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Chronic shoulder pain is an unfortunately common condition. Some people with shoulder pain require surgery, physical therapy, and other forms of formal treatment to address their condition. However, you may be able to alleviate some of your day-to-day shoulder pain symptoms by replacing your pillow. Many pillows sold today are specifically designed to support the head and neck in order to reduce pain and pressure in the shoulders and surrounding areas.
Below, you’ll find our top picks for pillows sold today that alleviate shoulder pain. These selections are based on reviews and feedback from verified owners, as well as our own product research and analysis. This best pillow for neck and shoulder pain guide also discusses causes and treatments for different types of shoulder pain, pillow options for people with shoulder discomfort, and some frequent questions from first-time pillow buyers.
Constructed for an ergonomic shape that promotes even alignment for side sleepers, this pillow from Eli & Elm contains a latex and fiber fill blend that can be added or removed to adjust the loft and overall feel.
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Uneven alignment is a common source of shoulder pain, especially for side sleepers. The Side-sleeper Pillow from Eli & Elm remedies this problem thanks to its specialized design. The pillow features a notch at the bottom edge where your shoulders can rest comfortably without sacrificing head and neck support. Sleeping with your shoulders on the mattress and neck elevated can improve your overall alignment and reduce aches and pains along the spine.
The pillow is also adjustable. Its fill – which consists of shredded latex and plush polyester fibers – can be added or removed to adjust the loft, making the pillow optimal for most people regardless of their preferred thickness. Changing the volume can also make the pillow more comfortable for other sleep positions, though it is generally intended for side sleepers.
Temperature regulation is another strength of this pillow. The latex and fiber fill shouldn’t retain too much body heat – a frequent complaint about foam – and the cotton-blend cover is also fairly breathable. You can wash and dry the cover in any household machine, but the fill should never be laundered.
Considering its composition and design, the Side-sleeper Pillow is very reasonably priced. Eli & Elm also offers free ground shipping anywhere in the contiguous U.S. You can return the pillow and receive a full refund within 45 days of your purchase, even if you’ve used it.
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The GhostBed GhostPillow is available in three models, each with a different fill — memory foam, faux down, and shredded memory foam and microfiber. The faux down option is a good choice for people who enjoy the fluffy feel of down pillows but are looking for a more affordable price-point.
The GhostPillow Faux Down is filled with a microfiber gel that mimics the feel of down, giving it a soft and squeezable quality. An outer zippered cover is made of plush velour designed to minimize heat coming off the body, while the interior cover is made from cotton to enhance breathability. It’s worth noting that down alternative is more breathable than down, which makes this an appealing option for people who enjoy the feel of down but find it too hot.
Due to its soft fill, the GhostPillow Faux Down offers moderate pressure relief for painful shoulder areas. The firmness level is best suited for back and stomach sleepers, who typically need less firmness to keep the head and spine aligned during sleep. The pillow may not provide the firmness and support that side sleepers require, especially those who are experiencing shoulder pain.
GhostBed offers free shipping, a 5-year warranty, and 101-night sleep trial. Customers may return pillows after an initial 30-day period to receive a full refund, minus return shipping fees.
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Pillow Cube is a young pillow company that caters to side sleepers by providing optimal support to the head and shoulders. The company currently offers two models, the Classic and Pro. While the Classic is meant for nappers on the go and side sleepers who don’t move much during sleep, the Pro is larger and accommodates side sleepers who tend to shift a lot at night.
The Pillow Cube Pro is made out of memory foam and comes with a quilted cover. There are three loft options — 4 inches, 5 inches, and 6 inches. Generally speaking, people with broader shoulders and larger heads will benefit most from the thicker loft options, while those with narrower shoulders and smaller heads may prefer less loft.
The memory foam construction makes the Pillow Cube Pro a suitable pillow for people who suffer from shoulder pain. The foam contours with the shoulder and neck to offer pressure relief in areas that contribute to shoulder pain. At the same time, the pillow is firm enough to support the shoulder and maintain healthy sleep posture.
Pillow Cube allows exchanges and refunds within 60 days of purchase. The company covers return shipping costs for exchanges but charges a $20 shipping fee for returns. Shipping is free for purchases over $100 to destinations in the contiguous United States.
Best for Pressure Relief
Composed of solid memory foam with a medium feel, the Shoulder Zoned Lavender Pillow conforms closely to the head and neck while producing a relaxing scent.
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The Shoulder Zoned Lavender Pillow is made from adaptive memory foam. The material has a medium feel and conforms very closely to the head and neck, making it noticeably softer than many competing memory foam neck pillows. The foam is also ventilated to promote airflow and resist heat absorption, and the cover is made from breathable Tencel fabric, so the pillow is well-suited to people who often feel excessive warm on memory foam.
