It won’t be an overstatement if I say that most of us sometimes wake up with a pain in the neck that often results in headaches and pains in the back and arms. Poor sleeping can even lead to carcinogenic headaches (headaches that originate from the neck). It can last the whole day, and it is not a pleasant feeling at all. According to statistics, 13% of Americans suffer from neck pain at some point in their lives.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Are the Causes of Neck Pain?
- 2 The Best Sleeping Positions
- 3 Top Pillow For Neck Pain – Price Comparison
- 4 Various Neck Pain Pillow Types
- 5 Stages of Care for Neck Problems
- 6 Choosing the Right Neck Pillow
What Are the Causes of Neck Pain?
Neck pain comes from the muscles and ligaments in and around the cervical spine. It is usually caused by problems such as disc degeneration, arthritis, spinal stenosis, and is a result of a trauma. But what if you didn’t have any trauma, but you still have neck pains occasionally when you wake up? Sometimes people think that the reason for neck pain is a bad mattress or wrong sleeping position. However, the main reason for neck pain is the wrong kind of pillow. Having the correct pillow to sleep on is not a luxury but a necessity if you want to avoid neck pains, and feel rested after the night’s sleep.
The neck is made up of tendons, muscles, cartilage and seven bones that are part of the spine. These tiny bones are responsible for protecting the central nervous system, which is one of the most important parts of our body. They also support our head and allow free movement of a neck and a head. The neck is a very sensitive part of the body because the spine can be compressed and pinched during the night. To avoid stiffness in the morning as well as prevent any kind of injuries, you need to have the right support for your neck muscles, which will be provided by a suitable support pillow. While some causes of neck pain are not under your control, there are some things that you can do to minimize strain on your neck. Sleeping position is one of the most critical factors that will make it or break it when it comes to avoiding neck pain.
The Best Sleeping Positions
The two best sleeping positions that help to avoid neck pain are on your back and your side. Different types of pillows should be chosen for these sleeping positions. If you sleep on your back, you need a pillow that has a special curve that supports your neck. There are pillows of a particular form that do that, or alternatively, you can put a small roll into a pillowcase to achieve the same result. Sleeping on your stomach is not helpful for the spine because your neck is turned to the side and your back is arched. If you have a bad habit of sleeping on your stomach, it is better to start teaching yourself to sleep in the correct positions to avoid pains in the future.
Some Tips for Correct Sleeping Positions
- Use a pillow that is filled with memory foam and conforms to the shape of your neck and head. Such pillows help foster correct spinal alignment. If your pillow is too high, it not only causes neck pains but can obstruct breathing.
- Using a feather pillow is also a good option because it conforms to the shape of your neck. However, remember to replace such a pillow once a year because it tends to collapse with time.
- If you are a side sleeper buy a pillow that is higher under your neck than your head. This will help keep your spine straight. Your pillow should not be high – about 4-6 inches thick. When buying a pillow, you need to take into consideration the width of your shoulders and your height.
- Do not use a pillow that is very flat or too high because this will keep your neck flexed.
- Use a horseshoe-shaped pillow when you are on a plane, car or train for a long time. This will help support your neck and will provide a comfortable position even if you need to sleep sitting up.
- Neck problems can be caused not only by uncomfortable sleeping positions but by any kind of sleep problems: waking up early or during the night, difficulties falling asleep or troubles with staying asleep. Disrupted sleep contributes to neck pains. To avoid sleep problems, make sure that you have a pillow that is suitable for any position you sleep in because most people change positions during the night.
- Sleeping in your back is the best to avoid neck pains. Some people also put a pillow under each arm to take a strain off the neck. Thin pillows usually work best for back sleepers.
- As it was mentioned earlier, stomach sleeping position is not the best option. However, if you are a stomach sleeper, you need to use a very thin pillow or don’t use a pillow at all.
- It is essential to stretch your neck before going to bed because this will loosen your muscles and will help relieve any pain.
