way to better your health in the long term.
Dr. Kevin Lees of The Joint Chiropractic, the nation’s largest provider of chiropractic care, tells us more.”Chronic back and neck pain can develop simply by sleeping in a position that doesn’t support our natural spinal curves. Without support, the weight of our bodies can add stress to joints and ligaments that may cause inflammation. Although we all have our own preferences when it comes to firm or soft pillows, it is important to keep in mind how that pillow will affect a great night’s sleep and long-term health effects.”
Pro tip: Regardless of which pillow you use, sleeping on your back or your side can help alleviate neck pain, whereas stomach sleeping can worsen it. While your head and neck should be able to rest on your pillow, your shoulders should remain slightly underneath it. Try to keep your head parallel to your bed rather than tilted.
Great options include indented or v-shaped pillows, otherwise known as cervical pillows. They either have a cut-out shape or a depression in the center with raised edges. While we can’t guarantee that the best pillow for neck pain will immediately or permanently cure your neck issues, there are some pillows that have the potential to help relieve that pain. Support is key, but there are a few other factors to consider:
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Pillow for Neck Pain
- Sleeping style: A thicker pillow may be better for side sleepers to account for the distance between the head and the mattress, while a thin or indented style might be more comfortable for those who sleep on their stomach. A medium-thick pillow is best for back sleepers.
- Firmness: If you find that a firmer option keeps you better aligned, opt for a firmer or more filled pillow. It should be firm enough to keep your head at a neutral angle, but soft enough to relieve pressure points.
- Material: High-quality materials include rubber, latex memory foam, feather and silk. Memory foam conforms, whereas feather is more easily manipulated in various sleeping positions. The material should be able to adapt to the body’s movement. Look for adjustable pillows with a filling that can be increased or decreased.
Logan Foley, Sleep Science Coach and managing editor at The Sleep Foundation shares, “Loft is a key element to consider when picking out a pillow. The loft of a pillow determines the angle of your head in relation to your spine. If you don’t know what loft is best for you, there are pillows with adjustable lofts that may be a good option. Those who have trouble finding a properly supportive pillow may opt for a small rounded pillow under the neck for added support in addition to the main pillow.”
It’s also important to note that you should see a doctor before starting any course of pain relief.
1. Silk and Snow Pillow
Silk and Snow’s uber-plush pillows feel like you’re sleeping on a cloud thanks to their shredded hybrid filling, which consists of gel memory foam and down-like microfibre. It’s also the most universal pillow we could find, based on one factor: it’s adjustable. With a filling that can be added in or taken out, you can find the perfect loft level for your needs. It also has a removable, machine-washable shell for easy cleaning.
2. Sweet Night Cooling Gel Memory Foam Pillow
Sweet Night offers a cooling pillow that’s ideal for hot sleepers and filled with gel-based memory foam. However, some reviewers mention that it’s less firm than other memory foam pillows. Like the best pillows for neck pain, the height is customizable due to a removable filling. It may take some trial and error to find the right height, but when you do, It forms around your head and neck, feating supportive alignment technology that encourages your neck to wake up feeling happier and less tense.
3. Saatva Latex Pillow
BEST LONG-LASTING PICK
Like memory foam, a shredded latex pillow can help relieve the pressure points around the neck and the head, supporting them just the right amount. It’s not the cheapest, but if you’re looking for a plush and long-lasting option that won’t break down over time like foam, this lofty pillow is the way to go. It’s best for side sleepers or anyone who prefers a slightly higher loft when they sleep. Natural latex is also more breathable than foam. These pillows have zero off-gassing odor, making them great for sensitive sleepers.
4. Cozy Earth Silk Pillow
Vetted by Oprah as the softest bedding ever, Cozy Earth’s bamboo and silk pillows are officially the definition of luxury. While the shell is made from their signature 100% bamboo material, the filling is 100% mulberry silk. This makes for a uniquely moldable and supple pillow that stays consistent and never shifts, keeping your spine at an optimal angle. They even have a 10-year warranty against shifting. This really is one of the best pillows for neck pain for hot sleepers who often find pillows are either too high or too low.
5. Quince Luxe Goose Down Pillow
BEST DOWN PICK
Down pillows provide an unparalleled experience for many sleepers — they have that satisfying puff of air when your head lays down on them and have a perfectly fluffy texture that many prefer to memory foam. This one from quince is offered in two different firmness levels and comes in a cotton sateen shell. One buyer described it as an “extra supportive cloud,” and it’s more affordable than other down pillows, which tend to be pricey.