Wider holes in the center of the pillow soften the foam for comfortable head cradling while the perimeter is ventilated with smaller holes for firmer neck support. A small notch at the front of the pillow allows side sleepers to rest comfortably while maintaining even alignment between the neck, shoulders, and spine. The pillow is specifically designed for people who sleep on their sides, so back and stomach sleepers probably won’t find it as comfortable.
As an added bonus, the pillow is also infused with a calming lavender scent that may also mask initial off-gassing odors. An extra vial of lavender is included with purchase for you to use whenever the pillow needs refreshing. The cover can be removed and machine washed at home. Queen and king sizes are available, both with a 6-inch loft. Free shipping is available for all customers in the contiguous U.S. and PlushBeds backs the pillow with a five-year warranty.
Best for Combination Sleepers
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The Amerisleep Dual Comfort Pillow is a versatile memory foam pillow that comes in an array of firmness and loft options. With so many customization options, the pillow is a good fit for sleepers who are looking for a perfect balance of support and contouring to alleviate neck or shoulder pain.
The Amerisleep Dual Comfort Pillow has a unique reversible design that offers a medium soft feel on one side and medium firm feel on the other. This enables sleepers to try out both sides for the desired level of firmness. The pillow is also available in two loft options, 5 inches and 6 inches. Side sleepers typically need higher loft to achieve proper sleep posture, while back and stomach sleepers may require less loft.
People who experience shoulder pain often require pillows that cushion the shoulder area while also providing enough support to maintain good spinal alignment. The memory foam construction in the Dual Comfort Pillow provides this balance of cushion and support. The foam also features an open-cell construction that helps aerate the pillow and minimize heat retention, which is often an issue with memory foam.
Amerisleep ships pillows for free within the contiguous United States. Pillows come with a 10-year warranty, but returns are not available.
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The Turmerry Organic Cotton Buckwheat & Wool Hybrid Zippered Pillow has a unique design that features buckwheat fill on one side of the pillow and wool fill on the other side. Both fills are adjustable, which makes the pillow a good option for most people, regardless of their loft preferences.
Buckwheat pillows are firm but conforming, while wool pillows are more plush and less conforming. People who suffer from shoulder pain may find more benefits with the buckwheat side of the pillow, since they typically require the balance of pressure relief and support that buckwheat offers. However, since the buckwheat and wool sides are both adjustable, you may add or remove fill until you reach your desired thickness. People who experience shoulder pain can use this feature to achieve an overall loft that aligns the head and spine and helps minimize discomfort.
The Turmerry Pillow is encased in an organic cotton cover. The buckwheat is sustainably grown and the wool comes from ethically raised sheep, which might appeal to shoppers who are concerned about how materials are sourced. Buckwheat and wool are also both good materials for temperature neutrality, making this an ideal option for hot sleepers.
Turmerry offers free shipping within the contiguous United States. Customers may return unused pillows within 30 days for a full refund. All pillows come with a 1-year warranty.
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The Sleep Number PlushComfort Pillow is available in an array of options that make it one of the more versatile pillows on the market. The variety of shapes and loft options allows customers to customize a pillow that meets their requirements for comfortable sleep.
The PlushComfort Pillow comes in three models. The Classic model is rectangular shaped and best suited for stomach or back sleepers. The Curved option has a curved shape with more contouring benefits, making it better for side or back sleepers. The Ultimate model is the most versatile. It comes with three removable inserts, which affords people latitude in adjusting the pillow’s firmness and loft. Back and side sleepers may require two or three inserts to keep the head and spine properly aligned, while stomach sleepers may need just one or two inserts.
The pillow is filled with down alternative, giving it a fluffy, plush feel that people associate with down. Fluffy pillows sometimes provide insufficient support to people who experience neck or shoulder pain, but the customizable inserts in the PlushComfort Pillow may allow these sleepers to fine-tune the firmness to meet their sleep needs.
Sleep Number offers free pillow shipping within the contiguous United States. While the company does not offer refunds for pillows, it allows free exchanges within 30 nights. Pillows come with a 1-year warranty.
The ergonomic myDual Side Pillow is filled with supportive, breathable wool that can be added or removed to adjust the loft.
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The myDual Side Pillow from Sleep & Beyond is a great choice for eco-conscious shoppers. The pillow is composed of natural Shropshire wool fill housed in a cotton sateen shell, while the outer cover is made of quilted wool. These natural materials are not only sustainably sourced and hypoallergenic, but also highly breathable. As a result, the myDual Side Pillow sleeps very cool and wicks away sweat to keep you dry.
The pillow comes loaded with wool, giving it a relatively high loft, but owners can remove the fill and adjust the thickness to their liking. The contoured shape is ideal for side or back sleeping, so the customizable loft allows you to easily switch between these two positions if you are a combination sleeper. You can also remove the liner, which can be used as a smaller separate pillow.