Points to Take into Consideration When You Choose the Pillow for Neck and Back Pain
If you regularly wake up with back or neck pains, or both, it is high time to do something about it. And the most efficient solution would be purchasing the correct pillow for neck pain. There are several factors you need to take into consideration when choosing good pillows for neck pain. We will discuss them in our guide
- Your typical sleeping position – Granted, most people don’t sleep in one position throughout the night, and they change positions, but usually, there is one position that you feel most comfortable in during the night. Generally, people who sleep on their side need a bigger pillow than those who sleep on their back. Stomach sleepers might want to try to sleep without a pillow altogether. Many people find it hard, however. In this case, try using a special stomach sleeper pillow. It provides better cervical position while sleeping and reduces the damage that can be caused to your neck in this sleeping position. The simple rule is that you need to avoid big pillows no matter what position you sleep in because with a big pillow your neck will be uncomfortable, which will result in pains.
- The filling of a pillow – Support is very important during sleep so to get rid of a neck pain choose a pillow that is filled with memory foam or a water-filled pillow. Such pillows do not flatten out, conform to your head shape and provide support throughout the whole night. The pillows that fulfill this function are orthopedic and cervical. Foam filled, and water-based pillows redistribute your body weight when you move and absorb the shock to your spine.
- What neck condition you have – Though there is no one recipe for all, and what fits one person might not suit your needs, and you need to choose a pillow that will be comfortable for you personally, there are some general points to consider. If your neck pain is caused by inflammation or injury, it is better to use a softer pillow. If you get periodical neck pains caused by improper sleeping position, it is better to use a firmer pillow.
- Care and ease of cleaning – It is not something that should be the first consideration when you purchase a pillow, but the ability to clean your pillow fast and easy will make a difference. Most pillows for neck pain are meant to serve you for many years. Thus, it is essential that they are kept clean and pleasant for sleeping. The best neck pillow would be the one that has a removable cover that you can simply wash in a washing machine and an inner core that is easy to clean.
- The type of mattress that you use – You will choose different pillows depending on the surface that you sleep on. If your mattress is soft, it means you will set into the mattress more, and thus the difference between your body and your head height will be bigger. In this case, you need to choose a flatter pillow. Similarly, if you have a firmer mattress and will not sink in so much then higher pillow is ok. There are pillows with adjustable height, which will be even better for different types of mattresses.
Top Pillow For Neck Pain – Price Comparison
Various Neck Pain Pillow Types
The finest pillows for neck pain relief are those that are filled with memory foam or fiber, or that are water-based. Such pillows are comfortable, but at the same time, they provide the needed support. They are usually easy to clean, and they don’t flatten out over time. Water pillows are heavy, but they stay in position, which is a significant advantage. There are also inflatable pillows. They are light and are very good for traveling. Besides, you can control the firmness of a pillow by how much air you let in. Both water and air pillows are versatile, and they automatically react to you changing your position while sleeping. Using pillows filled with feathers and down is not advisable because of the lack of support. However, there are pillows that have combined filling: feathers and memory foam. Such a pillow provides comfort and offers proper neck support.
Shapes and Height
There are traditional rectangular pillows with different fillers that provide proper head and neck support. Another type of pillow for neck pain is a roll-shaped pillow. This type of pillow is a good option for traveling or for short-term use. However, roll-shaped pillows are not suitable for long every day sleep, because they only support the neck, but not the head, shoulders or upper back.
If you change positions during the night, the good option is a multiple height surface pillow. The way it works is that it has soft angles transitions which make it easier to change positions. When you sleep on your back, you need a different height from when you sleep on your side, and multiple height pillows consider this factor.
Foam filled pillows sometimes built up the heat if the temperature in the room is high. There are foam pillows with cooler technology that controls heat built-up. Buckwheat pillows are also a good option if you need to keep the pillow cool, especially in warm environments.
Supportive and displacement neck
Basically, all the types of neck pillows can be divided into two categories: supportive (or corrective) pillows and displacement pillows. Supportive pillows are used in the period of healing after acute pains. Such pillows provide the support for the neck to encourage returning to a normal curve of the cervical spine. Displacement pillows accommodate head and neck and conform to the right shape. Displacement pillows help stabilize a neck injury in the first couple of weeks of the inflammation.
