The right pillow can make all the difference when it comes to neck pain. Millions of Americans suffer from chronic or occasional neck pain. Over half of working adults in the U.S. admit to suffering from neck pain at least once in the past year. When the pain travels down into the lower back, it is also the leading cause of disability worldwide.
While for some, neck pain may be little more than an annoying discomfort, if left untreated, it can become a debilitating problem.
One simple way to help treat it is to make adjustments in your life to treat the causes of your neck pain. From the way you sit to your weight, many things can contribute to your pain. One easy change that can make a big difference is choosing the right pillow.
If you've been suffering, it's time to start searching for the best pillows for neck pain to find the right one for you. Keep reading for a list I've compiled of 8 of the best types of pillows that I've used at different times.
Choosing the Best Pillows for Back Pain
1. Curved Foam Pillow
One of the biggest reasons that people experience neck pain after waking up in the morning is that their pillow doesn't properly support their head and neck. Flat traditional pillows compress beneath the weight of our bodies. Even a pillow that is new might not properly support your head and neck; older pillows are even worse.
As a result, your neck may sag, which will bend it at an angle while you sleep. This leads to back and neck pain. To combat this, many manufacturers now offer contoured pillows. These are designed to hold your neck and head in proper alignment with your spine.
Because your head and neck need support in order to hold this alignment, foam is a popular choice for contoured pillows.
If you choose to use a curved foam pillow, make sure to read the label to choose the one that's right for your style of sleeping. A curved pillow designed for back sleepers may leave your neck at an uncomfortable angle if you choose to sleep on your side.
2. Feather Pillow
While a pillow that is too soft is likely only to increase your neck pain, the right feather pillow can be one of the best pillows for back sleepers or stomach sleepers.
Foam and other fillings are often touted as the best pillows for neck pain. But many sleepers want something with a bit more give. Some foam pillows may also be too thick, raising your head too high if you tend to sleep on your back or stomach.
If you crave a soft, cloud-like pillow but worry that those with synthetic fill will wear out too quickly, feather pillows are a great alternative.
Opt for one with a nice, thick fill to help keep your neck and shoulders properly aligned with your spine to help reduce back pain.
3. Memory Foam
Like a curved foam pillow, a memory foam pillow provides superior support to help keep your neck where it needs to be through the night. Unlike solid foam, a memory foam pillow adapts to your head and neck to support your exact style of sleeping.
If you've never tried a pillow for reducing neck pain before, this might be a great choice until you figure out exactly what style or shape works best for you. This is the type I currently use and keep coming back to.
4. Cylindrical Pillows
Whether you don't want to give up your normal pillow or need additional support for your neck, a cylindrical pillow is a great option.
These circular pillows are smaller than your normal nightly version and are designed to provide targeted support where you need it most. Use it beneath your neck, your lower back, or anywhere you notice soreness as a result of a lack of support.
5. Knee Pillows
Your head and neck pain may also be contributing to your back pain.
If you sleep on your side, the angle of your spine might also be contributing to your discomfort. While the right pillow for beneath your head will help with this, there is another area of your body that you could be supporting as well; your knees.
Knee pillows are designed to help keep your spine properly aligned. This reduces the pressure on your lower back while you sleep. I use a knee pillow every night, partly because I've had knee replacements, but mainly because my hips and legs feel much more aligned and I sleep so much better.
6. Body Pillow
If you don't sleep in the same position night after night, or if you are suffering from chronic pain in more than one area of your back, you may need a different solution than the pillows mentioned so far on this list.
A body pillow designed to be a back support pillow will be shaped like a large "U." These pillows not only help to align your neck and shoulders and support your head but can also be used along with your back and between your knees to reduce your chronic back pain.
7. Lumbar Pillow
The pillow you use at night might not be the only one that can help reduce your chronic neck pain, which often goes hand in hand with back pain. If you sit at a desk long hours each day, a lumbar pillow might be a good investment.
These pillows go between your back and your chair to help support and align your spine while you sit. Not only will this make sitting more comfortable, but over time it can also help to reduce your chronic pain. I use a shiatsu massaging lumbar pillow that has heat because my back pain gets pretty severe. When I'm at my desk I alternate between a traditional lumbar support and the shiatsu massager when I start to feel my back pain intensifying.
8. Hybrid Pillows
If you're like many American adults, you may only experience occasional neck pain. This means you might not want to give up your favorite pillow for a firm or curved option every night.
That's where hybrid pillows come in. These pillows offer two different options, one on either side.
One side is often designed as an orthopedic pillow to reduce pain. It may be more firm and offer contouring to help align your neck and spine.
The other side is designed for when you aren't experiencing neck pain. These sides are available in softer versions and with gel to keep you cool and comfortable throughout the night.
If you've been suffering from chronic neck pain, something as simple as swapping out your pillow can make a difference.