Marcus is an orthopedic spine surgeon who knows for sure how to ease ache in your back, neck, and shoulders, and prevent meeting him in person.
Last updated: March 24, 2021
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Waking up with a sore neck can make it difficult to get through your day. Though your mattress and sleeping position can add to neck pain, the pillow you are using is actually the biggest contributor to this issue. There are a variety of bones, cartilage, muscles, and tendons in your neck that support the head and help protect your central nervous system. If this area isn’t supported properly when you sleep, it can affect the nerves, creating pain. To combat this issue, you need the best pillow for neck pain you can get your hands on.
Of course, you can’t just get any pillow and hope for the best. There are a few features you need to look for to ensure your neck pain will be eased. The shape is one thing to look at, as different shapes work for different sleepers. The same refers to the firmness of the pillow. So, you also need to consider how you sleep, such as on your back, side, or front. The material inside affects density, heat retention, and even allergic reactions. Lastly, check the cover material to ensure it is comfortable to sleep on.
To choose the best pillow for neck pain, we scoured manufacturer’s websites, read product information, and even checked out countless customer reviews. Then we chose the top products available, created a comparison table, added an in-depth review for each one, and also created a buying guide to help you decide which one is the right pillow for you.
Though this looks like a normal pillow, it has some great features that make it the best pillow for neck pain and headaches there is. The shape of the pillow also makes it the ideal choice for any sleeping position, which is especially beneficial for those who shift while they sleep. Back, side, and stomach sleepers can all benefit from this comfortable pillow.
The filling consists of shredded visco elastic memory foam, which cradles your head and neck while you sleep to keep everything properly aligned. This fill is also customizable, so you can add or remove as much as you need to give it the right firmness. This foam is CertiPUR-US certified, so you know it is safe to sleep on.
There is an inner case made of interlock fabric, which has a tight knit to increase durability, plus it is smooth for increased comfort. Over this layer is a dual-sided Tencel/Bamboo cover. This cover is removable and washable for easy cleaning. It is even hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites to keep your airways as clear as possible while you sleep. It has a quilted pattern that is soft on your skin, plus looks attractive on your bed.
Another benefit of the foam and its layers is the Cool Tech construction, which increases ventilation. This helps to regulate the temperature, so you don’t overheat while you sleep.
Every person is different, which means not everyone’s pillow can be the same height. UTTU has taken this into account, creating a pillow that gives you four different heights to choose from.
There are three layers inside the pillow. When all three are inside, there are high and low contours on the sides that are 4.7 and 3.9 inches respectively. When the middle layer is removed, both of these sides are lowered to 3.5 and 2.8 inches. This allows you to adjust the pillow to fit your body type.
The layers are all made of UTTU Dynamic Foam, which is not just adjustable, it also conforms to your natural curves. This helps support your head and neck while aligning your spine. This feature makes it the best pillow for neck and back pain since your muscles can all relax while you sleep. Another benefit of this type of foam is that it isn’t altered by temperature. It maintains its firmness and comfort, even in cold weather.
On the outside is a cover made of polyester and bamboo. This fabric is hypoallergenic and dust mite resistant. It is also breathable to circulate the air in the pillow, which helps keep you cool all night long. You can remove this cover and toss it in the washing machine whenever needed.
A high-quality neck pillow can give you the support you need, reducing pain in multiple areas. This one from Ka Ua is made using excellent materials, plus is versatile enough to use under your neck, knees, and back to keep you comfortable while you sleep.
This round pillow uses one large piece of memory foam that molds to the shape of your neck when you lay on it. This solid piece also won’t shift as you sleep, so you will have the same support throughout the night. It is also long enough to allow you to go from your back to your side without rolling off. If you find the pillow too low, you can place a traditional one underneath it to give you the height you need for a more comfortable position.
The cover is made of plush bamboo material, which is soft against your skin. It is hypoallergenic as well, so it shouldn’t affect those with sensitivities. You can remove this cover and clean it in your washing machine as needed, keeping your pillow as fresh as possible. The zipper on the side is low-profile, so it won’t scrape you while you sleep, plus it’s durable enough to last through multiple washings.
The compact size of this pillow not only makes it the best pillow for neck and shoulder pain, it also allows avid travelers to take it along with them wherever they go.
If you are looking for a cervical pillow to help with your back and shoulder pain, this one from Nature’s Guest may be the best choice for you. It gives you the right cervical support, keeping your head, neck, and spine aligned to relieve the pain and prevent it from returning. It even works for those who shift from their back to their side repeatedly during the night.
