Waking up in the morning with a pain in the neck is an awful feeling. Not only does a kink in the neck make it hard to move, sending stabbing pains down the arms or back, it is often the reason for headaches, ranging from dull to migraine level. Morning neck pain can last all day, and can even be the reason for back aches, sciatica, arm and leg numbness, and usually leaves people feeling irritable and tired.
What Causes Nightly Neck Pain?
People often blame their mattress when they wake up with neck pain, but it is rarely the fault of the mattress or a person’s sleeping position. When you wake up with neck pain, it is usually because you slept with the wrong pillow. Having the right pillow to avoid neck pain is a vital necessity for getting a good night’s sleep. (You might like: What to Look for in a Great Support Mattress?)
The reason for this is simple. The neck is made of up muscles, tendons, cartilage and just seven tiny bones. What’s more, those seven bones are all a part of one single column of bones—the cervical portion of the spine. As small as these bones are, not even connected directly to each other, but sitting on a bed of fluid, they are responsible for protecting one of the most vital parts of our anatomy – the central nervous system, as well as supporting the head and allowing us free movement of the head and neck.
Inside the cervical column, nerves run up and down from brain to all parts of the body. While any part of the spine can be compressed or pinched, causing various degrees of pain or numbness, the neck is the most vulnerable, especially during the night when we are asleep. Keeping the neck in line with our heads and back is one of the best ways to prevent injury, stiffness and pain in the morning, and the best way to keep our neck straight is to have the right support system – a good, solid neck pain support pillow.
The Top 10 Best Pillows for Neck Pain 2021
This luxurious pillow provides a high level of comfort and support for the back, neck and head as you sleep. The Mediflow’s inner water chamber is completely adjustable to offer you the exact amount of support and thickness you need, no matter what your favorite sleeping position is. The Mediflow Waterbase pillow was the subject of a clinical study at Johns Hopkins University, one of the leading medical training schools in the country, and participants found that the Mediflow Waterbase pillow was the best in its class, testing at the top of every category possible.
The study included categories such as: how long it took to fall asleep using the Mediflow Water chamber pillow, how many interruptions to readjust the pillow there were, how long it took to get back to sleep, sleep quality and if the pillow helped reduce neck pain. Overwhelmingly, the Mediflow Waterbase pillow ranked at the top, especially in the reduction of neck pain.
The Mediflow works by allowing you to fill an inner chamber with water, making it a soothing waterbed for your head. The outside is made of durable, easily cleaned polyester that is hypoallergenic and soft. Keeping the Mediflow Waterbase pillow clean is simple. All you have to do is remove the outer cover and machine wash and dry. Then wipe down the inner water chamber with a damp cloth. It takes just minutes and you can have a fresh, clean pillow whenever you need it.
Typical consumer reviews of Mediflow Waterbase Pillow include:
“If I could rank it higher than 5 stars, I would.”
“Highly recommended for anyone who suffers from neck pain.”
“Get it while you can.”
The Coop Home Goods Shredded Memory Foam Pillow gives you excellent flexibility and superior comfort that cradles your neck as you sleep. The shredded foam lets you position the pillow any way you like, and is perfect for side, stomach or back sleepers alike. The airflow between the pieces of foam also keeps the pillow cool during the night, and the proprietary blend of polyester and bamboo fabric of the cover won’t absorb moisture and increases the coolness of the pillow for the ultimate in comfort.
All of the materials in this high-tech pillow are hypoallergenic to provide a healthy, clean atmosphere for sleep. The inner foam material is superior to down or cotton filled pillows, because the springy foam will always keep its shape and mold perfectly to your body as you move in the night for complete support. Down or cotton pillows flatten and give, and do not keep your neck in the proper position, so you are more likely to wake up with neck pain. Sometimes neck pain or pinched nerves in the neck result in migraines, tingling in the hands and feet, shoulder and lower back pain. Other times you just go through the day feeling groggy and weak.
The Coop Home Goods Shredded Memory Foam Pillow for neck pain provides advanced ingenuity to create a powerful sleep aid. Coop Home Goods is a company dedicated to producing the very best in bedding comfort, and stands behind the products with excellent warranties to guarantee your satisfaction.
Typical consumer reviews of the Coop Home Goods Shredded Memory Foam Pillow include:
“Best pillow I’ve ever used.”
“Stays in place great as I change positions at night.”
“Cool and comfortable, I wake up pain free now for the first time ever.”
This soft, comfortable pillow is made of the highest quality shredded memory foam right in the USA. The double airflow system including the vented bamboo cover that stays naturally cool thanks to the moisture resistant, ventilated bamboo cover and the shredded foam pieces that allow air to travel through the pillow without restriction stops body heat from building through the night. The Shredded Memory Foam Pillow by Xtreme Comforts also offers the extra flexibility that isn’t an option with a solid memory foam pillow, so you can shape it to your neck and it maintains its position through the night, no matter how much you toss and turn.
