Best Pillows for Neck Pain – 2019 Reviews and Buyer’s Guide

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Quick Summary

Pillow choice is a major concern for people living with chronic neck pain. Pillows that offer adequate levels of support and pressure relief can greatly improve sleep quality, leading to more comfort and fewer disruptions during the night. The wrong pillow can have the opposite effect – and may actually exacerbate the sleeper’s aches and pains.

Pillow loft (or thickness) is an important consideration for all sleepers, particularly those with frequent neck pain. Pillows that are too thin can cause the head to fall back too far, putting strain on the neck as well as the shoulders, while excessively thick pillows affect how closely the neck and spine are aligned. Material composition is another variable to consider. Some pillow materials offer closer conforming and more pressure relief than others. Other factors that impact sleep quality include temperature neutrality and noise potential.

This guide will explore different pillow considerations for sleepers with neck pain. Below you will find our picks for the top pillows for neck pain sold today. Our choices are based on verified customer and owner experiences, as well as intensive product research and analysis.

Best Pillows for Neck Pain

Editor’s Pick – LevelSleep Restore Pillow

Best Organic Pillow – PlushBeds Wool Pillow

Best Loft Range – Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex Pillow

Best Easy Adjustable – Purple Plush Pillow

Best Support – Hullo

How We Decided

 

70 pillows considered –– 110 hours of research –– 5 sleep experts consulted

The Best Pillows for Neck Pain – Tuck's Top 5 Models

LevelSleep Restore Pillow – Editor's Pick

Highlights
  • Certified memory foam with three-zone design
  • Recoveree stretch polyester shell
  • Adjustable loft
  • Removable cover is machine wash- & dryable
  • 365-night home trial with lifetime warranty

Designed to relieve snoring while reducing neck pain, the Restore Pillow from LevelSleep features a thoughtful, three-zone design. The memory foam pillow includes an ergonomic support center, two levels of neck support, and specialty wells designed to reduce pressure around the ears.

The Restore Pillow includes two level inserts, allowing sleepers to adjust its loft to a choice of three different heights. It features a stretchy, durable, and breathable shell made from polyester. Its sophisticated construction makes it our editors’ favorite for best pillow for reducing neck pain on the market.

PlushBeds Wool Pillow – Best Organic Pillow

Highlights
  • Humanely sourced, organic virgin wool fill
  • 400-thread-count sateen cotton shell
  • Adjustable height & firmness
  • Naturally hypoallergenic & chemical-free
  • Three sizes available

The PlushBeds Wool Pillow is hand-stuffed with responsibly sourced, cruelty-free organic virgin wool from U.S. wool growers. The wool naturally wicks away moisture and regulates temperature, keeping sleepers cool and dry throughout the night. The wool can be removed from the striped, 400-thread-count, sateen cotton shell to adjust loft and firmness. Its customizable and durable support make it a good choice for shoppers with neck pain seeking an organic, non-toxic, cruelty-free product.

Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex Pillow – Best Loft Range

Highlights
  • Natural, eco-friendly talalay latex fill
  • Organic cotton shell
  • Naturally hypoallergenic
  • Removable cover is machine wash- & dryable
  • Two sizes & two lofts available
  • 30-night sleep trial

Our pick for best loft range, the Talalay Latex Pillow from Brooklyn Bedding comes in a choice of queen or king size with a low or high height. The pillow is built from talalay latex derived from the sap of rubber trees using eco-friendly methods. The latex offers superior responsiveness while contouring the head and neck to keep the spine in healthy alignment. The breathable latex foam is wrapped in a naturally moisture-wicking, antimicrobial cotton cover.

Shoppers with neck pain are suggested to choose a higher loft pillow if they sleep on their side and a lower loft if they sleep on their stomach or back.

Purple Plush Pillow – Best Easy Adjustable

Highlights
  • “Smart Fluff” interlocking, three-denier poly fiber ball fill
  • Lyocell-blend shell
  • Easily adjust firmness with zippable extensions
  • 100-night sleep trial with one-year warranty

While many adjustable pillows require you to manually remove or add fill from the shell, the Purple Plush Pillow makes it simple and mess free — making it our top choice for easy adjustability. Sleepers can smoothly adjust the pillow to be firmer or softer by zipping or unzipping extensions on either side.

Filled with interlocking,three denier poly fiber balls, the Purple Plush Pillow is designed for support, moldability, and a long-lifespan. The “Smart Fluff” fill keeps its shape well throughout the night without fluffing, though the pillow should be fluffed once a week. The Purple Plush Pillow is covered in a breathable, Lyocell-blend shell is engineered to wick away moisture and regulate temperature.