To help these rotating sleepers, there are thick sides to this pillow, which keep your head and neck straight while you sleep. When you roll on your back, your head rests in the middle area, while your neck is supported by the built-in neck roll cushion. There are even large and small neck support areas to choose from, depending on your size and the length of your neck.
All of these areas inside the pillow have customizable fill, which allows you to add or remove the stuffing to get the right firmness. There are two zippers, one on each side, to help with the fill adjustments. This fill is made of microfiber materials that are not only comfortable to sleep on but also help keep you cool at the same time.
The cover is made of cotton fabric, which is soft against your skin, plus adds breathability to your pillow to reduce heat retention. This pillow is also hypoallergenic for a healthier sleep.
The Homitt Shredded Memory Foam Pillow may be the best pillow for neck pain if you’re a side or a back sleeper. It is thick and firm, yet comfortable, plus has an adjustable fill so you can add or remove it as needed to keep your head, neck, and spine aligned as you sleep.
There is an organic bamboo cover on the outside, which is removable and machine washable, so you don’t have to worry about sleeping on a dirty pillow. A quality zipper is located on the side, out of the way while you sleep. This cover is breathable for added comfort, hypoallergenic, and resistant to dust mites.
Beneath the cover is a high-end fabric inner case, also with a zippered side. This case holds the white, shredded elastic memory foam. This fill is not only adjustable, it is comfortable, but still firm enough to give you the support you need.
This pillow is vacuum-sealed for transportation, but after fifteen minutes of airing out, it plumps up to the proper size. You may need to plump it up again every now and then by hand or in the dryer. Otherwise, it will flatten over time, which may cause a recurrence in neck pain. There also may be some initial odor, but a day or two of airing out should clear this up.
The SNÜZ Pillow has a unique hourglass shape that helps align your neck and back for a more comfortable sleep and less pain when you wake. This design is higher at the sides to cradle your neck, with a lower middle to keep everything in line. It is even comfortable for those who sleep on their back, side, and even stomach, giving you the support you need in all positions.
Another benefit of the hourglass design is that it allows for dual chambers. There is a strip down the inside of the pillow which holds the polyester fiberfill on each side. This keeps the fiber from bunching up and creating low spots. Not only does this retain the shape of the pillow, it ensures the proper support every night. Of course, the fibers may compress over time, so you may have to fluff the pillow now and then.
The cover of this comfortable pillow is 100% cotton with a 300 thread count on the front and back. This material is soft and smooth, so you don’t even need a pillowcase. The sides of this cover are finely knit open-cell mesh, which allows air to flow through the pillow, keeping you cool while you sleep, even on those extra warm nights.
Those dealing with back pain can’t just use any pillow to help relieve it. A wedge pillow elevates, supports, and aligns your body at the same time. This one from FitPlus is designed with all this in mind, plus is comfortable enough to keep you relaxed all night long.
For this support and comfort, this premium wedge pillow uses polyurethane foam for the base. This thick layer keeps you in the optimal position for sleeping on your back. Above this base is 1.5 inches of memory foam, which molds to the contours of your body, cradling your head, neck, back, and shoulders.
On the outside of the pillow is a breathable cover, which is soft on your skin while increasing the ventilation of it for a cooler night’s sleep. You can remove this cover and throw it in the washing machine whenever needed, though the zipper is a bit delicate and needs to be handled carefully.
As well as reducing back and neck pain, the wedge shape of this pillow can help with other issues as well. Those who snore or have acid reflux, allergies, or other breathing issues may find some relief with the FitPlus wedge pillow.
Another benefit is that this pillow is versatile. You can use it to prop yourself up when reading or watching television or use it to elevate your feet and legs if needed.
The Coop Home Goods pillow is a decent model that uses quality materials that are designed for comfort and support. This pillow is filled with Premium Cross-Cut Memory Foam and Microfiber blend. This shredded material allows you to add or remove as much as needed to give you the right support, no matter what position you sleep in. It may need to be fluffed in the dryer at times, though, otherwise, your neck pain may return as it flattens out.
This foam is not only comfortable and adjustable, it is also safe for you and your family. It is CeriPUR-US certified, meaning it’s made without any harmful materials like heavy metals, TCEP flame retardants, formaldehyde, and phthalates. This certification also meets the standards for durability, so you know the foam will last for years.
Holding all this foam in is an interlock liner, which is soft to the touch. It has a zipper on one end for foam adjustment. There is also a removable cover made of polyester and rayon, which is soft and comfortable against your skin.