The no questions asked guarantee gives you the optimal security in knowing that no matter what, the Shredded Memory Foam pillow for neck pain by Xtreme Comforts will always provide you the best in sleep luxury. It protects your neck and is easy to care for. The hypoallergenic cover and mold resistant inner core help you sleep soundly and keeps the atmosphere healthy and clean. The inner core of the Xtreme Comforts Shredded Memory Foam pillow is made from 1005 Certipur-US foam and it is vacuum sealed for safe, eco-friendly shipping.
The Shredded Memory Foam pillow is great for any sleep position. Whether you are a side sleeper, a stomach or a back sleeper, you will be able to adjust the pillow to your exact needs thanks to the inner foam maneuverability, and still enjoy the firm, supportive comfort that it provides your head and neck to alleviate any neck pain. The shredded foam is also great for anyone who likes to sleep with their arm under their pillow, the adjustable nature gives you plenty of leeway and the ability to shape the pillow to any angle.
Typical consumer reviews of the Xtreme Comforts pillow include:
“Love the flexibility and support of the Shredded Memory Foam pillow by Xtreme Comforts.”
“Thick and supportive.”
“Came flat and squished in package, but fluffed up like a marshmallow once unwrapped.”
Contoured to be specifically beneficial to people who experience neck pain in the mornings the Memory Foam Pillow from Smarter Rest is a strong, durable and easy to care for sleep aid. There is no specific position that lends itself more to cramped muscles and neck pain in the morning. Side sleepers, people who sleep on their stomachs, or on their backs, are all equally subject to the pain of a sore neck from improper neck alignment. Whenever a person sleeps in a position that allows their necks to curve upwards, sideways or down, it is out of alignment with their spine. That causes sensitive nerves inside their spinal column to be compressed or pinched. The end result is pain.
When nerves in the neck are pinched, supporting muscles in surrounding areas bunch up and swell in an effort to support the injured area. That leads people to often believe the pain they are experiencing is coming from those muscles, but in reality, the sore, swollen muscle tissue is simply a result. The actual cause is in the way the bones of the neck are supported during the night. Pinched nerves in the neck can radiate pain throughout the shoulder girdle, down the arms and into the hands. Pain can also go down the back causing lower back pain, sciatica and numbness or pain in the legs as well. More often, pinched neck muscles from an improper sleeping position causes headaches that last for hours.
The Memory Foam Pillow contoured for neck pain by Smarter Rest is made of toxin free German quality memory foam. It is made to maintain spinal alignment and prevent neck pain, stiffness and even snoring during the night. The granulated fabric is soft and luxurious, while allowing for better airflow. The case is mite and allergen resistant, and is entirely washable so you can have a clean surface easily and quickly.
Typical consumer reviews of the Smarter Rest pillow include:
“Woke up feeling better than I have in years.”
“Using the Memory Foam Pillow from Smarter Rest got rid of the constant neck pain and headaches.”
“The perfect combination of soft comfort and firm support.”
The MyPillow is uniquely engineered to provide the perfect level of support depending on body size. One of the most difficult parts of finding the right pillow for neck support is that no two people are exactly the same size. The differences are especially noticeable between the sexes and between adults and children. The MyPillow uses shirt size to determine special needs so you can buy the size that will fit you the best. Available in four different loft levels, My Pillow has created something that isn’t found anywhere else, and is guaranteed to not go flat under use or machine washing.
The MyPillow Premium Series bed pillow for neck pain is made in the USA out of a patented blend of poly filling. The open cell construction of the fibers allows air to flow freely through the pillow to keep you comfortably cool during the night, and will not ball up like down or cotton filled pillows. The poly-fill of the MyPillow is better than thick, solid foam pillows because it will mold to your body shape easier, and you can adjust it to any position you need during the night. The MyPillow is great for back and stomach sleepers as well as side sleepers. It will also help support the back and shoulders for people who like to put their arms under the pillow while they sleep.
Typical consumer reviews of the MyPillow Premium Series bed pillow include:
“Love this pillow! It is soft and comfortable all night long.”
“Great warranty and easy to care for.”
“The MyPillow fits perfectly and feels great. I get up without neck pain for the first time in ages.”
Sleep Innovations is an industry leader in top-of-the-line support pillows. Their memory foam pillow is excellent for preventing neck pain, because it has a special shape designed to cradle the head and neck, giving it a more comfortable feel no matter what your preferred sleep position is. The Contour Memory Foam Pillow has a recessed center that allows side sleepers to keep their heads in line with their spine, and also gives stomach sleepers the ability to lay with their face on the pillow without pressure from the filling blocking airways or making their skin hot. Back sleepers avoid having their neck curved and chin forced downward, a position that is ripe for pain in the morning, because the Contour Memory Foam Pillow has a curve that keeps the head form being pushed up and forward.
Sleep Innovations Contour pillow is made from Sure Temp memory foam, and has a long warranty that guarantees it will not flatten, break up or lose its shape in any way. Some users report an odor which is a common occurrence with any memory foam product that has been in a package for any amount of time. Simply packing it for shipping can cause a build up that will be easily eliminated by airing out the pillow or using a household odor eliminator such as Febreeze.
