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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.
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The Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Neck Pillow is a cervical pillow that targets aches and pains by contouring evenly to the head and neck. The pillow contains a solid piece of dense TEMPUR memory foam, a material renowned for its durability and conforming ability. The TEMPUR-Neck feels extra firm, resulting in excellent support for side and back sleepers.
Customer can choose from four sizes and corresponding lofts. The small size, which measures 3 inches thick, is ideal for sleepers with smaller gaps between their neck and shoulders. The large size offers a 4.5-inch loft best suited to sleepers with a gap of at least 6 inches. The medium size, which is 4 inches thick, should be the best option for anyone who falls in the middle of these measurements. The travel size TEMPUR-Neck also measures 4 inches thick.
The pillow is encased in a hypoallergenic polyester cover that can be washed and dried in any household machine. While Tempur-Pedic does not permit returns for the TEMPUR-Neck, it is backed by a five-year warranty against physical defects. Shipping is free within the contiguous U.S., and delivery charges are reasonable for customers in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.
Best for Side Sleepers
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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.
Best Adjustable Pillow
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The Layla Kapok Pillow is a great option for people with neck pain thanks in part to its adjustable design. The pillow contains a blend of shredded memory foam and fibers from the kapok tree, the latter of which can be likened to down or cotton. To change the loft, simply unzip the pillow and add or remove the fill from the main chamber. The pillow measures 4 inches thick when new.
Hot sleepers should also find this pillow very comfortable, especially if they have had bad experiences with other memory foam pillows. The kapok fibers are very breathable and the polyester-viscose cover is infused with copper for added cooling. CuTec yarns used for the cover also have antimicrobial properties. The cover can be washed and dried in your household machines, but the fill should never be laundered. Queen and king sizes are available.
The Layla Kapok Pillow’s sticker price is very reasonable considering its premium materials and innovative, long-lasting design. Layla also offers free ground shipping anywhere in the contiguous U.S. You may return the pillow within 120 days of your original purchase, even if you’ve used it or washed the cover, and you’ll also receive a five-year warranty that covers structural defects.
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The budget-friendly Brooklinen Down Alternative Pillow contains shaved down alternative fibers, which provide the same soft, lofty feel as real down without triggering any allergies or absorbing an excessive amount of body heat. This pillow is also a good option for those who would rather not purchase animal based products. The cover is composed of smooth, breathable cotton sateen for added comfort and cooling.
Three firmness levels are available for this pillow. The firm feel offers great support that is best suited to side sleeping, the mid-plush provides enough loft to keep back sleepers comfortably, and the plush is flatter and more conducive to stomach sleeping. There is no price difference between the firmness levels, though the firm feel is only available for king size pillows.
The pillow should not be washed in a household machine, as spot cleaning with soft soap or dry cleaning are recommended. Brooklinen offers returns within 365 days of the original purchase, which is a very long trial period compared to other bedding brands, and you’re allowed to use and clean the pillow before returning it.
Best Pressure Relief
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The Amerisleep Dual Comfort Pillow is composed of Bio-Pur memory foam, a proprietary open-cell material that contours evenly around the head and neck to alleviate pressure points in these areas. Thanks to its reversible design, one side of the pillow has a medium soft feel and the other side is medium firm. This allows sleepers to flip between two distinct surfaces, making the pillow ideal for people whose firmness levels tend to fluctuate.
The foam is ventilated with small holes to allow air circulation, which prevents the material from absorbing too much body heat and allows the pillow to remain fairly cool. The cover is made of breathable polyester mesh for added temperature control. You can remove the cover and launder it in your household machines whenever cleaning is needed, but you’ll never need to wash the foam.
Customers can choose between a 5-inch or 6-inch loft for their pillow, depending on their ideal thickness and sleep position. While the thicker option costs slightly more, the Dual Comfort Pillow is very reasonably priced compared to other memory foam models. Amerisleep also offers free shipping for all orders and backs the pillow with a longer-than-average 10-year warranty.
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Your ideal pillow loft will depend on a few factors, such as the size of your head and your preferred sleep position, but most pillows sold today are available in one thickness. The Muse Pillow is a notable exception. You can choose between three loft options – 5, 6, or 7 inches. The lower-loft design is best suited to stomach sleepers, while side and back sleepers will probably find the medium- or high-loft pillows more comfortable.
The Muse Pillow also boasts a sophisticated, layered design. The top layer consists of shredded memory foam, while the bottom layer is made of solid memory foam. These materials contour closely to the head and neck to alleviate aches, pains, and pressure points. Unlike many competing memory foam pillows, the Muse Pillow shouldn’t sleep too warm for most people. This can be attributed to the cooling fabric used to construct the cover, which dissipates body heat to keep you cool. The cover can be removed and machine washed whenever cleaning is needed.
All three loft options for the Muse Pillow share the same sticker price. The company also ships for free anywhere in the contiguous U.S. Customers also receive a three-year warranty with their pillow purchase.
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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.
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For sleepers who find memory foam neck pillows too firm or dense, the Tri-Core Cervical Support Pillow from Core Products may be a more comfortable alternative. This pillow is filled with polyester fibers that provide a soft, cushioning feel. However, the pillow is still highly supportive. Its design features raised sides to keep the neck upright and a center groove where the head can rest comfortably.
Customers can choose from three sizes, each geared toward different sleeper types. The petite size measures 4 inches thick on the sides, and is best suited to people with smaller gaps between the neck and shoulders. The midsize is a bit wider and longer, but also offers a 4-inch loft. The standard size, which matches the dimensions of a conventional pillow, is 5 inches thick for sleepers who need more support.
The removable polyester-cotton cover can be washed and dried in any household machine. All customers in the contiguous U.S. qualify for free ground shipping, but Core Products delivers worldwide. The pillow is backed by both a 90-day return period and a one-year warranty.
Best Memory Foam
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An unconventional shape sets the SleepEasy Easy Sleeper Pillow apart from its competitors. Containing a single piece of memory foam, the pillow elevates the neck to improve alignment while a grooved midsection cradles the head. This design reduces stiffness around the head and neck without creating an uncomfortable dip – a common complaint regarding other cervical pillows.
The Easy Sleeper can also improve your posture, making it a good choice for people who primarily sit while working. The pillow has been approved for children 13 and older. The breathable, machine washable cover is composed of polyester and cotton, and includes a zipper made of recycled plastic.
Compared to other ergonomic neck pillows, the Easy Sleeper carries a very affordable price-point. SleepEasy ships pillows worldwide, and most customers receive their pillow within seven business days. The company issues full refunds on all returns within 30 days of delivery, provided the pillow is in good condition and shipped in its original packaging.
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.