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Choosing the Best Pillow for Neck Pain The Complete Guide 

Best Pillow For Neck Pain man with neck and shoulder pain
Woman Side sleeping

What Is the Best Pillow for Neck Pain?

The best pillow for neck and shoulder pain alleviate pressure points and keep the head at a healthy angle, while at the same time being firm enough to hold your head. According to research, natural latex pillows with ergonomic designs are the best pillows based on customer satisfaction with a 93% satisfaction rate. Latex pillow satisfaction is higher than other common pillows like feather and memory foam. 

Also, a study published in 2009 looked at common pillows and sleep quality. They measured how rested people felt and if they woke up without pain. They found that latex pillows were best and significantly improved sleep quality and how people feel when waking up.

 

How Can a Pillow Cause Neck Pain?

When you use a pillow that does not support your head and neck properly, you can develop neck pain and tension. Different pillow structures and sizes have been proven to cause neck pain (cervical pain, stiffness, headache, and scapular pain) for some people. This means the type of pillow can determine how well you sleep and how much pain you feel in your neck when you wake up. Natural latex and some memory-foam pillows may allow your head to be “cradled” at night, allowing for a neutral spine and neck. 

 

What Pillow Do Chiropractors Recommend?

As a Chiropractor, I have found latex pillows to be the absolute best for neck and back pain. Latex is a great pillow material because it conforms closely to the sleeper’s neck and shoulders to alleviate pressure points, similar to memory foam but much better. It is also highly durable, so you can expect the lifespan of most latex pillows span at least three to four years. Better durability means that you get more out of each pillow. Latex also sleeps cooler than most foams.

Latex is also one of the only materials that can be moulded into specific shapes, sizes and densities. This allows for high levels of customization and personalization. When designing the dream pillow, I wanted it to have the best support for the neck, head and shoulders. I’ve spent years researching this field, but very quickly, it became apparent there are no alternative materials that are as versatile and high quality as the latex we now use.

Why Does My Neck Hurt After Waking Up?

If you find yourself wake up with neck pain, headache, migraine, shoulder strain but do not go to sleep with them; then you likely have a bed pillow. Neck pain has several causes, as with many other things. In some cases, the causes of neck pain, such as age-related diseases or accidents, are not under your control. However, probably the best place to start reducing neck pain is to look at how your pillow affects your sleep and its effect on your neck pain.

If you wake up in the morning with neck pain, your pillow is most likely to blame. Having the wrong pillow for you has been proven by research to cause neck pain. A sore neck in the morning can also result from your sleeping position or other sleep issues. Pillows play a vital role in helping ensure a healthy, pain-free neck by supporting your head and neck while you sleep. Having a pillow that doesn’t support your head and neck properly can cause neck pain and tension in your neck muscles.

What Is the Best Pillow for Neck Pain and Headaches?

The best pillow for head and neck pain is one that is designed to support all parts of your head and neck. If your head and neck are properly supported, this reduces tension in your muscles, ligaments and tendons, which allows you to have a pain free and restful night of sleep as well as waking up pain free. According to research, if you already suffer from neck pain and headaches, ergonomic latex pillows have been shown to significantly decrease disability related to neck pain in patients with cervical spondylosis after four weeks. 

 

Natural Latex Pillow vs Memory Foam Pillow for Neck Pain

Memory foam and natural latex foam are both an attractive option for people who suffer from neck pain. Both types of pillow conform to your head and neck, which reduces pressure points and strain. The reason natural latex is unique since it both provides support and conforms to the weight of your head, which means you feel like your head is floating on the pillow rather than being trapped inside it.

 

What Is the Best Pillow for Side Sleepers With Neck Pain?

The best pillow for side sleepers are natural latex pillows. Research has found that looked at side sleepers with neck pain, found natural latex pillows were the best pillows for managing morning neck pain (waking cervical pain) and were found to improve sleep quality and pillow comfort. Latex pillow performed better than other common pillows, including memory foam, feather and polyester pillows. 

The study concluded that latex pillows should be recommended over any other type of pillow to control waking headache and scapular/arm pain.

 

Neck Alignment is Essential

You cannot underestimate the importance of a pillow for a good night’s sleep. During sleep, the muscles in your neck and back should rest. If you sleep with a pillow too high and too stiff, it can keep your neck flexed overnight, resulting in soreness and strain, as well as resulting in neck, arm and shoulder pain in the morning. Likewise, if your pillow is too low, you may also develop painful and strained neck muscles.

The worst sleeping position for spine health is to sleep on your stomach with your neck turned to the side. Stomach sleeping causes a massive overload of the muscular system and contributes to tension, neck pain and muscle spasms. People with neck problems should avoid sleeping on their stomachs.

Sleeping on your side or back without a pillow for support can also lead to problems such as neck pain. If your head is not held in alignment with your neck, your cervical spine and muscles can’t relax. This again places stress and tension on your muscle structure, ligament system and intervertebral joints.

