search
search
Home / Best Pillows of 2022 / Best Pillows for Shoulder Pain

Best Pillows for Shoulder Pain

Logan Foley

Written by

Logan Foley, Certified Sleep Coach

Jenny Iyo

Medically Reviewed by

Jenny Iyo, Physical Therapist

Methodology Icon
Methodology

We personally test every product featured in our reviews and guide to provide accurate, data-driven recommendations. Learn More

Recency Statement Icon

We recently updated this page to include the FluffCo Down & Feather Pillow as our best pick for combination sleepers. The Saatva Latex Pillow remains our best overall pick.

Sleepfoundation.org is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here

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

Product Details

Best Overall

Saatva Latex Pillow

Saatva Latex Pillow
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!

Buy more, save more. Get up to $450 off!

The Saatva Latex Pillow features an adjustable design that should appeal to people across different sleep position groups, including combination sleepers who switch between two or more positions over the course of a single night. The pillow’s core contains shredded Talalay latex, a material that contours to the head and neck without hugging too closely and also feels fairly responsive.

The outer chamber is cushioned with down-like microdenier fibers that create a plush feel. 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 will probably prefer the pillow at full volume, whereas stomach sleepers may feel comfortable with just the inner pillow.

The outer cover is made of organic cotton certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard, a leading authority on sustainably grown materials. The cover and outer microdenier chamber are both fully machine-washable, so you should have no trouble keeping the pillow hygienic. Customers can choose to add a pair of cotton-sateen pillowcases to their order for an added charge.

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.

Silk & Snow Pillow

Best Value

Silk & Snow Pillow

Silk & Snow Pillow
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

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

The Pillow features a breathable cotton cover that is also removable and fully-machine washable for easy cleaning. The fill is made of shredded memory foam and down-alternative microfiber, providing the plush feel of real down without the high price-tag. The Pillow comes stuffed with shredded memory foam, and sleepers can remove the fill to find the most comfortable feel. 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.

Brooklyn Bedding Luxury Cooling Memory Foam Pillow

Most Comfortable

Brooklyn Bedding Luxury Cooling Memory Foam Pillow

Brooklyn Bedding Luxury Cooling Memory Foam Pillow
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

Many sleepers enjoy the adaptive, pressure-relieving qualities of memory foam pillows – but others find that this material retains heat to an uncomfortable degree. The Luxury Cooling Memory Foam Pillow from Brooklyn Bedding is designed to minimize heat buildup. 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 people have come to expect from memory foam without excessive warmth.

Customers can choose between two loft levels. The 6-inch profile should be thick enough to cushion the neck and promote even spinal alignment for side sleepers. This loft may also be suitable for back sleepers prone to snoring who need more volume to sleep comfortably. Other back sleepers – as well as stomach sleepers – will likely prefer the lower 4.5-inch profile. Queen and king sizes are available. The cover can be removed and machine washed for easy care, but owners should only spot clean the foam is 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 for shoppers with tight budgets. 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.

Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow

Best for Side Sleepers

Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow

Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow
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:

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.

Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

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

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.

FluffCo Down & Feather Pillow - Soft Fluff

Best for Combination Sleepers

FluffCo Down & Feather Pillow - Soft Fluff

FluffCo Down & Feather Pillow - Soft Fluff
Price: $200 - Standard $360 - 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

With a white duck down and feather fill and a cooling cover, the FluffCo Down & Feather Pillow offers plush comfort and quality materials at an affordable price. Available in two firmness levels, the Soft Fluff option is ideal for shoppers seeking a plush pillow to reduce pressure buildup in the shoulders during sleep. The balanced design makes it a great, versatile choice for sleepers who switch between different sleep positions at night.

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. The layers together produce a fluffy feel that sleepers can squish and mold to their desired comfort level.

This pillow features light grey cording for a stylish appearance, with durable stitching on the edge to prevent fill from popping out over time. Shoppers can choose between two firmness options, but stomach and back sleepers may prefer the lower profile of the softer Soft Fluff version. 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.

The Down & Feather 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.

GhostBed GhostPillow - Shredded

Best Cooling

GhostBed GhostPillow - Shredded

GhostBed GhostPillow - Shredded
Price: $190
Fill: Shredded memory foam and microfiber
Firmness: Medium
Who it's best for:
  • People who usually sleep hot
  • Side and back sleepers
  • Shoppers looking for a pillow backed by a long sleep trial
Highlights:
  • Shredded foam and microfiber fill cushions the head, neck, and shoulders
  • Phase change material helps minimize heat buildup
  • 101-night trial period
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

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

Side and back sleepers who experience shoulder pain can alleviate their discomfort by using a pillow with high or medium loft. Thicker pillows that provide more cushioning for the head and neck may improve spinal alignment and help you wake up without achiness or soreness in your shoulders. The GhostBed GhostPillow – Shredded contains a blended fill consisting of shredded foam and microfiber clusters, resulting in a lofty feel. The pillow provides deep cushioning, but without trapping too much body heat.