6. Eli and Elm Cotton Side Sleeper Pillow
BEST FOR SIDE SLEEPERS
Flat pillows are a side sleeper’s worst nightmare, offering little to no support for the head. On the other end of the spectrum, too-thick pillows can lead to shoulders on the pillow, creating discomfort. That’s why this Eli & Elm pillow features a convenient cut-out for your shoulders and has earned over 1,200 glowing reviews due to its U shape. It supports side sleepers and conforms to the specific dimensions of the head and neck, making for a night of better sleep.
7. Tempur-pedic TEMPER-Cloud Pillow
BEST MEMORY FOAM PICK
Memory foam cradles your body, offering a customized fit every time. No one does memory foam better than TEMPUR-Pedic, and this comfy pillow for neck pain features the brand’s signature adaptive foam. This is also an excellent choice for travel, as it can easily compress into a much smaller size. For back and stomach sleepers alike, this low-profile cloud conforms where you need it most, and comes with a machine-washable cover.
8. Obasan Organic Shredded Rubber Pillow
BEST INDENTED PICK
An indented pillow can potentially help out with relieving neck pain, and this one with an organic rubber filling helps accommodate the different levels of support needed for various shoulder widths and neck lengths. Perfect for back, side, and stomach sleepers who require a little extra neck support, this contoured pillow has a filling that’s more durable than foam. The shredded rubber filling can be increased or decreased for head and neck customization. Unlike cheaper alternatives, it won’t lose its loft and comfort over time.
9. GhostBed Faux Down GhostPillow
BEST FAUX DOWN PICK
Love the feeling of down but are allergic to it or want a more sustainable sleeping solution? GhostPillow’s faux down pillow offers the luxurious, huggable feel of a down pillow with its Microfiber Gel Fill that closely mimics the sensation of goose or duck down. The malleable material works for all kinds of sleepers, and you’ll experience less clumping and shifting than with a traditional down pillow. An oversized hotel-quality pillow with added support and breathability.
10. Bluewave Ultra Slim Memory Foam Pillow
BEST LOW PROFILE PICK
If you’re craving a thinner and flatter silhouette, look no further than Bluewave’s slim foam pillow to encourage better cervical neck alignment — and deeper sleep. With a medium-firm feel, it stands at 2.75 inches tall and it’s best for stomach and back sleepers. Ventilation holes and a gel-infused material help wick heat away from the body. One picky stomach sleeper comments, “It’s like someone took a mattress topper and cut a rectangle out of it, which is exactly what I was looking for.”
11. Dosaze Contoured Orthopedic Pillow
BEST ORTHOPEDIC PICK
An orthopedic pillow is designed to correct your body’s positioning and this one from Dosaze does so by cradling your neck’s natural curvature with its contoured shape. Made from premium high-density memory foam, this versatile pillow works with side, back, and stomach sleepers. Although its material is high-density, it’s not rigid as other orthopedic pillows, allowing for freedom of movement while still cradling the upper body in a way that promotes better alignment.
12. Mokaloo Cervical Pillow
BEST BUDGET PICK
If you’re looking for the benefits of an orthopedic without the hefty price tag, head to Amazon for Mokaloo’s cervical pillow that supports every kind of sleeper. At under $30, it’s the most affordable DIY solution for neck and shoulder pain. Anyone on a tight budget with cervical vertebrae issues will get to experience the benefits of a contoured, foam pillow that’s often sold for double the price. The reviews speak for themselves.
13. Duro-Med U-Shaped Contour Body Pillow
MOST UNIQUE SHAPE
If you want support for your head but also love support at your side, the Duro-Med U Shaped Contour Body Pillow is made for you. This unique L-shaped pillow provides support in both places at the same time, allowing you to focus on getting to sleep. It provides support to your upper body, including your head, neck and shoulders, by reducing any pressure put on your neck and back. This pillow is also hypoallergenic and includes a removable cover for easy cleaning. This is a great choice for sleepers who love to hug their pillow during the night.
14. Chilling Home Chiropractic Pillow
BEST FOR CHRONIC NECK PAIN
If chronic neck pain is keeping you awake or disrupting your day, then it may be time to try the Chilling Home Chiropractic Pillow . This pillow for neck pain cradles your head, aligns your neck and provides support while helping to alleviate pain. The smart design isn’t just good for use in bed, either. It can provide a 15-minute refresh whenever you need it in the car, at the office or just sitting down at home. The lightweight design makes this option convenient and portable, so keeping it with you most of the time isn’t a problem.