This pillow is hypoallergenic and resists dust mites. The entire pillow is machine washable and dryer safe, so you can clean it as needed. It also comes with a 100-night trial period so you can test it out before fully committing to it. If you do keep it, it also comes with a five-year warranty for your peace of mind.
Some people like having something to hug while they sleep, adding extra pillows to their bed for this reason. The Hugg-A-Pillow by Duro-Med gives you a great supportive pillow that is curved, cradling your head while giving you a piece to cuddle with at the same time.
This curved boomerang pillow is supportive, with fiberfill material inside that molds to the contours of your body. This allows you to sleep on your side or back with full support, reducing the pain other pillows can cause. Though this fill is a bit lumpy, it retains its shape as you sleep, staying firm instead of falling flat during the night.
There is a removable poly cotton cover on this pillow, but some people find it a bit rough to sleep on. It is machine washable, though, so can be cleaned as often as needed. You can also use a separate pillow case over this cover, though the dimensions of the pillow will likely need a king-size case for full coverage.
As well as adding some comfort and relieving your neck, shoulder, and back pain, this pillow is pretty versatile. You can use it to prop yourself up or place it under your legs and feet if they need to be elevated at any time.
What makes it stand out?
Maintains its shape
Removable, washable cover
Reduces neck, shoulder, and back pain
Great for pillow huggers
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?
Cover material is rough
A bit lumpy
Things to Consider
If you’re having neck pain, adding a comfortable and supportive pillow to your bed can help alleviate this issue. Of course, you can’t just use any old pillow for this. It needs to have the right firmness, thickness, and support, plus be made of materials that keep you comfortable and cool while you sleep. You also need the right one for your preferred sleeping position. Otherwise, it may not work as intended. To help you make your decision, check out our handy guide.
What causes neck pain?
Neck pain, also known as cervical pain, can come from a variety of issues. Some common neck problems come from conditions like herniated discs, pinched nerves, or injuries like whiplash. Common infections and viruses can lead to the swelling of your lymph nodes, which causes discomfort. Rare infections can also create pain in your neck, including tuberculosis, osteomyelitis, and meningitis.
Though the issues above can be quite dangerous, neck pain isn’t always caused by illnesses. If you sleep in an uncomfortable position, your neck can be strained. Using the wrong mattress or pillow can also create neck pain, especially if the pillow is forcing your neck into an unnatural angle.
Features to consider while choosing a pillow for neck pain
If you’re in the market for the best pillow for neck pain relief, there are a few features you should consider before you spend your hard-earned money. Since different pillows work for different people, knowing which type to buy will ensure you have the right one for you.
There are a few different pillow shapes to choose from if you are dealing with neck pain. The most common is the traditional pillow. You have likely seen many pillows of this type in your lifetime. They are rectangular-shaped and fit all mattress sizes. They can be soft, firm, or anywhere in between, fitting people of any size.
Wedge pillows are shaped exactly like they sound, with one low side and one high side. They give you an upright sleeping position, which helps with back and neck pain. This sleeping position can also reduce some breathing issues, such as snoring or sleep apnea.
Rolls or bolsters are rounded pillows that give you the right amount of support between your head and back, meaning the neck gets the necessary pressure relief. This also creates the perfect alignment, keeping everything straight. These are best for back sleepers, though can be used for side sleepers as well as long as the height is right.
The last pillow for neck pain is the curved or boomerang pillow, like the DMI Hugg-A-Pillow Hypoallergenic Bed Pillow. This type works for all sleepers, as it can be positioned how you need it to support you. It fits nicely under your neck while supporting your head at the same time. It also allows those who like to hug something when they sleep to cuddle with the sides of the pillow.
Memory foam is one of the most popular pillow fillings for neck pain because it adjusts to your body in every sleeping position. Many pillows use shredded memory foam, which moves easily for the right shape. Some pillows contain solid memory foam, like UTTU Sandwich Pillow, which isn’t as easily adjusted, but still offers similar body molding as you sleep.
Polyester fiberfill, or polyfill, is a synthetic material made of fine fibers that are durable enough to last through months of use, plus they maintain their shape. This material is quite affordable and naturally hypoallergenic, so it is a popular choice for manufacturers.
Some pillows use cotton fibers, usually blended with some other materials, such as wood pulp fibers. These are quite cost-effective, plus breathable to keep you cool at night. They are also soft, yet supportive to help reduce neck pain.
