Health and Fitness

The 10 Best Pillows for Neck Pain of 2022

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You’ve heard it before: Getting enough sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health. But it’s not enough to get enough sleep. You need the goooood kind of sleep — the kind where you wake up ready to sing “The Little Mermaid” soundtrack in the shower.

But sometimes you spend the whole night flip-flopping from side to side. And you wake up unable to turn your head because your neck is enraged at you for bunching up your pillow. That’s when you wish you were a mermaid. Surely, they don’t ever deal with the dreaded neck crick.

After diligent research, we rounded up a selection of pillows that offer support for various sleep positions and loft preferences. We considered the importance of materials, whether a pillow was washable, and the pillow’s price point — and we found a range of options. We also relied on the number of positive user reviews along with what any naysayers had to report about a specific pillow.

Lastly, we put every product through a thorough vetting process that checks for unsupported health claims and shady business practices. Only brands and products that passed our vetting process made our list.

Best soft pillow for neck pain

Beckham Hotel Collection Bed Pillows for Sleeping

  • Price: $
  • Fill: down alternative
  • Firmness: soft

If you’re simply looking for cloudlike comfort in a standard pillow, the Beckham Hotel Collection gel pillow gets the job done.

It has more than 166,000 reviews on Amazon — mostly 4- and 5-star ratings for its versatility. One user writes, “At night, I roll around about as much as a pig in mud and this pillow works in every position.”

Pros: The no-shift poly gel fiber fill is soft enough for that plush feel, yet it doesn’t collapse under the weight of your head.

Anyone who sleeps hot will like the gel fiber’s cooling properties, and folks with allergies will appreciate that the pillow is hypoallergenic, machine washable, and OEKO-TEX certified to be free of harmful substances.

Plus, it comes in a pack of two, so you can share with your bedfellow if you so desire.

Cons: Some users report that the pillow is too high. So if you’re petite in the shoulders, it may not be your neck’s fave.

Best down alternative pillow for neck pain

Original Casper Pillow

  • Price: $$
  • Fill: down alternative
  • Firmness: medium

The makers of the popular Casper foam mattress have also graced the world with the holy grail of pillows. For those who like firmness mixed with a good amount of floof, the Original Casper Pillow is really a supportive one tucked inside a softer number for that just-right feel.

Pros: A gusset around the pillow’s edges holds the polyester microfiber fill in place without clumping and helps buoy your neck in any position. You can remove the inner pillow and use either one alone in the cotton percale cover.

Cons: Some users report that the Original Casper is slightly loftier than they prefer, so if you really lean toward the softer side of things, opt for the Casper Down Pillow.

Best adjustable pillow for neck pain

The Original Coop Pillow

  • Price: $$$
  • Fill: memory foam and microfiber
  • Firmness: medium-firm (adjustable)

The trouble with firm pillows is that there’s a fine line between supportive and too stiff, and finding that sweet spot for your neck can be tough — not to mention expensive. Coop Home Goods recognized this pain point and delivered an adjustable option for firm pillow lovers.

Basically, you get to decide how firm and high you want your pillow by adding or taking away as much medium-density foam and microfiber fill as you’d like. The pillow ships with an extra half-pound of the stuff.

Pros: This machine-washable pillow is great for both side and back sleepers and can be altered if your sleeping habits change. And it’s nice to know you’re sleeping on something that’s cruelty-free.

Cons: Although the fill is certified by CertiPUR-US and Greenguard to ensure low emissions, some users report a chemical smell that takes a while to dissipate after receiving the pillow.

Best cervical bolster pillow for neck pain

K Ka Ua Neck Roll Pillow

  • Price: $$
  • Fill: memory foam
  • Firmness: firm

A cylindrical bolster tucked under your neck helps support its natural C-curve and even offers light traction for relief of “tech neck.” You can also slide a bolster under your knees for back sleeping or between your knees if you curl in the fetal position.