It is impossible to try every pillow on the market to see which one works best for you. With some pillows, you will know already after the first night whether it fits you or not. Sometimes you will need about a week so your body will get adjusted to the new pillow and you won’t feel discomfort. Generally, some light discomfort at the beginning of using a new pillow is ok, but there should not be any significant increase in pain.
If you ask “What is the best pillow for neck pain?” there is no single answer to this question. Some people prefer soft pillows, and for some firmer pillows work better. Generally, soft pillows are for more advanced chronic conditions. Firmer pillows are not as comfortable, but they help with neck curve problems and posture. Sometimes you will need to change from a softer to a firmer pillow and vice versa as your condition changes.
Stages of Care for Neck Problems
When you suffer from neck pain, there are three stages that help take care of it and, ideally, fix the problem. The choice of the best type of pillow for neck pain depends on the stage you are in.
- Accommodation – In the accommodation stage, the pillow needs to help stabilize the existing problem with your neck. If you suffer from chronic neck pains or an injury, first of all, you need to feel comfortable. During this stage, you need a pillow that conforms to the condition and doesn’t make it worse. Memory foam pillows are ideal for this stage because they help stabilize the neck.
- Correction – In the correction stage, the causes of the disorder are treated. During this stage, you need to eliminate the symptoms and restore to perfect neck health. This is when supportive and orthopedic pillows are of the biggest asset as they help re-establish proper neck and spine alignment. These corrective pillows will help avoid neck muscle and joint strains, headaches, arthritis, and other disorders.
- Maintenance – During the maintenance stage, you need to ensure that your neck stays in proper natural position at night. The ideal neck pillow for this stage should provide comfort and support. Many people who suffer from neck problems and go through these stages find that a firmer pillow is better once the natural curvature of the neck is restored.
Choosing the Right Neck Pillow
There are many factors that influence your choice of a neck pillow and many recommendations about how to make such a choice. If you feel overwhelmed, first of all, figure out what kind of pain you have, what stage of treatment you are in, and what sleeping positions you prefer. When you answer these three questions it will be easier for you to choose among the wide variety of neck pillows that are present at the market today. You will be able to understand what type of filling to choose and what shape of pillow you need. Here is an overview of the best pillows in the market for various neck conditions.
Side Sleepers with Neck and Shoulder Pain
People who sleep on their side need extra support for their neck. When sleeping on the side, there is a bigger distance between your head and the mattress. This distance has to be filled, so the spine is straight to avoid pains from an uncomfortable sleeping position in the morning. Here is a review of the best pillows for side sleepers.
#1 ComfyComfy Buckwheat Hull[amazon_link asins=’B07DD2BZTK’ template=’BIG-NEWProductAd’ store=’pregilycom-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’9c58f209-9e35-11e8-b7e8-b5bb0f06e8c1′]
The cover of the pillow is made of organic cotton, and inside there are buckwheat shells that prevent heat from building up. The buckwheat shells are cleaned without chemicals and are completely safe. This type of filling doesn’t retain moisture and allows airflow through the pillow. There are an invisible zipper and thanks to it you can add or remove the shells to make the pillow comfortable for your personal needs. The pillow comes with some extra buckwheat hulls so that you can customize it to your needs. Another great thing is that this pillow comes in four sizes, which is very convenient. When you travel, you can take a smaller version of your favorite pillow. When sleeping on your side, your spine is kept straight. If you keep a regular pillow between your knees, it will elevate your hips and reduce pressure on your spine. In order to wash the pillow, empty it from all the hulls and then wash in a washing machine.
