Your neck is one of the most critically important parts of your body. It not only houses the arteries that help transport blood from your heart to your brain, but also allows you to turn your head in all kinds of different directions. Without the complex network of muscles and bones in the neck that provide its remarkable agility, the story of the human race may have come to an abrupt conclusion ages ago.
With so many critical organs and complex moving parts, it’s not surprising that the neck is one of the most vulnerable and injury-prone areas of the body. Whiplash, disk hernia and cervical radiculopathy are just a few conditions caused by accident-related neck trauma. According to the Mayo Clinic, illnesses like degenerative disk disease and cervical spondylosis are known to cause neck pain. Even minor things like poor posture or just sleeping in a way that puts too much pressure on the neck can cause tightness and unease.
One of the simplest and easiest things you can do if you have neck pain is buy a new pillow. Old, flat pillows don’t provide adequate neck support. At the same time, overly fluffy pillows can cause issues as well. The best solution is to invest in a pillow that’s specifically designed to reduce neck pain. There are plenty of options available, ranging from simple memory foam pillows that are ergonomically designed to support the neck to full-body pillows that support not only the neck but also cradle the entire body.
Here are the best neck pain pillows for sleeping that you can buy:
- The UTTU Sandwich Pillow accommodates all sleeping styles, including back, side and belly.
- If you need more than just a pillow for your head, give the Woosa Back Support Systems Body Pillow a look. It supports your entire body while you sleep.
- One downside of memory foam-based pillows is that they tend to absorb body heat. The ViscoSoft Cooling Memory Foam Contour Pillow solves this problem with a layer of heat-resistant gel.
- The SkySiesta SNUG Travel Pillow is the best option for avoiding neck strain that occurs when you sleep while traveling. It provides much more stability compared to the typical neck support pillows that you’ll find in airport stores.
- The Zyllion Shiatsu Back and Neck Massager soothes your neck and back with its built-in heater and rotating mechanical nodes.
The most versatile neck pain pillow
UTTU Sandwich Pillow
The UTTU Sandwich Pillow is a good product to start with if you’re in the market for pillow with extra support and you’re just starting your research process. It’s one of just a handful of neck support pillows that you can adjust to suit your sleeping style. The inside consists of three memory foam layers. If you feel that the pillow is too big with all three layers, you can remove one or more of them.
- Fully adjustable. Remove or add memory foam as needed to suit your sleeping preferences.
- Compatible with all sleeping positions. Some neck pain pillows are for specific types of sleepers, but this one accommodates all sleeping styles.
- Consistent support. The memory foam layers won’t wear out or become limp over time.
- Five year warranty. If there’s a defect or some other problem with the pillow, just return it within five years to get a complete refund.
- Hypoallergenic. The UTTU Sandwich Pillow comes with a hypoallergenic cover that’s made from bamboo.
- Easy to clean. Just unzip the cover and toss it in the wash with the rest of your laundry.
- Relieves pressure. The curved shape follows the contours of your head and takes stress and pressure off your neck.
- You can only wash the case. The memory foam will break down if you put it in your washing machine.
The best full body neck pain pillow
Woosa Back Support Systems Body Pillow
For some people, a normal sized pillow just isn’t enough. If you’re suffering from not only neck pain but also back, hip and/or shoulder pain, you may need additional support when you sleep. That’s where the Woosa Back Support Systems Body Pillow comes in. It’s 52 inches long and 12 inches across, yet it only weighs six pounds.
- Full body support. This pillow cradles and supports your entire body– not just your head.
- Relieves pregnancy discomfort. If you’re expecting, you can use this full body pillow to reduce pregnancy-related neck and body pain.
- Hypoallergenic bamboo cover. When it’s time for a wash, just unzip the cover and clean it with the rest of your laundry periodically.
- Adapts to the shape of your body. The Woosa Back Support Systems Body Pillow is surprisingly flexible. You can fold it into a variety of different shapes.
- Organic latex stuffing. The key to this body pillow’s flexibility is its spiral-shaped organic latex stuffing, which is more bendable and foldable than memory foam.
- Return it if you don’t like it. You can return this pillow at any time within 111 nights, for any reason– no questions asked. It also comes with a 3-year warranty.
