Which Pillow Is Best For Neck Pain?

When it comes to alleviating neck pain, the type of pillow that is often considered the best is one that provides adequate support and alignment for the neck and head. Memory foam pillows, cervical support pillows, and contour pillows are generally recommended because they are designed to maintain the natural curve of the neck. It is important, however, to consider individual preferences and sleeping positions when choosing a pillow for neck pain.

Understanding Neck Pain and Its Causes

Neck pain can be a significant inconvenience, affecting your sleep quality and overall daily comfort. Commonly, it results from poor sleeping positions, using an unsupportive pillow, or underlying health issues like osteoarthritis. Sleep is supposed to rejuvenate the body, but with the wrong pillow, your neck muscles may strain to keep your head at a neutral angle, leading to stiffness and pain upon waking.

The Importance of Neutral Spine Alignment

A neutral spine alignment means that your neck (cervical spine), upper back (thoracic spine), and lower back (lumbar spine) are in their natural positions, which reduces stress on your muscles and ligaments. The right pillow will cradle your head and support your neck without tilting it upwards or downwards, keeping your spine in a neutral position as you sleep.

Types of Pillows Suitable for Neck Pain

Not all pillows are suitable for neck pain; the right selection depends on individual needs and sleeping positions. Here are a few types of pillows that are often recommended for neck pain.

Memory Foam Pillows

Memory foam is well-known for its pressure-relieving qualities. It conforms to the shape of your head and neck, providing personalized support. These pillows come in various shapes, including contoured versions which are specifically shaped to support the neck and head.

Cervical Support Pillows

Cervical pillows are designed to support the natural curve of the neck. They often have a recessed middle where the head can comfortably rest, with elevated supports under the neck. These pillows may have a uniformly firm texture or have built-in softer sections for different sleeping positions.

Contour Pillows

Contour pillows have a dip in the middle to cradle the head, with higher sections around the edges to support the neck. Whether made of memory foam or another supportive material, the design aims to keep the neck in alignment with the rest of the spine.

Adjustable Pillows

Some pillows allow for adjustability, enabling users to remove or add filling to achieve the desired height and firmness level. This customization can be particularly beneficial for people with neck pain, as it allows for personalization to individual comfort needs.

Water Pillows

A water pillow has a section that can be filled with water, providing an adjustable level of firmness and support. By adding or reducing water, you can control how much support your neck receives throughout the night.

Buckwheat Pillows

Buckwheat hull pillows conform to the shape of your head and neck, providing a firm support. They are also breathable and don’t hold heat like some foam pillows, making them a good choice for those who sleep hot.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Pillow for Neck Pain

When shopping for a pillow to help with neck pain, it’s not as simple as picking the most popular or expensive option. Consider these factors to find the right pillow for your unique needs.

Pillow Firmness and Material

The choice between a soft or firm pillow will impact your neck support. Usually, a medium-firm pillow is a good balance for both comfort and support. The material also impacts comfort—memory foam provides contoured support, while materials like latex are more responsive and bouncy.

Pillow Height and Adjustability

The height of the pillow, also known as loft, is crucial for keeping your neck in line with your spine. Side sleepers typically need a higher loft to fill the space between their neck and the mattress, whereas stomach sleepers need a very low loft to avoid arching their necks upwards. Adjustable pillows can be particularly useful because they allow you to tailor the loft to your exact preferences.

Sleeping Position

Your preferred sleeping position has a major influence on the type of pillow that will best support your neck. Side sleepers, as mentioned, generally benefit from a higher-loft pillow, while back sleepers may prefer a medium loft to maintain the neck’s natural curve. Stomach sleepers might find the thinnest pillows or even no pillow at all most comfortable to avoid straining the neck.

Your Body Size

Your body size, especially the width of your shoulders, affects the loft you’ll need to keep your neck comfortably aligned. People with broader shoulders may need a thicker pillow compared to those with narrower shoulders.

Top 5 Pillows Recommended By GoodSleepHub.com

Trial and Warranty Period

Many pillows come with a trial period during which you can test the pillow to see if it helps your neck pain. Look for products that offer money-back guarantees or warranty periods to ensure that your investment is protected.

Additional Health Considerations

If you have specific health conditions like cervical spondylosis or sleep apnea, consult a healthcare professional before making a pillow purchase. They can offer advice tailored to your condition.

How to Use Your Pillow Correctly to Alleviate Neck Pain

Having the right pillow is one thing, but using it correctly is equally important for neck pain relief.

Proper Pillow Placement

Make sure the pillow fills the space between your neck and the mattress without propping your head too high or letting it sink too low. Your head should be level with your spine.

Pillow Maintenance

Keep your pillow clean and dry, and replace it when it starts to lose its shape and supportiveness. This is typically every 1-2 years for most materials, though some, like latex, can last longer.

Finishing Thoughts

Dealing with neck pain can be challenging, but choosing the right pillow can make a significant difference. Remember to consider your individual preferences, sleeping position, and any specific health conditions when shopping for a pillow. Test out different types for comfort and support, and don’t hesitate to change things if your neck pain persists. With the right pillow and a few adjustments, you can wake up feeling refreshed and free from neck discomfort.


  • Aiden Lawrence

    I'm Aiden Lawrence, a certified Sleep Science Coach and senior editor of GoodSleepHub, proud parent of two amazing kids, and a pet lover with a cat and a dog. Join me as we explore the world of sweet dreams and comfy pillows. Let's make bedtime the highlight of your day!

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Good Sleep Hub