Finding the perfect pillow can be a frustrating process of trial and error. Unfortunately, pillows aren’t one-size-fits-all. Like mattresses, choosing the best pillow is dependent on personal preference, as well as what position in which you typically like to sleep. Having the proper support is important. Staying comfortable all night is also important, and a pillow that traps too much heat can leave you sweating and interrupt your sleep cycle. Here are a few tips to keep in mind in your search for the most comfortable pillow for side sleepers, as well as the best pillow for neck and shoulder pain.
Factors to Consider While Selecting a Pillow
People who sleep on their stomachs often struggle to find the best pillow for neck and shoulder pain. This is because in this sleeping position, most pillows provide way too much support. This keeps the head at an awkward, uncomfortable angle the entire night through. This can lead to neck and shoulder pain, as well as headaches. If you sleep on your stomach, look for a pillow that’s very soft and extremely flat. Some stomach sleepers don’t use any pillow at all.
On the opposite end of the extreme, side sleepers need a great deal of support. Because your shoulder keeps your head propped up off of the bed, you’ll need a pillow that’s thick enough to reach your head and properly support your neck muscles. The best pillow for neck pain in side sleepers will be a firm, thick pillow that will cradle the neck and allow its muscles to relax, taking strain off of your shoulders.
Somewhere in the middle of pillow firmness is the land of pillows for back sleepers. The best pillow for neck and shoulder pain in back sleepers will be one that’s a medium thickness and softness. People who sleep on their backs need a pillow that will properly support their neck while keeping their head at an ideal angle. This means that the head shouldn’t be pushed up at a sharp angle or be allowed to fall backwards too deeply into the pillow.
As memory foam became an increasingly popular material for mattresses, pillow manufacturers discovered that it was perfect for providing ample support and ideal softness for pillows, as well. Just like mattresses made of this material, memory foam pillows conform to the shape of your body, squishing down under the weight of your head while providing gentle support for your neck. Memory foam can have drawbacks, however. Squishy or not, some people still find solid memory foam to be too firm for their tastes. Another big issue with memory foam is its penchant for retaining heat. In order to have a good night’s sleep, your body temperature must be able to drop to a cooler temperature. Bedding, mattresses or pillows that pull heat away from the body can keep this from happening. Many pillow manufacturers have resolved this by using shredded memory foam that doesn’t trap heat close to your skin.
10 Best Pillows for Neck and Shoulder Pain
Hopefully, you now have a general idea of what kind of pillow will work best for you. Now, the work begins to narrow the universe of pillow options down to just one. What kind should you choose? Shredded memory foam or solid? What about a water pillow? Let’s discuss some of the best pillows for neck pain and what makes them so great. You’ll notice that we don’t feature any down-filled pillows here. We don’t care for those due to the fact that they tend to deflate quickly and require continued fluffing throughout the night. They also tend to be allergen magnets, and sneezing is not conducive to a good night’s sleep.
Many pillow manufacturers insist that the best pillow for neck pain is one made of memory foam. These kinds of pillows are great, but they’re so solid that they tend to retain heat. In addition to this, despite the perception of memory foam as conforming perfectly to everyone’s body shape, its density makes it hard for pillow users to get the perfect shape and fit. For some people, solid memory foam is simply too firm and does not make the best pillow for neck pain.
Enter the Adjustable Shredded Memory Foam Pillow. Because it’s not made of a solid block of foam, this pillow is breathable and moldable. This keeps you cool and comfortable all night. It also makes this a best pillow for neck pain for side sleepers because they can adjust the pillow to fit their needs. While some pillows are too full to be comfortably used by side sleepers, shredded memory foam can be patted down and thinned out for the ultimate comfort.
If you’re not a side sleeper, have no fear! The Adjustable Shredded Memory Foam works great for all sleepers. In fact, it’s one of the best pillows for neck pain no matter what position you sleep in. Unlike down pillows, the design of this pillow features the support necessary for a good night’s rest for back sleepers, as well. It’s not only one of the best pillows for neck and shoulder pain; it’s also machine-washable and made in the U.S.A. Backed by a 5-year warranty, this pillow is guaranteed to make you happy.
• Shredded memory foam provides a balance between support and adjustable comfort
• Design makes it breathable; doesn’t retain heat.
•Made in the U.S.A.
•Foam doesn’t contain cancer-causing PBDE’s
• Supportive enough for back sleepers while soft enough for side sleepers.
• Pillow arrives lumpy; must be put in dryer or user must fluff out the lumps.