Hullo – Best Support

Highlights
  • Buckwheat hull fill
  • Certified organic twill case
  • Adjustable loft
  • Removable cover is machine wash- & dryable
  • Three sizes available
  • 60-night sleep trial

The flagship model from Hulltex, the Hullo Pillow is filled with around eight to nine pounds of natural buckwheat hulls. The hulls can be removed from the organic-cotton twill cover to adjust loft, though the pillow typically feels firm regardless of its volume. Shoppers may purchase additional hulls in bulk from Hultex as needed.

The buckwheat fill, combined with the breathable cotton cover, helps the Hullo Pillow sleep exceptionally cool. The buckwheat pillow is a good choice for sleepers with neck pain due to its ability to contour and relieve pressure around the neck and head.

Best Pillows for Neck Pain Buyer's Guide

Neck pain is a common condition among adults. In most cases, people develop neck pain due to muscle strain, worn joints, or nerve compression — but in some cases, it may indicate a more serious condition. However, many people experience nightly neck pain due to their pillow choice. Certain factors, such as material composition and loft (or thickness), can affect how supportive and comfortable pillows feel to sleepers with neck pain. Sleeper position also plays a role in choosing the right pillow.

This guide will look at the causes and symptoms of conditions that cause neck pain, offer some tips for choosing the right pillow based on different criteria, and share our top-rated pillows for neck pain based on customer and owner experiences.

What Causes Neck Pain?

According to the Mayo Clinic, neck pain usually occurs due to one or more of the following five causes:

  • Strained muscles: Muscles become strained due to overuse. Many people strain their neck muscles by sitting at work desks all day. Other causes may include reading in bed or teeth grinding, as well as awkward sleeping positions.
  • Worn joints: Neck joints tend to deteriorate with age, and many adults — particularly the elderly — develop neck pain due to wear. The condition known as osteoarthritis can exacerbate this problem by wearing down the the cartilage between vertebrae, which causes bone spurs to form.
  • Compressed nerves: Neck pain may develop when nerves are unable to fully extend due to spinal problems, such as herniated disks or bone spurs.
  • Injuries: Any bodily injury can lead to neck pain, but the problem is especially common in automobile accident survivors who develop whiplash when their heads suddenly jerk back or forward.
  • Diseases: Diseases like cancer or spinal meningitis can lead to chronic neck pain.

Common Symptoms

Depending on the source and severity, neck pain may be accompanied by different symptoms. Common symptoms of chronic neck pain include:

  • Pain or strain that develops when the head is upright for prolonged periods of time; examples include working at a desk or driving
  • Muscle strain or spasms
  • Reduced range-of-motion around the head and neck
  • Persistent headaches

Most neck pains don’t require medical attention, but the Mayo Clinic encourages people to see a physician if the following symptoms occur:

  • Severe or persistent pain
  • Pain that migrates to the arms, legs, or other areas of the body
  • Pain that is concurrent with headaches, numbness, tingling, or body weakness

Why Pillow Choice Is Important for Neck Pain

A recent article from Harvard Medical School notes that two sleeping positions appear to be the best options for people with neck pain: side- and back-sleeping. People with neck pain who sleep in either (or both) of these positions are urged to take the following precautions:

  • For those who sleep on their back, a dual pillow system is recommended. A rounded pillow should support the neck, while a flatter pillow can provide cushioning for the head. This can be accomplished by tucking the smaller, rounded pillow into the pillowcase of the flatter pillow, or using a specialized pillow that has elevated neck support and an indentation to support the head.
  • For those who sleep on their side, spinal support is important since this position can cause the spine to become misaligned. A pillow that is elevated under the neck and lower beneath the head typically works best.
  • Feather pillows are a good option for people with neck pain because they conform closely to the shape of the neck and head. However, they tend to flatten out over time and may need to be replaced regularly — once a year, in some cases.
  • Memory foam pillows are also suitable for sleepers with neck pain for the same reason: they conform to the neck and head for a contouring feel.
  • People with neck pain should avoid using pillows that are too high and/or too stiff. They can cause neck muscles to become strained and lead to stiffness the next day.
  • Traveling by plane, bus, or other forms of public transportation can lead to neck pain because, in many cases, people are forced to sleep in a sitting position. Horseshoe-shaped travel pillows can help mitigate these aches and strains by supporting the neck and preventing the sleeper from falling forward in their seat.
  • Stomach-sleeping is linked to neck and back problems because it causes the back to arch. People who sleep on their stomach also turn their necks to the side, which can lead to muscle strain. Although it can be difficult to transition to a new sleep position, people with neck pain who sleep on their stomachs should try sleeping on their side or back instead.