The outer cover and wool fill in its cotton shell can be machine washed and dried at home, so there’s no need to pay for dry cleaning. Sleep & Beyond treats the wool to ensure it won’t shrink in the wash. Buyers receive a 45-day trial period, during which they can return unused pillows for a full refund, as well as a five-year warranty for the pillow if they decide to keep it. Shipping is free if you order two or more myDual Side Pillows.
“Shoulder” is the shorthand term for the ball-and-socket joint that allows both of your arms to move freely. Recent statistics indicate that roughly 15 out of every 1,000 medical patients sees a physician about shoulder pain, and some studies suggest 70 percent of adults will experience shoulder pain at least once during their lifetime.
The shoulder joint consists of three bones: the clavicle (collarbone), scapula (shoulder bone), and humerus (upper arm bone). According to the Mayo Clinic, shoulder pain can also develop from a wide range of injuries and medical conditions. These include the following:
If you experience other symptoms along with the shoulder pain, such as shortness of breath or an uncomfortable tightening sensation in the chest, you should call 911 immediately – these could be signs of a more serious condition. Sudden pain, swelling, warmth, and/or loss of movement may necessitate a visit to the emergency room or your physician’s office.
The Cleveland Clinic also notes several treatment methods for ongoing shoulder pain. Less invasive options include physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications or injections, or simply resting until the pain subsides. You may need to undergo certain medical procedures if the pain persists or worsens over time. Surgical treatments for shoulder pain include arthroscopy, open shoulder surgery, shoulder resurfacing, and replacement.
Please note: The information and tips in this guide should never replace the advice of a credentialed medical professional. Please contact your physician or another certified healthcare provider to learn more about diagnosing and treating shoulder pain.
According to Ruben Gobezie, M.D., founding director and chief of surgery at the Cleveland Shoulder Institute, discomfort in bed and sleep problems are common issues for people with shoulder pain. Patients frequently feel discomfort regardless of which sleep position they employ. Some also feel numbness, tingling, and muscle spasms.
While any of the conditions listed above could contribute to shoulder pain-related sleep problems, Dr. Gobezie notes three specific conditions are the most common culprits:
Before seeing medical attention for any of these conditions, Dr. Gobezie recommends taking anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. You can also try sleeping in a recliner, applying ice or heat to the pain-affected areas, or wearing a compression sleeve.
While replacing your pillow is not always effective, this measure may mitigate some of the nightly shoulder aches and pains that accompany these and other conditions. Dr. Gobezie notes that a large pillow to support the entire body or a smaller pillow behind the upper arm can also reduce discomfort after shoulder operations.
Finding a new pillow to reduce shoulder pain might seem like a straightforward task, but there are several factors to consider based on your body type, normal sleep position(s), firmness and thickness preferences, and level of pain. Below, we’ll list some of the most important variables to take into account when choosing a pillow and discuss the most common pillow types based on fill material.
If you take pillow manufacturers at their word, then every pillow on the market today will reduce shoulder pain and deliver nightlong comfort regardless of your needs or preferences. However, very few pillows are designed to specifically target and alleviate shoulder pain. Furthermore, a pillow that is not soft, firm, thick, or thin enough can cause added discomfort based on your body type, head size, shoulder dimensions, and sleep position.
Before buying a pillow for shoulder pain, check the following specs – and reach out to the manufacturer if you can’t track down any of these details.
The best pillow materials include memory foam, buckwheat hulls, latex, and other fills that provide sufficient support to keep the head and neck upright and aligned with the spine. If a pillow sinks too much or loses shape quickly, the potential for more shoulder pain increases.
Viscoelastic polyurethane foam – memory foam for short – is engineered to soften when exposed to body heat and return to its former shape when the heat is removed. By contouring close to the body, memory foam can alleviate pain and pressure around the neck and shoulders.
Solid memory foam is used to construct many wedge and specialty pillows for neck pain, including a few of our top picks listed above. Shredded memory foam does not provide the same level of support, but many models with this fill offer adjustable loft.
Buckwheat pillows are filled with hulls, the hard outer casings of buckwheat kernels. They tend to be quite firm but also highly supportive, so your head and neck won’t sink too deeply into the surface. Buckwheat pillows also offer adjustable loft. By adding or removing the hulls, you can make the pillow more comfortable for different sleep positions.
Latex is a naturally resilient material derived from the sappy extract of rubber trees. It provides gentle contouring and won’t conform as closely as memory foam, but latex is also highly durable and won’t flatten as easily.
Down refers to the soft inner plumage of ducks and geese located beneath their outer feathers. It is exceptionally soft and light, so resting your head and neck on a down pillow can alleviate tension and pressure to some degree. At the same time, down is not particularly supportive and won’t be suitable for sleepers who want more firmness from their pillow.
