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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.

Best Pillows for Shoulder Pain

Best Overall – Saatva Latex Pillow
Best Value – Silk & Snow Pillow
Best for Side Sleepers – Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow
Best Pressure Relief – MedCline Shoulder Relief System
Best for Combination Sleepers – FluffCo Down & Feather Pillow – Soft Fluff
Best for Neck Support – Sweet Zzz Plant-Based Pillow
Best Temperature Regulating – Nest Bedding Easy Breather Pillow

Product Details

Best Overall

Saatva Latex Pillow

Brand Logo
Price: $165 – Queen $185 – King
Fill: Shredded 100% American Talalay latex and down alternative
Firmness: Medium Soft

Who it’s best for:

  • People who run hot in bed
  • Combination sleepers
  • Those who want a pillow with customizable thickness

Highlights:

  • Contains shredded Talalay latex for gentle contouring and light responsiveness
  • Breathable and machine-washable organic cotton cover
  • Removable inner pillow allows you to adjust the loft

Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Saatva pillows

Bottom Line

The Saatva Latex Pillow is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a pillow that cushions the shoulder while still offering great support for the neck and head. It’s also very good at keeping cool at night.

The Saatva Latex Pillow features an adjustable design that should appeal to a wide variety of sleepers with different sleep preferences. Our team found this versatile model was especially suitable for combination sleepers who switch between two or more positions over the course of a single night.

How It Performed

When our testers lay their head on the pillow, it contoured to their heads and necks without hugging too closely. It also felt fairly responsive. You can separate the inner pillow from the outer chamber to adjust the pillow’s thickness and overall feel, depending on how much loft you need at any given time. Side and back sleepers preferred the pillow at full volume, whereas stomach sleepers felt more comfortable with just the inner pillow. Thanks to the natural cooling properties of latex, this pillow runs cool at night. The shredded composition also enables air to flow between the latex pieces, compared to a solid piece of latex that offers less ventilation.

What It’s Made of

The cover is made of organic cotton certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard, a leading authority on sustainably grown materials. The outer chamber is cushioned with down-like microdenier fibers that create a plush feel, and the inner chamber is composed of shredded Talalay latex. The cover and outer microdenier chamber are both fully machine-washable, so you should have no trouble keeping the pillow hygienic.

Saatva provides free ground delivery throughout the contiguous U.S. The pillow comes with a 45-night sleep trial that includes complimentary shipping on all returns, and those who keep it receive a 1-year warranty.

Read our Full Saatva Latex Pillow Review to learn more
A picture of the Silk & Snow Pillow in Sleep Foundation's test lab.

Best Value

Silk & Snow Pillow

Brand Logo
Price: $75 – Standard $85 – King
Fill: Shredded memory foam core with down alternative microfiber outer chamber
Firmness: Medium

Who it’s best for:

  • Value seekers
  • Those who want to adjust their pillow's loft from night to night
  • Customers looking for a plush pillow without animal products

Highlights:

  • Shredded memory foam fill offers adjustable loft
  • Machine-washable cotton cover
  • 100-night sleep trial

Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Silk & Snow pillows

Bottom Line

The Silk & Snow Pillow is perfect for sleepers with shoulder pain, since you can adjust and fine-tune the fill until it feels just right. Pillows with this level of thoughtful design often come with a hefty price tag, but the Silk & Snow’s price-point is surprisingly approachable.

Toronto-based mattress and bedding company Silk & Snow designed The Pillow with adjustable comfort in mind. Value-seeking side sleepers should consider this pillow both for its customizable design and fair price-point.

How It Performed

The pillow’s hybrid design balances fluffiness and support, which our testers found suitable for side and back sleepers. The pillow cradled our heads and necks to prevent pressure from building up, while the foam core generated enough support to keep the head elevated. You can also add or remove the foam fill to achieve your sweet spot in terms of firmness and loft.

What It’s Made of

The Silk & Snow Pillow features a breathable cotton cover that you can remove and machine wash for easy cleaning. The fill is made of shredded memory foam and down-alternative microfiber, which gives you the plush feel of real down without the high price tag. The pillow comes fully stuffed with foam, but you can remove the fill as needed. Two sizes are available, standard and king.

Silk & Snow offers free shipping to the contiguous U.S. and all Canadian provinces. You can try out the pillow with its 100-night sleep trial, and purchases are also backed by a 3-year warranty.