The fill can be added or removed to adjust how thick and firm the pillow feels. The cover is made of proprietary Ghost Ice fabric that feels cool to the touch. This material is machine washable, so you’ll be able to clean the cover in any household machine.

Each purchase includes two pillows. For an extra fee, you can add a pair of mulberry silk pillowcases to your order. All customers in the contiguous U.S. receive free ground shipping with their order, as well as a 101-night sleep trial for testing out the pillow.

Layla Kapok Pillow

Best for Neck Support

Layla Kapok Pillow

Layla Kapok Pillow
Price: $109 - Queen $129 - King
Fill: Shredded memory foam and kapok tree fiber blend
Firmness: Medium Soft
Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers who want a pillow with customizable loft
  • Those who usually sleep hot
  • Side and back sleepers
Highlights:
  • Contains a plush blend of shredded foam and natural kapok fibers
  • Copper infusion helps to prevent heat buildup on the cover
  • 120-night sleep trial and 5-year warranty
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

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

The key to reducing shoulder pain is to ensure the neck and head are aligned with the spine. Without proper alignment, aches and pressure points can build where your shoulders make contact with the pillow. The Layla Kapok Pillow contains a blend of shredded memory foam and downy-soft fibers from the kapok tree, so you can expect close contouring. You may add or remove as much of the fill as you wish to achieve an ideal loft for shoulder pain relief, making the pillow suitable for both side and back sleeping.

Cooling is another strength of the Kapok Pillow. The memory foam has an open-cell composition while the kapok fibers retain very little warmth, so bothersome heat retention is unlikely to occur. The cover is also made from a blend of polyester and breathable viscose. Copper – which has natural cooling properties – is infused into the yarn blend for added temperature control.

The cover can be washed and dried at home, saving you time and money whenever the fabric needs to be cleaned. You can also wash the entire pillow at once. Layla recommends multiple drying cycles if you go this route to ensure there isn’t any remaining moisture when you return it to your bed.

An approachable price-point and free shipping anywhere in the contiguous U.S. makes this pillow a great pick for shoppers on a budget. Layla backs each order with a 120-night sleep trial, giving you ample time to test out the pillow and determine if it meets your needs, as well as a 5-year warranty against structural defects.

Zoey Curve Pillow

Best Adjustable Firmness

Zoey Curve Pillow

Zoey Curve Pillow
Price: $110 - Queen $130 - King
Fill: Shredded memory foam
Firmness: Medium
Who it's best for:
  • Those who frequently wake up with stiff or sore necks
  • Hot sleepers
  • Shoppers who want to invest in an adjustable pillow
Highlights:
  • Ergonomic shape supports the head and neck without compromising spinal alignment
  • Shredded foam fill can be added or removed to change the loft and feel
  • Breathable lyocell-blend cover helps the pillow sleep cool
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

SF Readers get 15% off with code SF15

If you frequently change sleep positions or your pillow loft and firmness preferences vary from night to night, an adjustable pillow might be key to helping you get the rest you need. The Zoey Curve Pillow is a standout adjustable model for a few reasons. For one, the pillow’s ergonomic half-moon shape is designed to cushion the head and neck without causing uneven spinal alignment – a common culprit of stiffness or soreness in the neck and shoulders. While best suited to side sleeping, our tests showed the pillow is compatible with all sleep positions.

The Zoey Curve is also quite breathable, which is largely due to a cooling lyocell-blend cover that wicks moisture away from your body. The shredded foam fill shouldn’t retain too much heat – especially compared to solid foam. Whenever you need to adjust the pillow, simply unzip and remove as much of the foam fill as you wish. Finding the right loft and firmness level may require some trial and error, especially if you are a combination sleeper who regularly utilizes multiple positions.

Lastly, the Zoey Curve Pillow is very affordable compared to other adjustable pillows on the market today. You can also bundle your purchase to include two or four pillows at discounted rates. Shipping is free for U.S. orders, as well. Returns and exchanges are allowed within 30 nights of the delivery date, and those who keep their pillow also receive a 5-year warranty against structural and material defects.

MedCline Shoulder Relief System

Best Pressure Relief

MedCline Shoulder Relief System

MedCline Shoulder Relief System
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

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. Your system includes a body pillow filled with shredded foam that runs 50 inches long, ensuring most side sleepers regardless of their height can tuck the bottom between their legs. You’ll also receive a firm wedge pillow made of dense foam with a slot near the top, in which a foam pillow insert is designed to fit.

To use the pillow, 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 – this will reduce pressure and minimize 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.

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.

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?

Our product experts have extensive experience testing just about every sleep product on the market. Send an email to [email protected] or call us at (877) 672-8966 with your questions and we’ll help you find exactly what you’re looking for.

  • Was this article helpful?
  • YesNo

About Our Editorial Team

author
Logan Foley

Certified Sleep Coach

Logan has extensive experience testing sleep products and producing sleep content. She is also a Certified Sleep Science Coach.

author
Jenny Iyo

Physical Therapist

DPT

Dr. Iyo is a Doctor of Physical Therapy at an orthopedic clinic in Seattle. She specializes in hands-on therapy and tailored exercise programs.