The position you sleep in will also help determine which pillow you should buy since different positions require different levels of support. For those who sleep on their back, the head is lower, lining up with the back. The neck will need more support, though, to keep it aligned with those two areas. If you’re a back sleeper, Bed Wedge, FitPlus Premium Wedge Pillow might be the ideal choice for you.
When you sleep on your side, your shoulders raise your head up, requiring a thicker pillow to keep everything straight and aligned. This also requires a bit more neck support to keep your head from tilting down and straining your neck. Nature’s Guest Cervical Support Pillow is explicitly designed for side and back sleepers.
For stomach sleepers, support isn’t needed as much. Instead, a thin pillow is best to ensure the head isn’t lifted and the back isn’t arched, which could result in some pain in the morning. If you enjoy sleeping on your stomach, consider getting the Coop Home Goods – PREMIUM Adjustable Loft as it can be adjusted to practically any thickness you might prefer.
The firmness of your pillow is also an essential factor, which will be determined not only by your preference but by your sleep position as well. If you’re a back sleeper, a medium firm pillow is best, giving you support while keeping you comfortable.
Side sleepers need a firm pillow since their heads are higher up and need the extra support. Their firm pillow should also be thick enough to keep their head aligned with their spine and their neck cradled between them.
If you like to sleep on your stomach, a soft pillow is best, to allow your head to sink in and stay almost flat on the bed.
Pillow covers need to be soft and comfortable, especially if you aren’t using a regular pillowcase with them. These can be made of a variety of materials, such as cotton, polyester, or even organic bamboo fibers. To increase their comfort, they should be breathable as well, to let the air flow through the pillow and keep you cool. Many of these covers are also machine-washable, which makes them easy to clean, but be sure it has a decent zipper that can handle a bit of rough use.
Like all the other products you buy, a pillow needs to have a good warranty. If the seams come loose, the zipper fails, or the thickness is wrong, you’ll want to have it replaced or repaired, with no extra cost. Some brands have only short warranties, such as the 30-day limited warranty you get with the Nature’s Guest Cervical Support Pillow. Other pillows, like the PureComfort Adjustable Loft Neck & Back Pain Relief Pillow, have a five-year limited warranty, which ensures any product defects will be taken care of.
When buying any pillow, whether for comfort or pain relief, there are a few extra features worth getting. One is adjustability, which allows you to alter the firmness of the pillow depending on your sleeping position and preferences. Some even send out extra bags of filling if needed, plus bags to store what you remove.
Another thing to look for is a removable cover, which allows you to wash it together with the rest of your bedding. If the whole pillow is washable, this is an added bonus.
Certification is also a must, to ensure your pillow is made using safe materials that contain no harmful chemicals, heavy metals, etc.
You should also check the pillow for any strong odors. Though many pillows have some odor initially, this should fade within a few days. If it lasts longer than that, an exchange may be in order.
Tips on how to ease your neck pain
As well as getting the right pillow for neck pain, there are a few other things you can do to ease it, including:
Gently stretch your neck muscles with slow range-of-motion exercises.
This depends on the pillow. If it is a cheap polyester pillow, changing it every six months or so is best. Memory foam pillows can last a bit longer, from 18 to 36 months before they need a replacement.
Many pillows on the market are machine-washable, but to be sure you’ll need to check the tag first. If it says it is safe to do so, you can wash it on the gentle cycle using a small amount of liquid detergent. You’ll also need to make sure it is dried thoroughly to avoid mold or mildew inside.
Sleeping on your stomach is the worst position for neck pain. This is because this position can arch your back, throwing off your alignment. It also forces your neck to the side, which can create tension and strain.
Though there are many different pillows available for those with neck pain, it may be hard to choose which one is right for you. All the products we reviewed have their benefits, but there are a few worth paying special attention to.
The PureComfort Adjustable Loft Neck & Back Pain Relief Pillow is our top choice since it works for all sleeping positions and has an adjustable fill for thickness and support. This pillow uses Cool Tech construction for ventilation, has a quilted bamboo cover, is Certi-PUR US certified, and comes with a five-year limited warranty.
The UTTU Sandwich Pillow also boasts a five-year limited warranty, plus uses solid memory foam with adjustable layers and has varying side heights for the proper neck support at all times.
If you like neck rolls, the Ka Ua (Hawaiian Rain) Neck Roll Pillow is versatile, with an extended length for easy positioning. The solid piece of memory foam molds to your body, and the plush bamboo cover is soft and breathable.