The K Ka Ua Neck Roll Pillow is one of the most raved-about memory foam options. One reviewer writes, “After buying this pillow I’m finding myself waking up fully refreshed.”

Pros: The K Ka Ua is 4 inches in diameter and comes with a removable and washable bamboo cover. The bolster is small enough to stash in your overnight bag in case you aren’t a fan of hotel pillows or the janky ones your friends and family might have relegated to their guest rooms.

Cons: A cylindrical bolster lacks cushioning for your head, so you may prefer to use it at the base of a soft, flat standard pillow.

Best contour pillow for neck pain

EPABO Contour Memory Foam Pillow

  • Price: $
  • Fill: memory foam
  • Firmness: medium-firm

Stiffness, stress, and poor sleep can trigger both migraine and tension headaches. If you deal with either of these conditions, the EPABO Contour Memory Foam Pillow can offer ergonomic support to help relax your neck muscles.

This pillow has more than 25,000 reviews on Amazon, with one user calling it a “DREAM for anyone who has chronic neck pain.”

Pros: The contoured base of the pillow offers room for your shoulders to tuck under and a divot to cradle your neck in any position.

Cons: Although the outer covering is washable, the memory foam is not. Some users report that this pillow is just too firm for comfort, but you can remove one section of memory foam for a softer feel.

Best pillow for side sleepers

TEMPUR-Neck Pillow

  • Price: $$$
  • Fill: TEMPUR material (memory foam)
  • Firmness: firm

If you’ve ever coveted a TEMPUR-Pedic mattress but found the price out of reach, splurge on the TEMPUR-Neck Pillow instead. The wave design bolsters your neck in any position while still providing a cushy spot for your head.

Although the pillow is decidedly firm, side sleepers will appreciate that the memory foam has give to avoid putting pressure on your jaw.

Pros: The pillow comes in three sizes to accommodate your unique anatomy and has a removable and washable hypoallergenic cover. Users cite the pillow’s heavier weight as a plus since it stays put if you frequently switch positions.

Cons: Some users say the small and medium size versions are narrower than they’d like. And be prepared for it to have a smell when you first take it out of the bag.

Best pillow for back sleepers

Core Products Tri-Core Cervical Support Pillow

  • Price: $$
  • Fill: polyester fiber
  • Firmness: firm

If you’re a back sleeper, you need cervical support, but you also need a pillow that’ll hold your head in place. The triangle divot on the Core Products Tri-Core Cervical Support Pillow cradles the back of your skull so that it doesn’t flop to one side, straining your already-taxed neck muscles.

Pros: The pillow, which comes in three sizes, features two neck bolsters, one thicker than the other, allowing you to choose how much support you want based on your body.

Cons: If you’re also a side sleeper, this pillow may be too firm against sensitive ears or jawbones.

Best pillow for stomach sleepers

ZAMAT Adjustable Cervical Memory Foam Pillow

  • Price: $$
  • Fill: memory foam
  • Firmness: firm

Stomach sleeping presents several challenges, including arm placement. If you tuck your arms under your pillow, the weight of your head can make your limbs fall asleep and put unnecessary pressure on your wrists.

The ZAMAT Adjustable Cervical Memory Foam Pillow solves this problem with strategically placed cutout armrests. A slight cavity in the middle of the pillow allows for breathability when turning your face to the side, and the low head height avoids unnecessary torque to your thoracic spine.

Pros: The foam is CertiPUR-US certified. And the removable cover is machine washable.

Cons: The wonky shape won’t make this the prettiest pillow on your bed.

Best organic pillow for neck pain

Avocado Green Pillow

  • Price: $$$
  • Fill: latex, kapok
  • Firmness: medium

If natural is the name of your pillow game, the makers of the No. 1 green mattress also have a vegan, all-natural, organic pillow you can lay your head upon.

The Avocado Green Pillow, handmade in Los Angeles, is both GOTS and GOLS certified. And it carries Greenguard Gold approval, meaning it’s a safe option for those worried about chemical exposure or indoor air pollution.