#2 The Water Pillow by Mediflow Original Waterbase Pillow[amazon_link asins=’B003J372NS’ template=’BIG-NEWProductAd’ store=’pregilycom-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ae5d85ac-9e35-11e8-9b02-4708578f0476′]
A water-based pillow is one of the most comfortable pillows that help avoid neck pain. At the same time, it is very supportive. You can add water to adjust the pillow to your needs and make it firm, medium or soft. In this way, your head will be in a perfect position when you sleep on your side. The cover is made of polyester. The pillow automatically responds to every movement of your head and provides ideal support. It is scientifically proven that water improves sleep. The pillow is clinically tested, and it is effective when it comes to the quality of sleep and reducing neck pain. This pillow has two layers: the top layer is very soft, filled with memory foam, down or fiber, and the bottom layer is water. This combination offers perfect support and comfort. Even when you change positions at night water supports your neck.
#3 Beyond Down Gel Fiber Side Sleeper[amazon_link asins=’B000JCIGE6′ template=’BIG-NEWProductAd’ store=’pregilycom-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’bce59e17-9e35-11e8-af15-7d8ba7cf966a’]
This is a big and soft pillow for side sleepers. Its cover is made of 100% cotton, and it is filled with denier gel, which provides constant support no matter how much you toss and turn. Gel filling is small beads that resemble water, and it is more comfortable than bean, shell or other fillings. The pillow is easy to care for because you can wash it in the washing machine. Thanks to gusset ribs along the edges the pillow are kept in position.
#4 Iso-Cool Memory Foam[amazon_link asins=’B000ZK4QH8′ template=’BIG-NEWProductAd’ store=’pregilycom-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’c9b1d42a-9e35-11e8-935e-37e30f018d79′]
The pillow cover is made of 100% cotton that also includes microscopic PCM (Phase Changing Material) beads. These beads absorb heat when you need to feel cool or release heat when you need to feel warm. Basically, they adjust to body temperature.
You can remove and wash the cover in the washing machine. The pillow is filled with visco-elastic memory foam or spiral-spun polyester.
Thanks to gusseted side stitching the pillow don’t twist or bend, and will support you throughout the whole night. The pillow is rather big and heavy, but because of this, it provides the ideal support for side sleepers.
#5 Shredded Hypoallergenic Certipur Memory Foam[amazon_link asins=’B00EINBSJ2′ template=’BIG-NEWProductAd’ store=’pregilycom-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’eaf7e5ab-9e35-11e8-a4a2-a94c89abae84′]
This pillow from Coop Home Goods is probably the best on the market for side sleepers. The pillow is filled with shredded elastic memory foam, which you can remove or add to achieve the perfect comfort and needed support. Such filling also allows for good ventilation. The shredded foam allows you to bend and shape the pillow to adjust it to your needs. This pillow is ideal for people prone to allergies because it is dust mite resistant and hypoallergenic. The cover is made of 40% rayon derived from bamboo and 60% polyester. This material is designed to keep you cool, and it doesn’t absorb moisture. The manufacturer gives five years guarantee that the pillow will not go flat. The pillow is manufactured in three sizes: standard, queen and king size.
Stomach sleepers are used to hearing that it’s better to sleep in their backs. However, it is not simple to change the sleeping habits that you’ve had for years. One of the solutions that will help you avoid neck and back pains after sleeping is purchasing a good pillow for stomach sleepers. Of course, a perfect pillow would be rather thin, so the difference in height between your body and your head wouldn’t be too much. As far as materials, it is better to get a pillow filled with memory foam because it allows your head to sink in, but is quite firm at the same time. Here is a review of the pillows for stomach sleepers.
#1 Pancake Pillow the Adjustable Layer[amazon_link asins=’B00OM0YH6W’ template=’BIG-NEWProductAd’ store=’pregilycom-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’f5ec00ee-9e35-11e8-96db-2310e650cd1b’]
This is a great pillow that can be adjusted to various heights and it will be ideal for stomach sleepers. The outer case is made of 100% 300 thread count cotton, and inside there are six layers of pillows. The pillowcase is zippered on three sides, which makes it very convenient to open and change the number of layers. You may use as many layers as needed to feel comfortable during the night and avoid neck pain caused by the wrong pillow height. You can choose as many layers as you want and if you change your mind – just add or remove layers. Each layer of the pillow is filled with hypoallergenic microfiber fill. The manufacturer also sells additional pillowcases where you can keep the layers that you don’t use at the moment. As far as the size, both king-sized and queen-sized pillows are available. Though this pillow is not the cheapest, it is well worth the money that you will pay for it, because it is completely adjustable to your individual sleeping needs.