Most Comfortable

Brooklyn Bedding Luxury Cooling Memory Foam Pillow

Brand Logo
Price: $129 – Queen $149 – King
Fill: Open-cell memory foam
Firmness: Medium

Who it’s best for:

  • Side and back sleepers
  • People who normally find memory foam pillows too warm
  • Value seekers

Highlights:

  • Adaptive memory foam is infused with copper and graphite to reduce heat retention
  • Circular-knit cover is cool to the touch
  • Pillow is available in two loft levels

Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Brooklyn Bedding pillows

Bottom Line

The Luxury Cooling Memory Foam Pillow from Brooklyn Bedding excels at contouring while still offering lots of support. It’s a great option for back and side sleepers who need a balance of cradling and loft.

Memory foam is known for its top-notch adaptive, pressure-relieving qualities — but hot sleepers might find the material retains heat to an uncomfortable degree. The Luxury Cooling Memory Foam Pillow from Brooklyn Bedding is designed to minimize heat buildup so that you can enjoy the feel of memory foam even if you sleep hot on conventional foam.

How It Performed

You can choose between two loft levels. The 6-inch profile should be thick enough to cushion your neck and promote even spinal alignment if you sleep on your side. Our testers report that this profile may also be suitable for back sleepers prone to snoring, since this group needs more volume to sleep comfortably. Other back sleepers will likely prefer the lower 4.5-inch profile. Queen and king sizes are available.

What It’s Made of

The solid foam core is infused with copper and graphite, both of which have natural cooling properties, and the circular-knit cover is engineered to dissipate heat on contact. The result is a pillow that offers the deep contouring and pressure relief we all associate with memory foam but without excessive warmth. You can remove and machine wash the cover for easy care, but just spot clean the foam if stains or smudges occur.

An approachable price-point and free shipping throughout the contiguous U.S. make the Luxury Cooling Memory Foam Pillow a solid choice if you’re shopping on a tight budget. Each purchase comes with a 30-night sleep trial, and those who choose to keep their pillow also receive a 3-year warranty against structural defects.

A picture of the Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow in Sleep Foundation's test lab.

Best for Side Sleepers

Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow

Brand Logo
Price: $125
Fill: 75% Latex and 25% Polyester Fiber
Firmness: Medium, adjustable

Who it’s best for:

  • Sleepers looking for a pillow with adjustable loft
  • People who primarily sleep on their sides
  • Hot sleepers

Highlights:

  • Ergonomic shape promotes even alignment for side sleepers
  • Fill can be added or removed to adjust loft
  • Latex and fiber fill provides strong contouring

Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

SleepFoundation readers get 20% off. Discount automatically applied to cart.

Bottom Line

We highly recommend the Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper if you sleep on your side — and especially if you experience shoulder pain during sleep. The pillow’s shape and design truly take a side sleeper’s body position into account.

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 curved design. The adjustable fill also allows you to create a firmness and loft that feels just right.

How It Performed

The pillow features a notch at the bottom edge where your shoulders can rest comfortably without sacrificing head and neck support. Our testers found that sleeping with your shoulder on the mattress and neck elevated improved overall alignment and reduced aches and pains along the spine. Temperature regulation is another strength of this pillow. The fill shouldn’t retain too much body heat — a frequent complaint about foam — and the cover was fairly breathable when we lay on the pillow.

What It’s Made of

The fill consists of shredded latex and plush polyester fibers — and you can add or remove the fill to adjust the loft. The adjustable design made the pillow optimal for most people on our team regardless of their preferred thickness. Changing the volume also made the pillow more comfortable for other sleep positions, even though it is generally intended for side sleepers. The cover is made of a soft cotton-blend cover. 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.

Best Pressure Relief

MedCline Shoulder Relief System

Brand Logo
Price: $250
Fill: Shredded Memory Foam
Firmness: Medium

Who it’s best for:

  • Side sleepers
  • People with arthritis or rotator cuff injuries
  • Those who prefer to sleep with a body pillow

Highlights:

  • Three-piece set includes a wedge and body pillow that work together to alleviate pain
  • Arm pocket allows side sleepers to lie comfortably
  • Gradual incline reduces pressure in your downside arm

Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on MedCline pillows

Bottom Line

The MedCline Shoulder Relief System has a unique design aimed at reducing painful pressure buildup for side sleepers. Since so few pillows cater to side sleepers, we highly recommend this model for side sleepers with shoulder pain.

MedCline’s Shoulder Relief System is a sophisticated three-piece pillow set designed specifically for people who feel pain or pressure points in their upper body. The system is thoughtfully designed to offer cushioning and support in all the right areas.