Pros: The Avocado comes with an extra bag of organic latex and kapok fill so you can customize the loft to your neck’s liking. A cotton-jersey liner encases the fill, and a machine-washable cotton cover protects the whole planet-friendly package.

Speaking of packaging, Avocado pillows are compressed for shipping in compact boxes for less waste.

Cons: The price tag on one of these babies is a little hefty.

Best buckwheat pillow

Original Hullo Buckwheat Pillow

  • Price: $$$
  • Fill: buckwheat hulls
  • Firmness: firm

One of the most versatile styles to alleviate neck pain is a pillow filled with buckwheat hulls. The Original Hullo Buckwheat Pillow naturally molds to your head and neck without collapsing under the weight. And you can maneuver the hulls to get your desired contour in any position.

Pros: The Hullo comes in three sizes and ships fully stuffed, but you can remove buckwheat hulls if you prefer more malleability or less loft. Buckwheat tends to offer more breathability than other fillings, allowing your head to sleep cool.

Cons: Sleeping on a buckwheat filling can take some getting used to. The hulls can sound a little noisy under your head when getting situated. Also, at more than 8 pounds for the standard size, the Hullo is a heavy contender. It’s also expensive, costing about twice as much as the next most expensive pillow on this list.

According to research from 2008, two-thirds of us humans will experience neck pain at some point in our lives.

Neck pain can result from trauma like a sports or work injury or whiplash from a fender bender. But it most commonly results from postural issues, like how we sit while working or watching the ’flix and — you guessed it — how we sleep.

Although we all need our Zzz’s, those forty winks can really be obnoxious for your neck, especially if you don’t have a pillow that offers the proper support for your usual sleep position. Yep — it often comes down to what you lay your pretty little head on.

A lot of factors go into determining what kind of pillow will be a bestie to your neck and allow you to wake up feeling pain-free and rested.

Consider your sleeping style

Are you a side snoozer or a back dreamer? Or do you tend to doze down on your belly? You might also be a bit of a combination sleeper.

Research suggests that many of us spend about half the night in the side-sleeping position. If this is you, a pillow that keeps your neck in alignment will help prevent stiffness and kinks.

If you sleep on your back, alignment is also key, but you may prefer a pillow that cradles your head so you don’t position your noggin to one side.

Stomach slumbering is the position that’ll likely wreak the most havoc on your neck. But if that’s the only way you can sleep, opt for an ergonomic pillow designed for that purpose. To support your low back, it may also be beneficial to tuck a soft, flat pillow under your pelvis.

Factor in firmness

Position and preference will help you decide on loft, or the height of your pillow. Although softer, fluffier pillows might seem cozier, research from 2011 suggests they may lead to more neck pain.

A firmer pillow offers support, especially for side or back sleeping. If you sleep on your stomach, though, you may want something with more give.

Pillows also come in medium-soft, medium, and medium-firm, in case you’re going for that Goldilocks feel. Some even give you the option to remove or add loft according to your preference.

Pillows come in all shapes and sizes

Standard rectangular pillows that fit your sleep position and firmness preferences are a great option, but an orthopedic pillow (one shaped to your anatomy) will support your neck’s cervical curve. A small 2014 study suggests that an orthopedic pillow may help peeps get better sleep.

Some ortho pillows have an ergonomic divot in the middle to cradle your head — perfect for back sleepers — while others have a contour or wave to offer support in various positions. You can also place cylindrical bolsters under your neck or knees to support good alignment.

Materials matter

If you’re prone to sneezing, you may need a pillow that’s hypoallergenic, impervious to dust mites, and easy to wash. Older studies show that polyester fiber-filled pillows are susceptible to mites and fungi, and some pillows of this type can’t be washed.

If you have chemical sensitivities or are worried about environmental impact, look for a pillow that has Greenguard Gold certification, ensuring that it meets safety criteria for off-gassing and indoor air pollution.

