Sleeping Products Reviews

The Best Pillows For Neck Pain In 2020

Your Pillow Matters

If you're like most people, you haven't given much thought to your pillow. However, if your sleep isn't the best - if you can't sleep through the night, if you wake up with neck and back pain, or if you have trouble even falling asleep - it is definitely something you should think about.

Sleeping is crucial for our minds and bodies to rest and recover. And if you have trouble sleeping or are waking up with pain in your neck, shoulders or back, it may be related to your pillow. Pillows that do not provide the proper support can cause these issues, and so it is important to find the right pillow for you.

Your pillow alone can often be the primary cause for pain in your neck and back. The neck is one of the most susceptible areas of the body to pain and injury according to the American Chiropractic Association. Finding the right pillow comes down to a variety of factors like your sleeping position, weight, sleep temperature and anatomy of your neck and shoulder area. Some of the most common causes of pillow related neck pain are:

  • A pillow that is too thick or too thin
  • A pillow that isn't specifically designed for your sleeping position
  • A pillow that is retains heat, and so it causes you to sweat or sleep hot
  • A pillow that doesn't support your neck or shoulders well, and causes misalignment in your neck and back

Ideal Position for People With Neck Pain When They Sleep

When you go to sleep, you should strive to find a neutral spinal position, and your pillow should facilitate this alignment. Your pillow should enable your spine to be straight vs. overly supported (causing an upward bend in your spine) or under-supported(causing a downward bend in your spine). Depending on your sleep position, you may need a thicker or thinner pillow to find this neutral position. Here are some general guidelines about what your pillow should do, depending on your sleep position. Also, it may help to have a partner take a look at your position because some of these difficult to observe yourself.

For Back Sleepers:

  • Your pill0w should keep your spine straight, and align your neck and back so there are minimal twists of flexion in your neck
  • Your pillow should allow your nose and chin to be level with one another - this check can ensure your head isn't too high or too low
  • Your pillow should provide support from the base of your neck to near the top of your head
  • Your pillow should do all of the above when it is resting just against your shoulders

For Side Sleepers:

  • Your pillow should keep your spine as level as possible with the surface of your mattress (side view)
  • Make sure your pillow provides support from the base of your neck to near the top of your head.
  • Position your pillow up against your shoulders

For those of us who suffer from neck and back pain, there isn't necessarily a "one size fits" all approach - we need to choose a pillow that matches our sleep position, anatomy, and preferences. When we dive into specific pillow below, we'll recommend the pillows that we tested that seemed to work for the most people and discuss why. Here is a list of the most common sleeping positions and recommendations for the types of pillows that pair best with them.

Side sleepers: Side sleeping is the most common sleeping position, and as a result, there are many pillow options for side sleepers. While the traditional pillow design (rectangular, filled with shredded foam, fiber, etc...) can sometimes work great, a cervical design tends to be the best option to provide the best support and alignment of your neck, back, and shoulders. Proper side sleeping has numerous benefits for joint pain and arthritis sufferers. It can even reduce the likelihood of snoring.

Back sleepers: Although slightly less common, back sleeping is considered one of the best sleep positions for getting quality rest. Furthermore, back sleepers do also have plenty of pillow options. While traditional pillows can also work well for side sleepers, cervical pillows (like our top pick, the Dosaze) cater even more to back sleepers. The contoured cut-out cradles your neck while you lay on your back. In addition, thinner pillows typically suit back sleepers more, as they reduce the gap between your mattress and head/neck.

Stomach: Stomach sleeping is known to increase the chance of neck and back pain, but has also been reported to be good for your digestive system. Usually, the traditional pillow is best for stomach sleepers - but stomach sleepers need to be particularly careful about the thickness of their pillow.

Combination sleeping: combination sleepers change positions while they sleep (hence the name). Combination sleeping is a common source of neck and back pain because most pillows aren't designed to support multiple positions - and furthermore, even if they are, it is difficult to use the pillow in the correct way if you are changing positions while you are unconscious. That being said, typically, the cervical/contoured pillow typically work best because they have thinner and thicker sections to support both back and side sleeping.

Best Pillows For Neck Pain

If you've researched sleep before, you probably know that there is no silver bullet for getting quality sleep - everyone is different, so you need to choose a pillow that caters specifically to your sleep position, anatomy, and preferences. We've outlined our research and top picks below - the first three represent the best overall pillow for neck pain, best cooling pillow for neck pain, and the best budget pillow for neck pain. We then listed the rest of the pillows we looked at and our thoughts on those pillows.

Finally, we scored (from one to five) some of the most common pillows across four categories: support/ergonomics, temperature control, price, and durability. We took the average of each pillow to come up with our final rankings. We've also included links to all of the pillows below (and may make a small commission from purchases) and a comparison table.

Best overall pillow for neck and back pain: Dosaze™ Contoured Orthopedic Pillow - $99.99

Key features

  • Contoured design: The contoured design provides maximum cervical support and alignment. Its unique design caters to both back and side sleepers. In addition, the design allows for airflow, so the pillow stays cool unlike most other memory foam pillows.
  • High density memory foam: the memory foam stays cool and retains its shape.
  • 60 night risk free trial: this pillow comes with a 30 night risk free trial, so you can try it for 30 days before committing
  • 3-year warranty: this pillow boasts a 1-year warranty, so if something ever happens to it, they will replace it for free
  • Price: $99.99 - while this pillow isn't cheap, it's definitely more affordable than a lot of other memory foam/premium pillows out there (which are well over $100), and provides all of the same benefits.

This pillow provides the best combination of softness, support, and alignment. This pillow seems to have the perfect level of firmness. It is firm enough to improve the alignment of your neck, back, and shoulders but is also soft enough to cushion your head for the entire night. Its unique contoured shape is also ideal for both back and side sleepers.

Best cooling pillow for neck and back pain: Purple Pillow - $98

  • The unique design has a lot of open-air pockets that keep you cool as opposed to dense memory foam pillows
  • $98 - This product is definitely more expensive, but purple stands by their products
  • Great support on the edge of the pillow, which is particularly useful for neck pain sufferers

Best budget pillow for neck pain: Beckman Hotel Collection Gel Pillow - $39.99

  • Gel fiber-filled pillow that resists shifting and loss of firmness and support.
  • Package includes two pillows
  • Great for all sleeping positions
  • High thread count shell
  • The best option for those on a tight budget and or looking to replace both pillows on a full, queen or king bed.
  • 30-day satisfaction guarantee

Here are the other pillows we considered.

Level Sleep Restore™ Pillow - 149

  • Three independent inserts for custom pillow height and softness
  • Reduces snoring
  • This is definitely a very expensive pillow, and it is more designed for reducing snoring that it is for neck and back pain

Simply Sova Shredded Memory Foam Pillow - $48

  • The plus is no foam mess and consistent firmness across the entire pillow.
  • Great for all sleeping positions
  • Breathable hypoallergenic materials and design
  • Great value and frequently discounted

Wondersleep Adjustable Loft Memory Foam Pillow - $54.99

  • Two setting adjustable loft cooling pillow that is highly breathable with a great cooling effect
  • Great for all sleeping positions
  • Package includes two pillows
  • Hypoallergenic materials
  • Great value for the cooling performance and getting two pillows for less than many other single pillow options
  • 1 year limited warranty

And here is a comparison table of all of the pillows we looked at: