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Pillows play an essential role in allowing the body to rest and recover. By supporting the head, a pillow can keep the neck in line with the spine, helping relieve neck pain and allowing the muscles to relax.

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The best pillow for neck pain will vary according to a person’s sleep style, and the firmness and support of the pillow. Individuals may try out different options before making a purchase.

Many people experience neck pain that may result from everyday stressors, such as work, or stem from poor posture. Sitting for long hours in front of a computer or mobile device may also add additional neck strain.

A person’s sleep posture is important. One function of a pillow is to keep the neck in correct alignment with the rest of the spine to ensure the muscles relax properly and do not overextend.

Most people sleep on their sides, sometimes people prefer to sleep on their back, and others sleep on their stomachs.

In general:

  • side sleepers should aim for a thicker pillow to keep their neck aligned with the spine
  • back sleepers should start with a medium pillow that supports the neck and lets the head rest
  • stomach sleepers should have a very thin pillow to prevent extension in their neck

Each sleeper will benefit from a different kind of pillow to promote the correct neck posture while sleeping. This is essential, as incorrect neck posture can cause or worsen existing pain and prevent the neck from resting during the night.

Below, we look at some pros and cons of pillows for neck pain.

Pros

  • a 2016 study states that neck support pillows helped to reduce pain
  • a person can adjust some neck support pillows to suit their needs
  • individuals may have the option to specify their preferred thickness
  • many different options are available, such as material, filling, and size

Cons

  • usually not ideal for stomach sleepers
  • may have a higher cost than standard pillows
  • may not suit those wanting to travel with their pillow

There are many different types of pillows available. Some that may suit those with neck pain include:

  • Contoured pillow: These pillows keep the neck and back aligned at all times to help prevent muscle pain.
  • V-shaped pillow: These V-shaped pillows elevate the head and keep the spine straight. This may help alleviate neck and back pain.
  • Memory Foam Pillow: Memory foam molds to a person’s shape to provide support in the appropriate areas.
  • Latex pillows: Latex usually provides a good support to the body, including the head and neck. It it sometimes more expensive, but it is also durable.
  • Water pillow: Water can adapt to a person’s movements and provide support to the head and neck.
  • Buckwheat pillows: An environmentally-friendly option, a pillow that contains buckwheat is comfortable while providing the appropriate support.

A person may wish to establish a suitable pillow firmness. A medium-firmness may best suit those with neck pain.

Additionally, people may wish to consider the filling and fabric. People with neck pain may find that memory foam, latex, or buckwheat pillows suit them best.

Budget is another factor a person may wish to consider as specialized pillows may cost more than regular ones.

Some people may want to consider certifications such as CertiPUR-US. This certification guarantees that a product’s foam contains no or very low levels of toxic substances.

Sizes

The table below details standard U.S. pillow sizes. The pillows in this article may come in these standard options, but may also come in unconventional shapes and sizes.

StandardLength: 26 inches (in)
Width:
20 in
Super StandardLength: 28 in
Width:
20 in
QueenLength: 30 in
Width: 20 in
KingLength: 36 in
Width: 20 in

Medical News Today chooses mattresses, sheets, pillows, and other bedding that meet the following criteria:

  • Certifications: Where possible, MNT will choose products that have CertiPUR-US or other certifications. This means the products are low in pollutants and free from heavy metals and volatile organic compounds.
  • Size: MNT chooses products that are available in various sizes.
  • Materials and fill: MNT selects products made from different materials and fills, such as memory foam and latex, to suit a range of sleep and lifestyles.
  • Budget: MNT features products that are available in a wide range of budgets.
  • Sleep trials: Where possible, MNT chooses companies that offer a sleep trial.
  • Shipping: MNT will include shipping information, such as where the company delivers to and whether shipping is free.
  • Warranties and return policies: MNT will include products that carry warranties and clear returns policies.

Learn more about MNT’s product selection and vetting process here.

Here are some pillows that a person may consider for neck pain.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Epabo Memory Orthopedic Pillow

Best contoured design

The Epabo Memory Orthopedic Pillow features an ergonomic contour that may suit back and side sleepers. The contoured design cradles the head, helping to keep the spine aligned and at rest.

This breathable memory foam pillow may be cooler than some other memory foam options. Importantly, a person can also adjust the pillow to suit them. It features a removable piece of foam at the back, which can help lower the resting position of the head for people who find the pillow too high.

However, people with severe neck pain may find that the pillow is too stiff to relax properly.

The following table shows the available sizes and costs of the Epabo Memory Orthopedic Pillow:

SizeMeasurementsPrice
StandardLength: 21 in
Width: 13 in
Height: 3.9 in
around $40
QueenLength: 24 in
Width: 15 in
Height: 4.6 in
around $42
Queen (extra depth)Length: 24 in
Width: 15 in
Height: 4.8 in
around $43

Tri-Core Cervical Support Pillow

Best for position changes

The Tri-Core Cervical Support Pillow is a great pillow for both back and side sleepers. The center dips down to cradle the head while sleeping and promotes proper alignment in the spine for different types of sleepers.

For back sleepers, the sturdy cervical roll supports the neck itself, while the head rests in the contour. One side of the pillow has a larger neck roll for more support, while the other side has a smaller neck roll for less support.

