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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
According to the Mayo Clinic, neck pain usually occurs due to one or more of the following five causes:
Depending on the source and severity, neck pain may be accompanied by different symptoms. Common symptoms of chronic neck pain include:
Most neck pains don’t require medical attention, but the Mayo Clinic encourages people to see a physician if the following symptoms occur:
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:
Ultimately, pillow choice can have a significant impact on 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.
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|
In addition to size, pillow shape is another important consideration. For sleepers with neck pain, the following two pillow shapes tend to be best:
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.
Next, let’s discuss pillow loft, or thickness. Although specific loft measurements vary from model to model, there are three general loft categories:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Buckwheat||$50 to $75|
|Down||$70 to $100|
|Down Alt.||$20 to $30|
|Feather||$25 to $50|
|Latex||$40 to $60|
|Memory Foam||$50 to $60|
|Polyester||$10 to $15|
|Polyfoam||$40 to $100|