Neck pain plagues a significant amount of Americans, and the causes aren’t always entirely clear. If you often find yourself waking up with a sore neck, chances are your pillow could be partly to blame.
The job of your pillow is to hold your neck and head at the right height to prevent unnecessary strain. A pillow that’s too high or too low, or which fails to support the neck itself, can cause pressure to build up as the neck tries to compensate for the lack of support. While your sleep setup might not be the original root of your neck pain, it can play an important role in making it better or worse.
We’ll break down the reasons you could be experiencing neck pain and how your pillow can help. Ultimately, the best pillow for neck pain is the one that works for you. However, we’ll also share our top picks for pillows that stand out for their ability to reduce neck pain.
The Coop Home Goods Eden pillow is an adjustable crowd-pleaser, made with cooling gel memory foam and microfiber and is backed by a 100-night sleep trial and a 5-year warranty.
Our Editor’s Pick is the Coop Home Goods Eden Pillow, a well-rounded pillow that adapts to the needs of various sleeper types. The pillow is designed to sleep cool, with a shredded gel-infused memory foam and polyester fill.
This pillow has a medium soft feel that is most comfortable for stomach sleepers and back sleepers. That said, the filling is adjustable so users can add or remove as much as they need to suit their sleeping style. The Eden pillow is delivered with a half-pound bag of filling so you won’t go short.
A big bonus is the cover, which is removable and machine-washable. It’s made of a breathable polyester-viscose rayon blend with a stretchy polyester liner and a thick gusset to help the pillow hold its shape. The pillow itself can also be washed and dried once a year.
Hypoallergenic and cruelty-free, made in the U.S. Available sizes include standard, queen, and king. Coop Home Goods offers a 100-night sleep trial with free returns. After this, the pillow is backed by a 5-year warranty.
The Eli & Elm Organic Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow has a unique design that prevents pressure on the shoulders while maintaining healthy alignment of the neck and spine.
The Eli & Elm Side-Sleeper Pillow has a unique shape with a recessed middle for the shoulder, designed to fit to your body while side-sleeping. This accommodates the shoulders and provides the needed support to reduce neck pain. The filling is a blend of latex and polyester fiber that provides just enough resistance to hold your head aloft.
The pillow’s medium feel and relatively high loft are well-suited to side sleepers. Filling can be added or removed to adjust the loft, which will also have an impact on the firmness.
Eli & Elm has included cooling gels in the pillow’s filling to help maintain temperature neutrality and give the pillow a softer feel. The pillow has a breathable and machine-washable cover, made of an organic cotton and polyester blend.
The Eli & Elm Organic Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow is offered in just one size, suitable for a queen or a king mattress.
Made from natural latex, the My Essentia Ergonomic Pillow provides top-notch support for back sleepers with neck pain.
The My Essentia Ergonomic Pillow is a cervical pillow designed with the typical S shape. It’s taller at the back and shorter in the middle, with a raised area in the front. This shape is especially beneficial for back sleepers, for whom it supports the natural curve of the neck to promote healthy spinal alignment.
The pillow is made from natural latex, which has conforming properties similar to memory foam but without the heat retention. The pillow’s buoyant, medium firm feel does a good job of providing support.
The pillow also has an organic cotton cover, and the entire Canadian factory is certified organic by the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). The end result is a hypoallergenic pillow free from harmful chemicals.
My Essentia offers free shipping in the U.S. and Canada, and backs the pillow with a 1-year warranty.
Sweet Night offers a bargain option with the Original Pillow, a shredded memory foam model that’s versatile enough for all sleeping positions.
The Sweet Night Original Pillow is a shredded memory foam pillow sold at a very attractive price-point. The shredded memory foam conforms closely but allows plenty of room for airflow to keep the pillow cool.
A zippered cover allows you to adjust the feel to your liking, so you can choose the loft that works best for your sleeping style. This makes it a viable option for side, back, and stomach sleepers who suffer from neck pain.