- Lightweight. Even though this pillow is huge (52 inches long, 12 inches across) it only weighs six pounds.
- Not a good option for people with latex allergies. If you’re allergic to latex, you shouldn’t get this pillow.
The best neck pain pillow with a cooling gel feature
ViscoSoft Cooling Memory Foam Contour Pillow
Memory foam-based pillows are extremely comfortable because they provide great neck support, but there is a catch– they tend to absorb heat. During the winter, that may not be a problem. However, nobody wants to wake up in a pool of sweat during the summer. The ViscoSoft Cooling Memory Foam Contour Pillow addresses the heat absorption issue with cooling gel.
- Gel coating keeps the pillow cool. Two full pounds of cooling gel help insulate the pillow and stop it from heating up at night.
- Designed to support both side and back sleepers. This pillow accommodates most sleeping styles.
- Moisture resistant. ViscoSoft’s patented pillow cover– which is made from fabric it calls COOLMAX– is designed to wick away moisture.
- Antibacterial cover. In addition to resisting moisture, COOLMAX also has antibacterial properties.
- Memory foam comfort. Memory foam pillows help people with neck pain because it provides additional head and neck support.
- Money-back guarantee. If you don’t like the pillow you can return it within 30 days and get all your money back. There’s a three-year warranty, as well.
- Curved, ergonomic shape. The groove in the center of the pillow is designed to take pressure off the neck.
- You have to air it out to get rid of the initial odor. Like all memory foam pillows, this one needs to be aired out before use to get rid of the “new pillow smell.”
The best portable neck pain pillow for traveling
SkySiesta SNUG Travel Pillow
The pillows mentioned above work great when you’re at home and you can sleep in your own bed. But what about when you need to sleep on the go? Every airport has shops that sell neck support pillows, but they only offer limited neck support. The SkySiesta SNUG Travel Pillow is a better option for travelers with chronic neck pain because it holds your head firmly in place so that you can get a comfortable rest that won’t leave you feeling achy later.
- Complete support for head, neck, chin and shoulders. This travel pillow has excellent neck support, which makes it ideal for people with recurring neck pain issues.
- Comes with a travel bag. The convenient traveling bag lets you strap this pillow to your backpack.
- Simple and safe. No fancy gimmicks here. This pillow is just a cushion that’s perfectly shaped to help reduce neck pain when traveling.
- Lifetime warranty. In addition to the unlimited warranty, there’s also 30-day satisfaction guarantee.
- Easy to clean. Just throw this pillow in the wash when you’re ready to clean it.
- Comes with accessories. In addition to the travel bag, you also get an eye mask.
- Dampens environmental noise. In addition to providing additional head and neck support, the side cushions also block sound.
- Not ideal for warm temperatures. The extra cushioning may make you sweat if you start to get warm.
The best neck pain pillow with a Shiatsu massage feature
Zyllion Shiatsu Back and Neck Massager
The Zyllion Shiatsu Back and Neck Massager gives you a whole new way to reduce the pain caused by neck issues. It’s equipped with both a built-in heater and a pair of mechanical massage nodes. These features are designed to gently melt your neck pain away. Because it shuts off automatically after 20 minutes, you can use it in your bed. The straps and car adapter add more versatility. They let you take this unique neck pain pillow with you when you drive.
- Massages you to sleep. The automatic shut-off feature makes this device safe and convenient to use in bed.
- Heat melts pain away. The built-in heater helps your neck muscles relax.
- Take it with you wherever you go. The back of this pillow is equipped with a handy strap, which you can use if you want to enjoy the benefits of Shiatsu massage while you drive.
- Durable construction. The leatherette exterior doesn’t rip or tear easily.
- Simple one-button operation. Just press the on/off button once to turn it on, and again to begin your massage.
- Use it on any part of your body. This device works just as well on calves and limbs as it does on necks.
- Satisfaction guarantee. If you don’t like your Zyllion Shiatsu Back and Neck Massager, just return it within 90 days to get your money back. There’s also a 1-year warranty, as well.
- You need to be near a power source to use it. Batteries are not an option.