How It Performed

Your system includes a body pillow that runs 50 inches long. We found that most side sleepers regardless of their height could tuck the bottom between their legs. You’ll also receive a firm wedge pillow with a slot near the top, in which you put the foam pillow insert. Place the wedge pillow on your mattress and lie on your preferred side while snuggling with the body pillow. Tuck your downside arm into the slot next to the pillow insert – we found this reduces pressure and minimizes the “pins and needles” sensation many side sleepers experience. The wedge pillow has a gradual inclination of 10 degrees designed to take pressure off of your shoulder. Thanks to its symmetrical design, the Shoulder Relief System is suitable for left and right side sleepers.

What It’s Made of

The body pillow component is filled with shredded foam, which gives it a fluffy feel with contouring properties. The wedge pillow is made of a dense foam to give it firmer support. Each component comes with a machine-washable case, so you shouldn’t have any trouble keeping the items clean. For an extra checkout charge, you can add an extra pillowcase for all three items.

MedCline allows returns after you have tested out the pillow for at least 30 nights. Your purchase also includes a manufacturer’s warranty that covers structural defects in the pillow for up to one year.

Best for Combination Sleepers

FluffCo Down & Feather Pillow – Soft Fluff

Brand Logo
Price: $89 – Standard $119 – King
Fill: Inner chamber: 100% white duck feathers Outer chamber: 100% 600 fill power white duck down
Firmness: Soft

Who it’s best for:

  • Value seekers
  • Sleepers who tend to overheat
  • Individuals who prefer a soft and moldable pillow

Highlights:

  • Certified cruelty-free down and feather fill
  • Cover and pillow protector made with breathable 100% cotton
  • Durable sewing along the edge for longevity

Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on FluffCo pillows

Bottom Line

The FluffCo Down & Feather Pillow strikes a perfect balance between fluffiness and support. This even balance should feel reliably comfortable for anyone who switches positions during sleep.

The FluffCo Down & Feather Pillow offers plush comfort and quality materials at an affordable price. The versatile design makes it a great option if you tend to shift between different sleep positions throughout the night.

How It Performed

Available in two firmness levels, our testers found the Soft Fluff option better suited for sleepers who need a plush pillow to reduce pressure buildup in the shoulders. If you sleep on your stomach and back, we recommend the lower profile of the Soft Fluff model. This option is also better suited to sleepers who enjoy close cradling around the neck and shoulders. If pressure relief is a lower priority, or if you sleep on your side, you may enjoy the loftier firm option.

What It’s Made of

The cover of the Down & Feather Pillow is composed of 100% cotton with a 233 thread count for an ultra-soft feel. The pillow also includes a pillow protector made with 100% cotton in a 300 thread count. The interior contains two layers of fill. The outer layer is composed of 600 fill power white duck down, while the inner layer is made from white duck feather. We noticed that the layers together produced a fluffy feel that you can squish and mold to your desired comfort level.

We liked the stylish appearance of the light grey cording, with durable stitching on the edge to prevent fill from popping out over time. The pillow has Responsible Down Standard (RDS) certification to help ensure it was produced using cruelty-free practices. The pillow should be spot cleaned or dry cleaned.

FluffCo offers free shipping to customers in all 50 states for orders over $75, and the pillow is backed by a 30-night sleep trial. FluffCo covers all shipping fees on returned products.

A picture of the Sweet Zzz Plant-Based Pillow in Sleep Foundation's test lab.

Best for Neck Support

Sweet Zzz Plant-Based Pillow

Brand Logo
Price: $99 – Queen $119 – King
Fill: Plant-based down alternative fibers
Firmness: Medium

Who it’s best for:

  • Those who prefer exceptionally soft pillows
  • Vegans and animal-conscious consumers
  • People with down allergies

Highlights:

  • Soy-based fill offers the same plushness as real down
  • Cover composed of smooth natural cotton
  • Breathable materials ensure cool, comfortable sleep

Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Sweet Zzz pillows

Bottom Line

If you’re in the market for a high-loft pillow to support the head and neck, the Plant-Based Pillow from Sweet Zzz should meet your needs. The plush, vegan fill offers the same fluffy feel as down, resulting in a thick profile and luxurious softness.

Lack of neck support may be partially to blame for recurring shoulder pain. The Sweet Zzz Plant-Based Pillow offers an exceptionally high loft to keep your head and neck elevated throughout the night. The thick profile and plush fill are particularly well suited to people who enjoy exceptionally soft pillows.