The Sweet Night Original Pillow is available in standard, queen, or king sizes, and Sweet Night offers a 30-night sleep trial so you can fully explore the pillow’s possibilities. After this, the Original Pillow is covered by a 3-year limited warranty against manufacturing and workmanship defects.
Neck pain sufferers interested in a sustainable and breathable pillow can’t go wrong with the Organic Textile Contour Pillow, offered in three firmness levels to suit every sleeping position.
The all-latex Organic Textile Contour Pillow is a cervical pillow contoured to fit the head and neck. This shape tends to be best suited to back sleepers and some side sleepers. The pillow is available in a choice of three firmness levels: soft, medium, and firm.
The soft and medium options have a high loft that measures 5 inches at the highest point, 3 inches in the middle, and 4 inches under the neck. Most side sleepers will be most comfortable on the medium pillow, which offers a suitable balance of loft and firmness to ease pressure on the shoulders.
The firm option is thinner, measuring 4 inches at the highest point, 3 inches in the middle, and 3.5 inches under the neck. Back sleepers should be satisfied on either the soft or firm pillows, depending on personal preference. All pillows are the same size, 19 by 24 inches.
The pillow is made of aerated Dunlop latex that sleeps cool thanks to airflow through the holes. Customers can choose to spend a little more for organic latex, certified by the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS). The cover is made of organic cotton and has a zipper for easier care.
The innovative Restore Pillow from Level Sleep offers targeted neck support and ventilated holes to relieve pressure on the ears, and comes with a full year-long sleep trial.
Level Sleep has designed an innovative pillow with removable inserts for a customizable sleep experience. Adding or removing the inserts allows users to tailor the Level Sleep Restore Pillow to any one of three loft levels. Additionally, rotating the pillow 180 degrees provides a different level of neck support. This construction makes it easy to switch between side and back sleeping.
The pillow is made of solid memory foam with a medium firm feel for sturdy support. The center of the pillow cushions the head while sleeping on your back. In turn, the sides are optimized for side sleeping, with breathable ear wells to prevent pressure points from forming where the ears hit the pillow. A stretchy, machine-washable cover completes the offer.
Level Sleep offers a generous year-long sleep trial and forever warranty, both of which are significantly longer than average for a pillow.
With their Wool Pillow, PlushBeds has created a durable and comfortable product with a customizable loft and supportive feel that gently cradles the neck and head to reduce neck pain.
The PlushBeds Wool Pillow is a classic wool pillow of the highest quality. Stuffed with lofty, springy natural wool, each pillow is handmade to order. Customers can pre-select their desired firmness level and adjust the filling as needed once the pillow arrives to achieve the needed loft for optimal neck support.
The wool is responsibly sourced from ethically managed sheep, and free of harmful substances. Wool excels at wicking moisture away from the sleeper, moderating temperature to keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It’s also hypoallergenic and highly durable, simply requiring re-fluffing once in a while. The exterior of the pillow is made of organic cotton.
The wool pillow is sold in standard, queen, and king sizes. PlushBeds provides free shipping and a 3-year warranty. Because each pillow is made to order, PlushBeds is unable to accept returns.
This model costs a little more than most of our other top picks, but its sticker price is reasonable compared to other solid memory foam pillows. The solid foam is also quite durable, and the pillow shouldn’t flatten too much over time.
The neck is responsible for bearing the entire weight of the head, and it’s not surprising that this delicate part of the body is highly susceptible to injury. The 2018 US Burden of Disease study found that neck pain is rising in importance as a leading cause of disability among the American population. Most sources estimate that between 25 and 30 percent of people suffer from neck pain every year. While many episodes of neck pain resolve naturally, for some it can become a chronic condition with adverse consequences for their quality of life.