#2 Face Down Stomach Sleeper Foam Wedge[amazon_link asins=’B01J2Y5UFO’ template=’BIG-NEWProductAd’ store=’pregilycom-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’1138fcb2-9e36-11e8-b5bb-7d369018d7f7′]
This wedge-shaped pillow is ideal for those who like sleeping on their stomachs. Thanks to its shape you can sleep on your face without putting your face on the pillow. You can breathe freely while sleeping face down. Thanks to this pillow your spine are kept in a neutral position, and you will avoid having neck pains in the morning. The pillow cover is machine washable.
#3 Luxury I AM Low-Density Stomach Sleeper[amazon_link asins=’B0751MJWF5′ template=’BIG-NEWProductAd’ store=’pregilycom-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’259b2ff0-9e36-11e8-a755-33c68e1fc058′]
This pillow is designed for stomach sleepers and provides ideal support for neck and head. This pillow is somewhat soft, but it is enough to provide perfect support without propping your head up. The cover is made of 100% cotton, which is a very comfortable soft material. The pillow is filled with Never Flat fiberfill. After you wash the pillow in the washing machine, it regains its original shape. The pillow comes in two sizes – king size and standard size.
#4 Extra Soft Down Filled Pillow for Stomach Sleepers[amazon_link asins=’B00KCQU1Q0′ template=’BIG-NEWProductAd’ store=’pregilycom-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’33ec802c-9e36-11e8-88ed-e3d2f2ba38a9′]
This extra soft pillow was manufactured with stomach sleepers in mind. Usually, down pillows keep body heat, but not this one. This pillow is designed to keep your head cool and comfortable: 100% cotton cover encourages ventilation. It is a perfect combination of durability and softness. Your head is elevated just a little bit, so when you wake up in the morning, there are no back or neck pains because of the wrong sleeping position. The filling of the pillow is 20% feather and 80% down fill. This is a perfect blend that is soft and at the same time supportive and breathable. If you are predisposed to allergies, you can rest assured that all the down filling is cleaned and sanitized, and it is hypoallergenic. It is easy to care for this pillow since it is machine washable. It is also advisable to put in in a dryer once a month to give it a good fluffing.
#5 Hypoallergenic Microfiber Large[amazon_link asins=’B01JMKRWUY’ template=’BIG-NEWProductAd’ store=’pregilycom-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’43513ce0-9e36-11e8-88f4-c51ba2a0ed5c’]
This is a beautiful pillow from SLEEPHI & ClimaBalance that is ideal for stomach sleepers. The pillow has a hole in the middle that helps keep the spine and neck straight. This is the best cervical pillow for neck pain. The pillow is deflated in the middle and puffy on the sides. In this way, your spine is aligned with your neck. The pillow is filled with multiple shredded microfiber strings that adapt to your head and adjust to your every movement very fast. Besides, this filling is entirely hypoallergenic. The cover material is soft and cozy. There is a choice of both standard and king-sized pillow.
Neck Pain and Headaches
Starting your day with pains in your neck, and what is even worse, headaches is not a good feeling. You will not only have a miserable morning, but your whole day may be spoiled by ongoing headaches. Thankfully, in most cases, it is quite easy to solve this problem. The right kind of pillow will not only provide you with a good night rest but will also help you avoid pains in the morning and throughout the day. This is a list of the best pillows that help avoid neck pain and headache.
#1 Arc4life Cervical Linear Traction Neck[amazon_link asins=’B0002RO3JU’ template=’BIG-NEWProductAd’ store=’pregilycom-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ae10d079-9e36-11e8-a9b9-01ba6e55b2c5′]
You will get the most of your sleep with this cervical linear traction neck pillow. It helps restore natural neck C-curve, will relieve neck and back pains and will even improve your posture. The unique V shape of the pillow is recommended by chiropractors because it cradles your head and lifts it away from your shoulders. There is a neck roll that gives excellent support to your neck. This pillow is ideal both for side and back sleepers. When you sleep on your side, your head is the right height from the mattress, and this helps relax muscles and release pressure. If you only want to use the neck roll support you can flip the pillow from top to bottom. You will finally have the deep sound sleep that you needed. Besides, using this pillow with help you breathe easier and will even reduce snoring. The filling of the pillow is polyester fiber, which is non-allergic and provides a good balance between softness and firmness.