The manufactuer advises that the pillow may not suit side sleepers but it also advises that, if a side sleeper decides to use the pillow, they should use the side areas as they are higher, allowing for proper neck alignment.

The versatility of the pillow also makes it a great option for people who switch positions throughout the night.

Adjusting to pillows such as these can take time as they require changes in sleep posture. While breaking in a new pillow, the Core Products company recommends that people alternate between using this pillow and a standard pillow. This will help get the body used to the new sleeping posture.

The pillow is available in three differently priced sizes, as detailed below:

SizeMeasurementsPrice
PetiteLength: 18.9 in
Width: 14.96 in
Height: 4.02
around $35
Mid-sizeLength: 22 in
Width: 15 in
Height: 4 in
around $40
FullLength: 24 in
Width: 16 in
Height: 5 in
around $45

Purple Harmony Pillow

Best latex

The Purple Harmony pillow might suit people who find memory foam options too hot. The Purple company notes that the pillow contains over 1,500 air channels that keep air circulating through the pillow, keeping heat away from the head. It has a latex core that is naturally cooler than other memory foam options.

The Purple Harmony Pillow comes in two heights. The regular pillow is 6.5 inches (in) thick. This might be a good option for back sleepers, some stomach sleepers, and smaller people who sleep on their sides.

The taller version of the pillow might suit side sleepers who need more support to keep the head aligned with the spine.

Both pillows come in a choice of three different heights — 5.5 in, 6.5 in, and 7.5 in. The following table shows further measurements.

SizeMeasurementsPrice
StandardLength: 26 in
Width: 17 in
around $180
KingLength: 34 in
Width: 17 in
around $220

TEMPUR-Neck Pillow

Best extra firm

The original contoured TEMPUR-Neck Pillow from TEMPUR-PEDIC is an extra firm pillow offering strong support for back or side sleepers with neck pain.

The pillow comes in thicknesses ranging from 3–4.75 in to accommodate the needs of different sleepers and body sizes.

The pillow itself is made from extra firm TEMPUR material, which helps support the neck and keep the head aligned while sleeping on the side or back.

The pillow may not suit people who need plush pillows with extra comfort, as its function is to alleviate pressure in the neck.

Below, we look at the available sizes and costs of the TEMPUR-Neck Pillow:

SizeMeasurementsPrice
SmallLength: 20 in
Width: 12.5 in
Height: 3.5 in
around $110
MediumLength: 20 in
Width: 12.5 in
Height: 4 in
around $120
LargeLength: 20 in
Width: 12.5 in
Height: 4.75 in
around $150
TravelLength: 10 in
Width: 12 in
Height: 4 in
around $80

Mediflow Fiber Water Pillow

Best water-filled

The Water Pillow by Mediflow combines pillow fiber with a supportive layer of water. The Mediflow website states that this water-based technology improves a person’s quality of sleep by reducing neck pain.

Back and side sleepers can adjust The Water Pillow to suit their needs by adding or removing water from the membrane. This technology may also help reduce the need to readjust the pillow during use, as the water inside the pillow adjusts to the head’s movements as needed.

The original Water Pillow uses hypoallergenic fibers. The company also offers pillows using either down or memory foam layers for different levels of comfort.

The Mediflow Fiber Water Pillow is available to purchase online and the table below shows the sizing options:

SizeMeasurementsPrice
One sizeLength: 28 in
Width: 20 in
Height: 4.5 in
around $60

Hullo Buckwheat Pillow

Best natual filling

For an all-natural, adjustable option, many people choose buckwheat pillows such as the Original Hullo Buckwheat pillow.

These pillows contain thousands of buckwheat hulls rather than other materials, such as foam or fibers. These hulls offer support, while also adjusting to the head. This may reduce compression in some sleepers and lead to more restful sleep.

The naturally breathable hulls keep the pillow from getting hot.

People can also adjust buckwheat pillows to suit virtually any sleeping style and need by adding or removing hulls from the pillow.

The individualized nature of these pillows makes them a great all-around option for ergonomic support.

However, people who need more targeted support may want to look to contoured options.

The Hullo Buckwheat Pillow is available to purchase online and comes in the following sizes:

SizeMeasurementsPrice
SmallLength: 20 in
Width: 14 in
Height: adjustable
around $70
StandardLength: 26 in
Width: 20 in
Height: adjustable
around $110
KingLength: 36 in
Width: 20 in
Height: adjustable
around $160

Below are some common questions relating to neck pillows.

Do neck pillows really work?

According to a 2016 study, neck support pillows significantly improve neck pain. However, these pillows may not work for everyone, and trialing different options may help an individual’s future purchase decision.

What causes neck pain from sleep?

Neck pain may result from a person having their neck twisted or misaligned whilst asleep. This may be due to a pillow that does not support the neck and head appropriately.

How often should I change pillows?

A person should replace their pillows every 1–2 years to ensure they are always getting the appropriate support to avoid muscle pains.

While there are some general pillow trends for all types of sleepers, the ideal pillow can vary for each person.

Changes in support levels, body positioning, and even material may make some people lean towards one type of pillow over another.

It may be best to look for companies that offer trial periods or find a way to try the pillow or pillow types before purchasing.

Understanding their sleep needs can help a person make the correct purchase the first time and find lasting relief from neck pain.