Ultimately, pillow choice can have a significant impact on neck pain.

Choosing the Right Pillow for Neck Pain

To determine the best pillow to help alleviate your neck pain, key considerations include size, shape, loft, and material. The following sections will help you determine the design of your ideal pillow based on your unique lifestyle, needs, and preferences.

Size

Pillows come in six standard sizes, as well as a ‘travel’ size for sleeping on the go and a ‘small’ size normally reserved for orthopedic memory foam pillows with elevated neck support. The table below lists size names and standard width and length dimensions, as well as the corresponding pillowcase sizes. As a general rule, pillowcases should be one to two inches wider and two to four inches longer than the pillow.

Pillow Size Dimensions Pillow Case Size and Dimensions Notes
Travel Varies Specialty sizes Travel pillows may come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are often designed to be lightweight and small enough to pack into a carry-on bag. The most common type of travel pillow is the classic U-shape model.
Small 20W” x 12L” Specialty sizes This is the size for most cervical (curved) memory foam pillows, which are shorter than standard, flat pillows (see below)
Standard 20W” x 26L” Standard (20-21W” x 30-32″L) This is the most common pillow size, as well as the most compact
Super Standard 20W” x 28L” Standard (20-21W” x 30-32″L) This size is slightly longer than the Standard, but will fit into the same pillowcase sizes
Queen 20W” x 30L” Standard (20-21W” x 30-32″L)
Queen (20-22W” x 30-34L”)
This size is a good option for people who toss and turn, since there is extra length
King 20W” x 36L” King (20-21W” x 36-41″L) This size may be suitable for people who toss and turn, as well as those who sit up to read in bed
Euro Dimensions vary Euro (dimensions vary) The square shape makes them suitable as headrests or backrests
Body Pillow 54W” x 20L”
48W” x 20L”
Body pillow (dimensions vary) Suitable for side-sleepers who like to snuggle with a pillow while sleeping, as well as pregnant women

Shape

In addition to size, pillow shape is another important consideration. For sleepers with neck pain, the following two pillow shapes tend to be best:

  • Even surface: This is considered the standard shape for pillows, but people with neck pain may not receive enough support from even-surface designs. However, even-surface pillows filled with feathers or shredded memory foam contour to the sleepers head and neck for a more supportive, comfortable feel. Pillows with interlocking polyester fill also tend to retain a fuller shape despite their even surface. See next section for more information.
  • Curved surface: Also known as cervical or orthopedic pillows, curved pillows are usually made from memory foam. The area supporting the neck is elevated while the area for the head is recessed. However, some people report more support and comfort when the pillow is placed upside down.

The bottom line: sleepers with neck pain should choose a pillow shape that is most comfortable for them. However, they tend to experience the most pain relief from pillows that are either made from contouring materials or shaped to provide elevated neck support.

Loft

Next, let’s discuss pillow loft, or thickness. Although specific loft measurements vary from model to model, there are three general loft categories:

  • Low-loft: Pillows that measure less than three inches thick.
  • Medium-loft: Pillows that measure three to five inches thick.
  • High-loft: Pillows that measure more than five inches thick.

Loft is directly linked to how supportive and comfortable a pillow feels, as well as the likelihood of developing neck pain. There are several variables that people should consider when choosing the best pillow loft for them. These factors include sleep position, pillow position, and mattress type, as well as the sleeper’s body weight, head size, and shoulder width.

Pillow position

People who sleep with a pillow completely under their head tend to prefer low- to medium-loft pillows because there is not much space. Those who sleep with a pillow partially beneath their head may require a medium- or high-loft pillow.

Mattress type

Low-loft pillows will generally work for mattresses that sink deeply below the sleeper’s body, such as memory foam and latex models, because there is less space between the head/neck and the sleep surface. Sleepers who use less responsive mattresses, such as innersprings and hybrids, may prefer to use medium- or high-loft pillows to compensate for the extra space.

Sleeper weight

Those who weigh more than 230 pounds often sink deeply into their mattress regardless of the material composition. As a result, they may prefer the feel of a low- or medium-loft pillow. Lighter individuals (230 pounds or less) do not sink as deeply, and may need a medium- or high-loft pillow to fill the gaps.

Sleeper head size

As is to be expected, people with larger and heavier heads often feel more supported on high-loft pillows that compensate for sinkage, whereas people with smaller, lighter heads may find that low- or medium-loft pillows are sufficient.