• Memory foam creates a strong odor when pillow is first unpackaged.
• Some users found it to be too soft for their taste.
• Users who bought 2 or more pillows reported inconsistencies; some softer/firmer than others.
There’s nothing worse than choosing something that’s labeled as the best pillow for neck pain, settling down into bed and waking up the next day with your neck feeling even worse than it did the day before. Finding a good pillow shouldn’t be a never-ending process of elimination, and the manufacturers of the Snuggle-Pedic Bamboo Shredded Memory Foam Pillow feel your pain (no pun intended). The shredded memory foam is easily moldable, making this one of the best pillows for neck pain in side sleepers as well as those who zonk out on their backs or stomachs. Need less filling? Simply flatten it a bit. Need more? Fluff it up and it never goes flat on its own.
One of the biggest complaints about memory foam mattresses is that they make people too hot. Pillows that are made of a solid piece of memory foam have this same problem. Users who were desperate to find a pillow for their neck pain are often annoyed to discover that their memory foam dream has turned into a hot, sweaty nightmare. This is why so many pillow manufacturers are turning to shredded memory foam. It’s used to keep this pillow cool and comfortable, especially when paired with the beautiful Kool-Flow® micro-vented cover.
Trying to find the best pillow for neck pain can be frustrating, but this one has no strings attached. Try it out for a 90-day sleep trial to see if you like it. If you don’t like it, return it. Snuggle Pro also offers a free customization offer. You can send your pillow to them within the first 90 days to have them make changes to the weight, firmness, support or springiness of your pillow. If you decide to keep it, sleep easy knowing that it’s backed by a 20-year warranty.
• In the first 90 days of ownership, Snuggle Pro offers customization of your pillow at no additional charge.
• Shredded memory foam is breathable, as is the vented pillow cover.
• 100% made in the U.S.A.
• If fluffed up, this pillow keeps its shape.
• Using a regular pillow case on top of the pillow cover impedes the flow of air through the micro-vented material.
• Memory foam odor requires airing out for a few days after unpackaging.
• Some side sleepers felt this pillow was too soft.
No one knows pillows like the folks at Sleep Better. They’re aware that when it comes to building the best pillow for any pain, memory foam can’t be beat. They’re also aware of the complaints that many people have about memory foam being too hot and too firm. Like other manufacturers, the Sleep Better team opted to use memory foam to make theirs one of the best pillows for neck and shoulder pain. However, they chose a 100% cotton cover for their pillow that’s lined with microscopic PCM beads. These help absorb heat and keep the user cool and comfortable on hot nights. For cold winters, the beads absorb and release heat in order to keep your body temperature regulated.
Created with a plush, gusseted design that provides support without adding the height of a traditional pillow, this is one of the absolute best pillows for neck pain for side sleepers. In researching the best pillow for neck pain, you’ll note that side sleepers struggle to keep their necks in a comfortable, level position when using most pillows. The Iso-Cool Memory Foam Pillow is described online as being 2 inches thick, but this is when it’s in the package. It expands to a supportive 5 1/2 inches once it’s unpackaged. It was designed with the perfect thickness to make it of the best pillows for neck pain in side sleepers.
• Made especially for side sleepers.
• Outlast Adaptive Comfort technology helps keep the user at an ideal body temperature.
• Provides a great balance for those who shift between their sides and back during the night.
• Many reviewers don’t like that the center of the pillow is higher than the sides, putting their head at a slight angle.
• Some users report that the Iso-Cool does not do a good job of keeping their heads cool.
• The firmness is a turnoff for those who prefer a softer pillow.
Forty years ago, water beds were all the rage. The funky, sloshy beds have since gone out of style, but the water trend may be coming back in some of the best pillows for neck and shoulder pain. The folks at Chiroflow skipped memory foam and harnessed the power of H2O with their Premium Water Pillow. If you’re having a hard time finding the best pillow for neck pain, why not get one that’s 100% adjustable to your personal sleeping habits and needs? That’s the choice a water pillow provides.
Chiroflow’s Premium Water Pillow is cushioned with luxurious hypoallergenic polyester fiber on the exterior. This covers a thermal layer that prevents the water layer from leeching heat away from the user’s head. In the center of this pillow lies a waterbase that can be filled to the user’s comfort level. People who are looking for the best pillow for neck pain in side sleepers are often frustrated by pillows that are too overinflated and fluffy. Meanwhile, back sleepers who need the best pillow for neck and shoulder pain often find pillows that deflate after being slept upon, causing them to wake up feeling horrible. The waterbase inside this pillow allows for ultimate customization. Put in as much water as you need and it will gently move with you as you shift during sleep throughout the night.