How It Performed

Our hands-on tests show the pillow is thick enough for side sleepers, filling the space between their head and downward-facing shoulder. This helps promote even alignment and reduce pressure buildup that commonly occurs when lying in the side position. Back sleepers on our testing team also felt comfortable on the pillow. If you sleep on your stomach, the pillow will probably be too thick.

Both the shell and fill are highly breathable, so overheating — a common issue with real down — shouldn’t be an issue with this pillow. You may need to fluff the pillow fairly often, as noticed some shifting during our shape retention tests. By the same token, the pillow is very moldable and perfect for snuggling.

What It’s Made of

The fill consists of soy-based fibers that mimic the softness and fluffiness of real down without potentially triggering allergy symptoms or relying on animal-based materials. A natural cotton shell encases the fill. The fabric has a smooth hand-feel. You can wash and dry the entire pillow in your household machines for quick and easy care. Standard and king sizes are available.

An approachable sticker price and free shipping throughout the contiguous U.S. make the Plant-Based Pillow a good option for shoppers with limited budgets. Your purchase includes a 50-night trial period, during which returns are also free of charge.

Product page photo of the Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Cloud Adjustable Pillow

Best Adjustable Firmness

Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Cloud Adjustable Pillow

Brand Logo
Price: $69 – Standard/Queen
Fill: Shredded memory foam
Firmness: Medium Soft

Who it’s best for:

  • Back and side sleepers
  • People who enjoy snuggling with their pillow
  • Hot sleepers who like memory foam pillows

Highlights:

  • Shredded memory foam contours to the head and neck to relieve pressure
  • Open-cell design encourages airflow
  • Removable and washable cover

Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Tempur-Pedic pillows

Bottom Line

The Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Cloud Adjustable Pillow contours closely to your head and neck to relieve pressure buildup, but the best feature of this pillow is the adjustability. Our testers recommend this pillow for sleepers who are particular about pillow loft.

Sleepers can often experience discomfort in their necks and backs when using a pillow that is too thick. The Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Cloud Adjustable Pillow allows you to add or remove fill until you reach your ideal loft. This makes it a great choice for sleepers who often prefer lower profiles.

How It Performed

The pillow offers deep cushioning for the head and neck, which helps alleviate uncomfortable or even painful pressure buildup. While many foam pillows have a tendency to trap heat, the open-cell construction of the foam in the TEMPUR-Cloud Adjustable Pillow encourages more airflow than other foam pillows. The foam’s shredded composition promotes further ventilation between the foam pieces. The shredded design also keeps the pillow quite moldable, making it a great option if you like snuggling with your pillow.

What It’s Made of

The pillow features an outer shell made from polyester and a lightweight liner to hold the fill. The fill is composed of shredded TEMPUR-Blend memory foam with an adaptive feel. The outer shell is removable and machine-washable for easy care, but you should not wash the pillow core.

Two sizes are available: queen and king. Tempur-Pedic ships free to customers in the contiguous U.S. The TEMPUR-Cloud Adjustable Pillow is backed by a 5-year warranty against structural defects.

Best Temperature Regulating

Nest Bedding Easy Breather Pillow

Brand Logo
Price: $99 – Standard $119 – Queen $149 – King
Fill: Shredded memory foam
Firmness: Firm to Medium Firm

Who it’s best for:

  • People who are in the market for an adjustable pillow
  • Hot sleepers
  • Those who want a pillow that contours closely to their head and neck

Highlights:

  • Adjustable design allows you to customize the feel and loft
  • Breathable knit cover provides excellent cooling and temperature regulation
  • Additional foam fill available for purchase

Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

SleepFoundation.org readers get an additional 2% off select bedding with code SF2

Bottom Line

The Nest Bedding Easy Breather’s adjustable design and above-average cooling should be appealing if you’re looking for something beyond the typical shredded foam pillow. Affordable pricing and free delivery provide further incentive for shoppers with limited budgets.

While a memory foam pillow may be the best option for people with persistent shoulder pain, the material tends to retain heat and sleep uncomfortably warm. The aptly named Easy Breather from Nest Bedding offers the best of both worlds: a pillow that cushions and contours evenly to reduce aches and pains in your shoulders while sleeping cool any time of year.

How It Performed

Due to the Easy Breather’s adjustable design, most of our testers were able to optimize the fill volume and create a loft that suited their sleep position. For our stomach sleepers, the most comfortable configuration involved removing at least 50% of the fill. Low loft pillows tend to be ideal for stomach sleepers because they don’t elevate the head too much. Back sleepers on our team preferred the pillow at about 50% to 75% full, while most of our side sleepers needed a volume of at least 80%. The back and side positions typically demand more loft to ensure the head and neck are properly supported.

We were quite impressed with the pillow’s cooling abilities. The foam retains some head, but not nearly as much as many of the Easy Breather’s competitors. Since the fill is shredded, our testers found the pillow very moldable and perfect for snuggling. 

What It’s Made of

The Easy Breather’s fill consists of 70% shredded memory foam and 30% down alternative fibers, so the pillow contours evenly and feels exceptionally plush. You can unzip the outer cover to access the lining pouch and add or remove fill as needed to create your optimal loft. The cover is composed of stretch polyester woven with phase change material, the latter of which helps the pillow maintain a cool-to-the-touch surface at all times.

You can machine wash the cover for quick and easy care. Simply separate the cover from the lining pouch, then wash the former in cold water and tumble dry on low heat. Nest Bedding offers additional pillow fill for whenever you need to replenish your supply.

The Easy Breather carries a reasonable sticker price and shipping is free of charge for customers in the contiguous U.S. Returns and exchanges are permitted within 30 days of delivery. The pillow is also backed by a 2-year warranty against structural and material defects. 


What Is Shoulder Pain?

“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:

  • Broken arm or collarbone
  • Torn or injured rotator cuff
  • Dislocated or separated shoulder
  • Frozen shoulder characterized by pain, stiffness, and loss of range of motion
  • Torn cartilage or ruptured tendons
  • Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or septic arthritis
  • Nerve impingement
  • Tendinitis
  • Bursitis
  • Heart attack

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.

Shoulder Pain and Sleep

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:

  • Bursitis, an inflammation of the bursa sacs that cushion bones around joints in the body. Inflamed bursa produce more liquid which can lead to painful swelling.
  • Biceps tendinopathy, a condition that occurs due to prolonged deterioration of the biceps tendon that connects shoulder bones and muscles. Tendinopathy is characterized by sharp pains around the tendon.
  • Tears and other injuries to the rotator cuff, a grouping of muscles that cushions and stabilizes the shoulder joint.

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.

How to Choose a Pillow for Shoulder Pain

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.

What to Consider When Purchasing a Pillow for Shoulder Pain

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.

  • Loft: Loft, or thickness, affects how supportive the pillow feels. Side sleepers typically need more loft to ensure even spinal alignment, which reduces pressure around the shoulders, lower back, and hips. Back and stomach sleepers often prefer less loft because this allows their head to lie evenly with the rest of their body and lowers their potential for neck and shoulder pain.
  • Support: A supportive pillow will keep your head upright while cradling the neck, while a less supportive pillow will sink beneath the weight of your head. Some sleepers prefer the latter but many people with chronic shoulder pain need a pillow that will support the head and cushion the neck and shoulders.
  • Firmness Level: The ideal firmness level for any given sleeper depends largely on personal preference. Some feel more comfortable on a softer, plusher pillow, while others prefer a pillow that feels firmer and more supportive. Since support is often crucial for pain relief, those with shoulder pain may want to consider a firmer pillow – though excessive firmness can also lead to added aches and pressure points.
  • Pressure Relief:The best pillows for pressure relief support the head and neck without sinking too deeply. If your head is on the smaller side and your wingspan is somewhat narrow, then a softer pillow provides adequate pressure relief, but those with larger heads and wider shoulders will probably find that a firmer pillow reduces more pressure instead.
  • Shape: Some specialty pillows for people with neck pain have irregular shapes that differ from the rectangular cut of traditional pillows. These include wedge pillows that keep the head and neck inclined, and body pillows you can embrace for an added bolster around the neck and shoulders.
  • Price: You should be able to find a high-quality pillow that alleviates at least some of your shoulder pain for less than $100. These include wedge pillows, body pillows, and other models with irregular shapes. For a specialized pillow with multiple components, expect to pay a bit more.
  • Quality Materials: The materials used to construct a pillow can tell you a lot about its expected longevity and supportive qualities. In the next section, we’ll take a closer look at the most popular fill materials for pillows sold today.

What Pillow Materials Are Best for Shoulder Pain?

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.

Memory Foam

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:

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

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

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.

Down Alternative

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.

Feather

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.

Polyfoam

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.

What Is the Best Pillow Positioning for Shoulder Pain?

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.

Other Tips for Shoulder Pain Sufferers

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.

Frequently Asked Questions About Pillows for Shoulder Pain

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.

Still have questions?

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