Some pillows come with the CertiPUR-US seal to indicate nontoxic foam. And if you’re aiming for a chemical-free, natural-fiber pillow, look for one that’s certified organic by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) or the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS).

What about all those diff fill materials? Here’s a helpful pillow primer:

  • Down or down alternative. Down and down alternative pillows are super soft and plush. Down alternative is designed to mimic real-deal down (which is made from duck or goose feathers). It does a pretty good job, too, with the bonus of no stray feather ends eventually poking out of the pillow. It’s usually made from microfiber or polyester.
  • Memory foam. Memory foam is made from foams of varying densities, and the density dictates how soft or firm it feels. Memory foam conforms to your body, which is why it’s a preferred filling for pillows for neck pain.
  • Latex. Latex is a little softer than memory foam but provides the same effect. It’s found in many natural or organic pillows, but of course you should strictly avoid it if you have a latex allergy.
  • Kapok. Kapok is a soft, cottony fiber that grows well in tropical climates. It’s used in many natural and organic pillows.
  • Buckwheat hulls. It doesn’t get more natural or organic than buckwheat hulls. These grain cast-offs act like memory foam but are much heavier. They also allow for increased airflow through the pillow, keeping it cooler.

We interrupt our pillow talk to discuss something gross. After a while, pillows can become petri dishes, filling up with tiny bugs, dead skin, dust mites, and dust mite poo. Ew.

So, what can you do? Wash your sheets, pillowcases, and bed coverings every 7 to 14 days, and toss pillow coverings in the wash when you wash bedding.

Follow the manufacturer’s directions for laundering machine-washable pillows, which should be tossed in every 3 to 6 months. If you have a synthetic pillow that can’t be washed, consider replacing it every 2 years.

Washable pillows can stick around longer unless they lose their shape, which could lead to increasing neck pain.

A good pillow is just one way to find relief from neck pain. Other options include stretching, icing the area for 20 minutes on and off to decrease inflammation, and using ibuprofen or another non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug on days when you have pain.

If your neck pain persists, check in with a healthcare professional to see if imaging or other tests are necessary.

What is the best pillow if you have neck pain?

It depends on your sleep position, but the important thing is that the pillow keeps your neck aligned with your spine and provides support beneath your neck to prevent it from being strained. The options listed above are a great starting point on your quest for the ideal pillow.

Do neck pillows help with neck pain?

They can, but there’s no guarantee that a new pillow will solve your neck pain woes. If your pain persists even after you get a new pillow, it may be time to make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist or physical therapist.

What’s the best sleeping position for neck pain?

If you’re dealing with neck pain, you’ll probably be a lot more comfortable sleeping on your back or side than on your stomach.

With the wrong pillow, stomach sleeping can have your neck and spine turned at a weird angle.

OTOH, sleeping on your side with a supportive pillow (that’s not too lofty) keeps your spine in perfect alignment.

If you’re a back sleeper, you can try sleeping on your back with a neck roll under your neck and a softer pillow under your head or using something like the Core Products Cervical Support Pillow above.

How should you position your pillow for neck pain?

It all depends on your sleeping position.

However you sleep, the pillow should be placed so that it adequately supports your neck (rather than supporting just your head and leaving your neck with no support beneath it, which puts a lot of strain on it). It should also allow your neck and spine to stay in alignment.

Can neck pain be caused by a pillow?

If you’re pairing the wrong pillow with the wrong sleeping position — absolutely!

OK, so there’s really no wrong sleeping position — but the pillow you’re using could be suboptimal. If your pillow seems permanently deflated or misshapen, it’s time to get a new one. Be sure to choose one that offers neck support for your fave sleeping position.

We spend one-third of our lives in bed, either sleeping or trying to. That means many of us are spending quality time with old pillows or pillows that just aren’t suitable for how we sleep.

If you’ve got neck pain, consider investing in a new pillow that helps you drift off to Dreamland and lets you wake up crick-free and ready to sing.

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