The Premium Water Pillow comes with easy-to-follow instructions and a handy funnel to assist with filling the waterbase. It doesn’t require any special chemical additives; simply fill it, fall asleep fast and wake up feeling refreshed and pain-free.
• Designed to be ideal for all sorts of sleepers.
• Customize by adding more or less water according to your desired firmness.
• Doesn’t require special additives for water; simply use regular tap water.
• Thermal insulator/cover prevents the water from making the pillow feel cold.
• Adding/removing water to get the perfect feel can be inconvenient.
• Some users found the pillow to be too thick even before adding water.
• The sound of the water inside the pillow can be irritating.
People who are looking for the best pillow for neck and shoulder pain need the perfect combination of support and softness. Too high of a pillow angle or not enough support will cause more than just neck strain; it will also cause shoulder pain and discomfort. The absolute best pillow for neck and shoulder pain allows the neck and shoulder to relax during sleep, allowing real rest, rejuvenation and spinal realignment. Pillows made of memory foam are perfect for this, as they gentle cradle the head while supporting the neck at a natural angle, no matter if the sleeper is on their back or their side.
One of the best pillows for neck pain, Sleep Innovations Contour Memory Foam Pillow provides a gentle boost with the adjustable softness of high-quality memory foam. The pillow offers a higher contour for people who need a little extra boost, as well as a lower contour for those who aren’t comfortable with a thick pillow. The lower contour makes this a best pillow for neck pain in side sleepers. Sleep Innovations has been manufacturing pillows and other items to help people get a good night’s sleep for over 20 years. They back their Contour Memory Foam Pillow with a 5-year warranty.
• High and low contours provide options for more or less neck support
• Open cell memory foam allows air to better circulate throughout the pillow
• Provides support for people who prefer different sleeping positions.
• Manufacturers note that product is likely to have an odor upon opening.
• Pillow is thick, but it’s not as firm as those made by competitors.
• May take a few weeks to adjust after switching from a standard pillow.
It seems that every pillow out there seems to promote itself as being the best kind of pillow for a particular type of sleeper. “Buy this one! It’s the best pillow for neck and shoulder pain caused by sleeping on your back!” “No! Buy this one! It’s the absolute best pillow for neck pain in a side sleeper!” What if you’re an “all of the above” sleeper that starts out on your back, rolls over onto your side and ends up on your stomach before the night is through? Where is the best pillow for you?
Core Products was thinking of you when they designed their Tri-Core Standard Support Pillow. It features a few different zones to accommodate people with different sleeping styles, making it one of the best pillows for neck pain, hands-down. One end features thinner comfort for those who need a smaller amount of neck support. People who need a larger degree of neck support can flip the pillow and use the opposite end. On either side of the pillow, you’ll find a flatter area that’s perfect for side sleepers. This makes it a best pillow for neck pain no matter what kind of sleeper you are. If you start out in one position and tend to move around, this is the pillow for you. You’ll be comfortable as you fall asleep on your side. If you turn onto your back, your head will naturally fall into the indentation in the middle of the pillow, while your neck will be gently supported. Roll over onto your other side and your head will find the opposite side support. This really is the best pillow for neck pain—and the best pillow to have you wake up feeling rested each and every night.
• Features large and small neck support.
• Comfortable panels for side sleepers.
• Recommended by healthcare professionals as one of the best pillows for neck pain.
• Fits in a regular pillow case (unlike many orthopedic pillows).
• Remembering to shift your head to the side panel when sleeping on one’s side takes getting used to.
• Some side sleepers report that the side panels are too firm for their preference.
•Chemical odor upon initial unpacking.
When shopping for a pillow, any tips, how-to’s or reviews you come upon should be viewed as a general guideline to start you on your journey. In the end, choosing a pillow is a very subjective thing and what works well for you may not work at all for someone else. Especially if you’re having neck or shoulder pain, the tips and reviews listed above will hopefully help give you a general idea of why you’re having pain and what kind of pillow may help.
Settling on the best pillow will depend on actually getting one home and trying it out for a week or so. Because of this, check to see what the return/exchange policy is on any pillow you purchase. Some of the ones we reviewed offer hassle-free return policies that enable you to try their pillow for up to 3 months without making a commitment. This can be helpful in figuring out what you need. It can take time to figure out what feels good to you, as finding a balance between coolness, comfort and support can seem to be elusive. Happy searching—and once you find the best pillow for neck pain, sweet dreams!