Buying guide for neck pain pillows
There are more types of neck pain pillows than you may initially think. Available types range from ergonomic pillows, to pillows that are designed to be used only in bed to small portable pillows that are for traveling to full body pillows that support the entire body. Identifying how you intend to use your pillow will help you make a more informed decision.
Most pillows that are designed to alleviate neck pain are made out of memory foam. Memory foam is comfortable, durable and supportive. There is, however, one potential downside to consider: chemical odors. Even though these odors tend to dissipate over time, it’s still something to think about before you buy– particularly if you’re sensitive to those types of smells. Pillows that are made out of latex are usually a bit more expensive, but they also don’t usually have odor issues. Synthetic and down-fill pillows are not ideal for people that suffer from neck pain because they don’t provide as much support.
Advanced features vs. durability
Neck pain pillows with extra features tend to wear out faster than basic ones. That trade-off could be worth it, though– particularly if your neck will benefit from Shiatsu massage nodes and cooling gel.
Some pillows– like the UTTU Sandwich Pillow, for example– come with removable pads that let you customize your pillow to suit your comfort preferences. If you know what kind of pillow you need, customization may not prove useful. But if you’re unsure what kind of pillow works best for you, a customizable pillow will give you the ability to experiment.
Different types of pain relief pillows serve different sleeping styles. Some pillows are designed with back sleepers in minds, but others can be used to make side sleeping more comfortable as well.
Warranty / satisfaction guarantee
Manufacturers of high quality pain relief pillows typically provide unconditional satisfaction guarantees to their customers. Warranties give you the ability to get your money back if you find something wrong with your pillow.
Maintenance and upkeep
Before you buy a pillow, you should find out what you need to do to clean it. Some pillows– like those that are made out of memory foam, for example– tend to fall apart in the wash. These types of pillows usually come with removable covers. If you do decide to get one of these types of pillows, you may want to invest in a pillow protector. Pillow protectors will help you keep the inside of your pillow clean.
The cheapest types of pillows you can buy are made from synthetic materials, down or some combination of the two. These types of pillows aren’t ideal for people that suffer from neck pain because they don’t provide the level of support that other pillow types provide.
Memory foam pillows fall into the mid-range price bracket. Most cost around $40. Travel pillows cost roughly the same amount, as well. The key determining factor here is the build material. Expect to pay a bit more for brand name pillows.
The most expensive types of ergonomic pillows you can buy have features like cooling gel, built-in massage nodes and heating functionality. Expect to pay $50 or more if you want a high-end neck pain pillow.
Frequently asked questions
Q: How firm should my neck pain pillow be?
A: The short answer: it all depends on how you sleep. Stomach sleepers should go with soft, thin pillows. Side sleepers need more firmness and support. If you tend to sleep on your side, a pillow that has a grooved center portion may help reduce neck and shoulder stress when you sleep. Back sleepers can also benefit from this type of ergonomic design.
Q: Why does my pillow smell?
A: Many manufacturers ship their products directly to their customers. As a result, your pillow may smell like it just came out of a factory after you open up the packaging. Don’t worry– these odors aren’t harmful, and the intensity will lessen as time goes on. Exposing your pillow to air for an extended period of time before use can help get rid of any “new pillow smells” that you may experience.
Q: How often should I clean my pillow?
A: The Huffington Post recently interviewed Interior design expert Robin Wilson to find out how often people should clean their pillows. Her answer: you should throw your pillow cover in the wash every three weeks.
Tips and tricks
- Reading the instructions before you use your pillow is a smart thing to do. Even though pillows are simple, different types of materials require different types of maintenance and care. Most memory foam-based pillows sometimes don’t hold up well in washing machines, for example. That’s why they typically come with removable covers, which you can wash.
- Consider investing a pillow protector if you can’t clean the inside of your pillow. Pillow protectors not only extend the life of a pillow by helping reduce the effects of everyday wear and tear, they also provide a healthier sleep environment. Dust mites, bodily fluids, mold and other contaminants can make their way into the center of your pillow. Pillow protectors can stop this from happening.
- Keep some spare pillowcases handy. If you have some spare pillowcases stashed away, you’ll always be prepared for guests– and you’ll always be able to enjoy a fresh, clean pillowcase if you notice that your current one needs cleaning.