Neck pain can be caused by a number of factors. It may stem from an injury or a chronic condition such as arthritis, or it may arise from daily habits such as poor posture or too many hours of sitting at a computer. While symptoms vary, neck pain sufferers often experience:
If you have severe pain or additional symptoms, or if you’re not sure what’s causing your neck pain, it’s a good idea to visit a doctor to rule out underlying conditions.
Regular exercise and a healthy body weight are thought to have a positive impact on chronic neck pain. The American Chiropractic Association notes that neck pain often goes hand-in-hand with high stress levels and obesity.
The eight hours you spend in bed every night is a critical time for those who suffer from neck pain. The positions you adopt as you sleep can either relax your neck or put it under additional strain. As part of your sleep setup, a supportive pillow should promote proper neck and spine alignment.
Not only can an unsupportive pillow exacerbate your neck pain, but studies show that the wrong pillow can lead to discomfort during the night. This leads to nighttime awakenings, creating a vicious circle that makes it difficult to get the rest you need to recover from neck pain.
Your pillow is unlikely to be the sole source for your neck pain. However, choosing the right pillow and adopting a healthy sleeping position can help ease pressure on the neck. You should replace your pillow when it’s no longer able to provide the proper support.
For neck pain sufferers, choosing the right pillow can be a key step toward living pain-free. The right pillow will depend on your individual needs. We’ll walk you through the most important considerations, including how to choose the best material, shape, and thickness for your individual sleeping style.
Most people don’t give much thought to their pillow, beyond choosing a pillow that’s nice and squishy for immediate comfort. This means that when we do realize our pillow may be contributing to our neck pain, we may not know how to go about choosing a proper one. Shoppers in this position may be susceptible to misleading marketing and end up choosing a pillow that’s ill-suited for their needs.
To help you get started, we’ve made a list of the most important factors. Focusing on these factors and having a basic understanding of how pillows work can help you find the pillow that works best for you.
The best pillow for neck and shoulder pain is firm enough to hold the head at a healthy angle, but soft enough to alleviate pressure points. Most sleepers find success with either a memory foam, latex, buckwheat, or feather pillow, as these materials offer the best balance of support and pressure relief.
Sleep experts recommend either back or side sleeping if you suffer from neck pain. Sleeping on your stomach causes your head to bend at a sharp angle and arches your spine, which puts unwanted pressure on your neck. Strict stomach sleepers should choose a pillow with a low loft to minimize pressure.
For best results, back and side sleepers should ensure that their head, neck, and top of the spine form a straight line. Sleeping with a pillow that’s too high or too low can cause aches and pains. Likewise, sleeping with your head rolled to one side or the other is also likely to cause neck pain.
In addition to choosing the right pillow, you can reduce neck pain through lifestyle changes like adopting proper posture, taking stretching breaks, and generally being more active. People who suffer from neck pain should avoid shoulder bags, slouching, and long periods of sitting at the computer.
Your pillow likely isn’t the only reason for your neck pain, but it can definitely exacerbate the issue. We spend so much time on our pillows that a strained position can cause significant pain the next day. Using a supportive pillow is crucial if you want to give your neck a chance to recover overnight.
The most important consideration when choosing a pillow for neck pain is that it keeps your head, neck, and spine in a straight line. Pillows can go about this different ways, but many neck pain sufferers find that the best pillows for neck pain incorporate features that contour to support the neck.
Any pillow that fails to keep your neck at a neutral angle compared to your head and spine is inadequate for those who suffer from neck pain. Since everyone has a different body and sleeping style, there’s no one type of pillow that could be considered the worst for neck pain. However, most people find that excessively soft or flat pillows, such as those made from polyfill or down, fail to provide the needed support to prevent neck pain.
Depending on your sleeping style, you may find that tucking a rounded pillow under your neck can help ease the strain. This is especially true when sleeping on your back, as the neck sits so much higher than the head in this position. A rounded pillow supports just the neck, leaving your head free to relax on the flatter main pillow instead of forcing it to bend at an awkward angle.