 

What is the Best Pillow for Neck Support?

Perhaps the most important thing to consider when settling on a new pillow is how it supports your neck. While you sleep, your mattress and pillow work together to make sure your spine is supported from top to bottom. The pillow’s role in this arrangement is to make sure the top of your spine—your neck—gets proper support. If that’s not happening, you can lose out on a great night’s sleep, wake up with headaches, suffer a sore neck, and more.

Without adequate support, everything within your neck has to work harder while you sleep—including tendons, ligaments, and muscles. And when they do relax, it can force your neck and upper spine into unnaturally curved positions that lead to aches and pains when you wake up. It’s a bad deal all the way around.

If you wake up with pain and stiffness in your neck, feeling painful tension in the shoulders, numbness and tingling in the hands, you should pay attention. This is a signal to look at your pillow might not be providing you with enough support. An ergonomic pillow with inbuilt neck support may be the perfect solution for you.

 

How Does Pillow Height Affect Neck Pain?

If your pillow is too firm or too high, it will raise your head and straighten the spine, leading to pain and stiffness in your neck. Similarly, if your pillow is too soft and too low, it can also lead to muscle tension in your neck, shoulders, and arms from not getting enough support. The goal of your pillow is always to keep your spine in perfect alignment. If you sleep on your side, you want your pillow to be higher if you lie on your back lower. However, we change sleeping positions all the time. Therefore you should look for an adjustable pillow so you can change the height of your pillow as your sleeping position changes.

Orthopaedic Pillows for Neck Pain and Shoulder Pain​

Pillows designed as an orthopaedic pillow promote the proper alignment and support of the spine. This provides the sleeper with safe and healthy relaxation by maintaining the natural contour of the neck and spine. An orthopaedic pillow may also be referred to as a contoured, cervical, or ergonomic pillow. While these names might for pillows might sound medical, everyone can benefit from an orthopaedic pillow if you care about great sleep. They are also possibly the best way to prevent morning stiffness and neck pain because they provide great head and neck support as you sleep.

Additionally, it would be best if you chose a well-made mattress to keep your spine in a neutral position. Your pillow and mattress work together, so align your spine. If your low back is out of alignment, so is your neck. This means you should make sure to get both the best pillow and mattress for your needs if you want to avoid neck pain.

 

5 Tips for Choosing Your Next Pillow for Neck Pain

1. Pillows That Adapt to Your Position Are Best

Ergonomic foam pillows work best for most people. If you’re lying on your back, your headrests in a depression in the centre. If you’re lying on your side, your neck rests on either a less elevated or more elevated side.

2. Latex Foam Is Generally the Best Material

Natural latex offers support without over heating like memory foam. According to scientific research for neck pain, it’s the best pillow when you compare it to different types of pillow. 

3. Feather Pillows Cause the Most Neck Pain

Feather pillows may be less expensive, but they do not provide much neck support, and you pay for feather pillows in lost sleep and neck strain. 

While these pillows feel super comfy at first, as the feathers move over time from movement, you end up with no support, which causes you neck pain. Research has found that these are the worst type of pillow for sleep quality and neck pain.

4. Body pillows and side pillows can be useful

Suppose you’re used to sleeping on your stomach and would like to transition to side sleeping. By promoting side-sleeping, body, and side pillows can improve sleep posture. Pillows at your side provide the pressure on the stomach that you are probably used to while keeping you in a side-lying position. Also, during pregnancy or if you happen to have large hips, pillows by your side can help keep your spine in good alignment while supporting your growing belly.

5. Consider your mattress’ firmness or softness

If your mattress is firmer, you’ll need a thicker pillow because your shoulders won’t sink into it as much. Your pillow will need to fill a larger gap between your head and your mattress. If your mattress has a soft foam topper or pillow-top, you’ll probably need a thinner pillow since your shoulder will sink into the bed. This is because the pillow will need to fill a smaller space between your shoulder and your head.

 

Conclusion

It is a good idea to choose a pillow for neck and shoulder pain that relieves pressure points and keeps the head in its natural posture while at the same time being supportive enough to keep your head up. According to research, natural latex pillows with ergonomic designs are the best pillows based on customer satisfaction. You should also opt for an adjustable pillow if you can find one since different sleeping positions require different heights. Your sleeping position changes regularly, so it is good to have a pillow that accommodates your sleep preferences. Additionally, since the ideal pillow thickness depends on how firm or soft your mattress is, a pillow with adjustable height ensures you get proper head and neck support regardless of your mattress.

 

About Dr Lawrence Woods

My goal is to create the highest quality mattresses and pillows for unmatched comfort.

With 30 years of spinal healthcare experience in Ireland as a chiropractor, I learned the value of high quality sleep for living a happy and healthy life.

I have a Chiropractic Degree from Life Chiropractic College West and I am NBCE Physiotherapy certified.

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