Made from polyester microfibers, down alternative is a very soft and light material designed to mimic authentic down. Down alternative is hypoallergenic, making it suitable for people with down allergies, and these pillows tend to be much cheaper than their authentic counterparts. However, they don’t offer many advantages over regular down for sleepers with shoulder pain.
The outer feathers of ducks and geese are slightly more supportive than down, but they still provide minimal levels of support. Unless you prefer a softer pillow, a feather-filled model may not keep your head and neck upright.
Like memory foam pillows, polyfoam pillows may contain solid or shredded fill. Polyfoam doesn’t contour too closely and feels somewhat responsive foam, so these pillows may be a good alternative to memory foam models if you find the latter too adaptive.
If you experience chronic shoulder pain, it’s entirely possible that no sleep position will feel totally comfortable. However, certain angles and pillow configurations may reduce some types of shoulder pain better than others, depending on specific condition and symptoms. Four useful pillow positioning arrangements are outlined below:
Side with Pillow in Armpit: A good rule of thumb for side sleepers with pain in one shoulder is to avoid lying on the affected side. With the sore shoulder upright, place one pillow under that shoulder’s armpit, another between the legs, and cuddle with a third pressed against your stomach. With a fourth pillow beneath your head, this configuration should promote even spinal alignment and help alleviate your shoulder pain.
Back with Pillow in Armpit: Since back sleeping promotes even spinal alignment without putting added pressure on either shoulder, this is often the best position for people with shoulder pain. If you notice soreness or stiffness in one or both shoulders, try placing a pillow in the armpit beneath the shoulder(s).
Side with Pillow Between Knees: Often the chosen pillow position for pregnant women, a pillow between the knees can improve spinal alignment for side sleepers by reducing pressure in the lower back and hips.
Side with Pillow Under Back: Side sleepers with broad shoulders often experience uneven alignment because their hips and lower back don’t receive the same level of cushioning. A thin pillow placed under the back and hips can even out the spine and alleviate pain throughout the body – including the shoulders.
Stomach sleeping is generally associated with more aches and pains than back or side sleeping. Neck and shoulder pain from craning the neck to avoid lying face-down on the pillow is a common issue for stomach sleepers. For this reason, we don’t recommend stomach sleeping for people with shoulder pain.
In addition to using a pillow that offers adequate support, sleepers with shoulder pain can try one or more of the following strategies in order to find relief.
Choose the Right Mattress: As with pillows, a mattress can help reduce shoulder pain or exacerbate your discomfort – and again, this usually comes down to support level. A mattress that feels too soft and sinks excessively can worsen shoulder pain.
Generally, side sleepers feel more comfortable on softer mattresses because they cushion the shoulders and hips while supporting the lower back, leading to better spinal alignment. The back position already promotes proper alignment on its own, so these sleepers need more firmness and support to prevent excessive sinkage beneath the shoulders.
Engage in Physical Therapy or Stretching: Physical therapy and stretching are commonly prescribed to medical patients with shoulder pain. The nature of these treatments largely depend on the nature of your injury and severity of symptoms, so please consult your doctor or another credentialed medical provider for more information.
Practice Good Posture: Slouching while sitting can greatly exacerbate shoulder pain. According to the Mayo Clinic, certain exercises can not only improve posture but also reduce pain in the process. These include “rolling the shoulders up and back, then letting them relax down, tucking chin down slightly, and sitting up from the hips.” You can also try standing against a wall by resting your head, lower back, and hips against the surface with your shoulder blades down and close together.
Can the wrong pillow make shoulder pain worse?
Absolutely. If a pillow does not provide enough support for the head and neck, then you’re more likely to feel new or worsening shoulder pain. A less durable pillow that flattens or loses shape over time can mean more pain, as well. The best pillow for shoulder pain should properly support the head and neck, promote spinal alignment, and stabilize the affected shoulder(s).
What is the most important consideration when choosing a pillow for shoulder pain?
The most important factors when choosing a pillow for shoulder pain include loft (or thickness), firmness, shape, and fill material. Since everyone has different pillow preferences, we suggest trying different models to see which ones alleviate pain. As you’re starting out, consider pillows that offer sleep trials with free or mostly free returns. You’ll be able to test out these models without financially committing to them at first.
What is the worst pillow type for shoulder pain? Down, down alternative, and feather pillows are generally considered the worst pillows for shoulder pain because they provide the least support and tend to flatten during the night.
Can a mattress topper help with shoulder pain?
A mattress topper is a thin layer of cushioning material that rests on top of the mattress surface. Toppers are intended to change the firmness of the mattress – either softer or firmer – so using one can definitely reduce shoulder pain if your mattress sinks too much or feels excessively stiff. However, make sure the pillow you’re using also suits your needs; otherwise the topper on its own may not provide much pain relief.
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