#2 Sleep Innovations Cool Memory Foam Contour Pillow with Microfiber Cover[amazon_link asins=’B0029LHHP4′ template=’BIG-NEWProductAd’ store=’pregilycom-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’c788e49b-9e36-11e8-b2ff-b51f3f2698fb’]
This wonderful neck pillow with therapeutic qualities will help you sleep well and wake up refreshed and ready for a new day. Forget about neck pains and headaches! The pillow is filled with memory foam that provides air flow. The shape of the pillow has a cradling effect. The layer of open cell memory foam adapts to your body shape. Your neck and head will be perfectly supported, and your spine will be properly aligned. Your whole body will be in its natural position throughout the night. This memory foam contour pillow will be the needed relief for those who used to suffer from neck pain in the morning. Although this pillow might feel too firm for some people, the feeling of freshness and rejuvenation you will feel in the morning is worth it.
#3 Tri-Core Pillow Full Size – Firm Support[amazon_link asins=’B000ET9TXQ’ template=’BIG-NEWProductAd’ store=’pregilycom-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’d792ba77-9e36-11e8-a714-132c0ef334fe’]
The pillow is designed to support the neck in all sleeping positions. Back sleepers can comfortably rest their heads in the center depression, while their neck is supported by the outer rim. Thus, the spine is correctly aligned. Stomach and side sleepers will love the thick padding along the edges. The sides of the pillow are of different sizes, and there is a good reason for that. This Tri-Core pillow will fit everyone because each person would be able to adjust it to his individual needs thanks to the different height of the edges. The trapezoid-shaped centre carries excellent orthopaedic benefits for those who sleep on their back because the head will be cradled and the neck will be supported by the neck roll. The manufacturer also offers pillows of two firmness levels – gentle and standard. No matter which one of these two options you choose you will enjoy ideal support. There are also three sizes to choose from, so it will match any member of the family. The cover is made of blended soft cotton, which is also breathable. Tri-Core pillows promote healing of injuries thanks to the cervical curve being supported in its natural position.
#4 Sobakawa Buckwheat[amazon_link asins=’B01BHY1SQM’ template=’BIG-NEWProductAd’ store=’pregilycom-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’e5c007cc-9e36-11e8-8e2c-6d8cfbe158ba’]
Sobakawa Pillow is filled with buckwheat hulls that are believed to have therapeutic benefits. This type of pillow has been popular in the East for years and is still greatly appreciated in Japan. Among the pillow’s biggest benefits is keeping a cool head, which is considered one of the prerequisites of good health. The cover of the pillow is made of 100% cotton, which allows maximum airflow. Buckwheat hulls are a perfect filling that provides support for your neck, cradles your head and help you avoid neck pains and headaches in the morning. The hulls filling adapts to your position as you move around during the night. Be mindful that it is impossible to machine wash it, so you need to change pillowcases to keep it clean.
#5 Chiroflow Premium Water[amazon_link asins=’B00AHDIHSC’ template=’BIG-NEWProductAd’ store=’pregilycom-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’f79c2ce3-9e36-11e8-8d1f-417e2e373a2f’]
This is truly a luxurious pillow with a firm support base that will provide you with the desired level of comfort. You can sleep in any position, and your head and neck will be supported because the water core moves and adapts to you. The inner core is filled with regular tap water. The inner pad is made of Dacron StaLoft Hollfil fabric, which is very durable. The slipcover is of the highest quality and provides the needed insulation to avoid body heat buildup. You can machine wash the whole pillow, so it is very easy to take care of it. Sleeping on this premium water pillow reduces neck pain and improves the quality of sleep altogether.