Sleeper shoulder width

Wide shoulder spans increase the space between the sleeper’s head/neck and their pillow, and often require higher-loft pillows. People with narrower shoulders may find that low- or medium-loft pillows provide enough support.

For sleepers with neck pain, a pillow with adjustable loft may be the best option. These pillows allow owners to remove or add fill as needed to decrease or increase loft. These models can be particularly beneficial for people who experience intermittent neck pain or prefer to switch sleep positions on a regular basis. Some pillow types have adjustable loft by design. We’ll discuss different pillow materials in the next section.

Materials

Let’s look at common pillow material types and explore which ones are most and least suitable for sleepers with neck pain. The table below lists information for the seven most common pillow materials. To learn more about each type, click the link to our review pages in the far-left column.

Pillow Material Construction Pros Cons Neck Pain Rating
Buckwheat Pillows are filled with five to 10 lbs. of buckwheat hulls (or outer shells) Above-average support
Adjustable loft
Sleep cool
High price
Too firm for some
Noise potential
Heavy and difficult to move
Good
Buckwheat pillows provide good support for most, but excessive firmness may be an issue for some sleepers
Down Pillows are filled with the soft interior plumage of ducks or geese (found beneath outer feathers) Adjustable loft
Lightweight and soft
Sleep fairly cool
Long lifespan
Short break-in
High price
Lose shape easily
Frequent fluffing required
Allergy and odor potential
Fair
Down pillows may be too soft to provide enough support to those with neck pain, and most models are low-loft
Down Alternative Pillows are filled with polyester fibers that mimic the softness and weight of down Adjustable loft
Lightweight and soft
Low price
Short break-in
No allergy risk
Short lifespan
Lose shape easily
Frequent fluffing required
Poor
Because they deteriorate quickly and lose shape easily, down alternative pillows can worsen neck pain symptoms
Feather Pillows are filled with outer feathers of ducks or geese Close conforming
Adjustable loft
Lightweight and soft
Long lifespan
High cost
Quills may poke through cover
Frequent fluffing required
Odor potential
Very Good
Feather pillows conform closely to the sleeper’s head and neck, and most have adjustable loft
Latex Pillows are filled with solid latex, a natural substance extracted from the sap of rubber trees Close conforming
Good support
Long lifespan
No fluffing required
Sleep cool
No noise
Non-adjustable loft
High cost
Too dense and heavy for some
Odor potential
Good
Latex pillows can alleviate pain and pressure in the neck but the loft cannot be adjusted, which may be limiting for some
Memory Foam Pillows are filled with shredded or solid pieces of viscoelastic polyfoam, a substance that becomes softer when it comes into contact with body heat Close conforming
Adjustable loft if shredded
No noise
High cost
Odor potential
Very Good
Memory foam pillows conform closely and alleviate neck pain more effectively than most pillow types, and cervical pillows are usually made from this material
Polyester Materials are filled with shredded or interlocking fibers of polyester, a synthetic fabric designed to mimic the softness of cotton Low cost
No allergy risk
No odor potential
Short lifespan
Lose shape/flatten easily
Noise potential
Fair
Interlocking fiber pillows are better for people with neck pain because they do not flatten as easily, but shredded polyester pillows can exacerbate neck pain symptoms
Polyfoam A synthetic foam created by combining water with polyurethane plastics Lightweight
Durable
Usually inexpensive
Highly resilient
Bouncy/Springy
Limited breathability
Can be low-quality and quick to degrade
Poor to Fair
High-quality polyfoam can provide a decent amount of neck support, but lower-quality pillows will not maintain their support and will break down quickly

Feather and memory foam pillows tend to be the best options for sleepers with neck pain. Latex and buckwheat pillows may also be suitable, though high price-points and mixed sleeper experiences have earned these pillows slightly lower ratings. We do not recommend that people with neck plain use a down, down alternative, or polyester pillow.

Additionally, pillows with interior water chambers have become a popular pillow choice for people with neck pain. The water chambers can be filled or drained to achieve different lofts, and their malleable surface helps the pillow conform more closely. Most pillows with water chambers also feature padding made from polyester or foam to provide extra cushioning.

Cost

Pillow cost is often most heavily influenced by material type, in addition to durability, size, and brand reputation. When seeking a pillow to alleviate neck pain, it often pays to invest more in a quality pillow from a reputable brand.

MATERIAL BUCKWHEAT DOWN DOWN ALT. FEATHER LATEX MEMORY FOAM POLYFOAM POLYESTER
Average Price-point $50 to $75 $70 to $100 $20 to $30 $25 to $50 $40 to $60 $50 to $60 $40 to $100 $10 to $15

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