Memory foam pillows are a great choice for people with neck pain in the morning. The strong foam core is pliable enough to move comfortably with your body as you sleep, allows freedom without ever losing support that is so vital to the neck during the night. The pillow casing is made of soft, luxurious terry cloth velour fabric that stays cool and comfortable. The cover is simple to remove, and washes in the machine. Sleeping on the Sleep Innovations Contour Memory Foam Pillow is soothing, and made to give you a peaceful night’s sleep. All of the fabric and materials that comprise the pillow are hypoallergenic and allergy free. The Contour Memory Foam Pillow is made in the USA, and even helps reduce snoring and stress caused by insomnia.
Typical consumer reviews of Sleep Innovations pillow include:
“Everyone in the family loves this pillow from my husband and me, along with all of my children, including my toddler.”
“Best sleep in ages thanks to the Contour Memory Foam Pillow.”
“Fits perfectly, and I can sleep on my back without waking up with a stiff neck.”
The Tri-Core Cervical Pillow has a patented design created specifically to support the neck in all sleep positions. The shape of the pillow allows anyone to get a good night’s rest no matter what position they favor. Side and stomach sleepers can enjoy the thick padding along the edges to support the neck without pushing the padding into their face. Back sleepers rest comfortably with their heads in the center depression, and their necks bolstered by the thick outer rim to keep the spine perfectly aligned with the back during the night.
The Tri-Core pillow comes in three sizes for a perfect way to give everyone in the family from the youngest members to the oldest a comfortable, pain free sleeping surface. At first, the shape of the Tri-Core pillow may throw you off. It doesn’t look like any pillow people are accustomed to seeing. Not only is there a deep depression at the center, which is perfectly created to offer the best neck support in any sleeping position, it has sides that are a variety of sizes. The different side thickness allows any user to get just the right level of support at all times.
There are also two firmness levels to choose from, standard and gentle. Both offer excellent support, but are geared to offer buyers a choice between extreme fill and soft, plush fill levels. All Tri-Core Cervical Pillows for neck pain are made from durable, easy to care for materials. The inner fiber provides luxury while letting air flow smoothly throughout the pillow to alleviate heat buildup.
Typical consumer reviews of Tri-Core Cervical Pillow include:
“Best support pillow I’ve used since an auto-injury required neck support at night.”
“I’ve used this pillow for years and it is the best support I’ve ever found.”
“The Tri-Core Cervical Pillow completely relieved my neck pain.”
The precisely contoured Arc4life Cervical Linear Traction Neck Pillow is designed to aid anyone who experiences neck pain when waking up. Neck pain can last all day long, make getting around difficult and is responsible for severe headaches, fatigue, limb pain and numbness and even lower back pain. This unusual looking pillow is the answer to those problems. It has a recessed center with sculpted sides that vary in shape so you can get the right support in any sleeping position. The Arc4life pillow works great for stomach and side sleepers, back sleepers and people of all shapes and sizes from the oldest in the family to the youngest.
Along with helping alleviate neck pain, the way the Arc4life Cervical Linear Traction Neck Pillow helps you relax makes it easier to fall asleep better and faster. It also helps promote healthier sleep by making it easier to breathe correctly, and eliminates snoring. The hand-stuffed, fiber filling is moldable for easy movement during the night, and it allows for complete air flow to keep your sleeping surface cool and comfortable. Along with the varying side shapes, you can fold the Arc4life Cervical Neck Pillow so that both opposing sides are together for extra thickness when sleeping on your side.
Typical consumer reviews of this neck pillow include:
“Completely got rid of the stiff neck problem I’ve had for years.”
“The Arc4life Pillow is such a relief. My physical therapist credited it for getting rid of my neck curvature.”
“Best pillow for my cervical disc problem.”
The Chiroflow Premium Water Pillow offers smooth movement as you sleep without bunching or flattening. It is a great way to get complete support in any sleep position. Because the water core moves with you, it isn’t necessary to get up and reposition the pillow in the middle of the night as you move from side to side, back to front and it makes a great support for pregnant women too.
This luxurious pillow is recommended the most by chiropractors and makes you feel like you’re sleeping at a 5-star resort. Clinical studies show that sleeping on the Premium Water Pillow by Chiroflow helps to reduce neck pain. That is because it has a firm, easy to use support base that you can fill to the desired level of comfort to keep your neck and head cradled all through the night.
You do not need any chemical additives to keep the water clean. Just fill the inner chamber with common tap water, and get ready to experience sleep the way it should be—soothing, peaceful and pain free. The Chiroflow Pillow is great for side sleepers, stomach and back sleepers alike. The inner pad is made of a cool, smooth Dacron StaLoft Hollfil fiber fabric for durable, easy care for comfort. The slip cover case is a soft 300 thread count quality, and it is thermal insulated to prevent a buildup of body head. The entire Chiroflow Pillow is machine washable, so you can have a fresh, clean pillow every night.
Typical consumer reviews of the Chiroflow Pillow include:
“Easy to use, comfortable and I have never slept better.”
“Best pillow ever for neck pain.”
“I was skeptical, but slept pain free for the first time in years from the very first time I tried the Chiroflow Premium Water Pillow.”
Classic Brands is a name that is instantly recognized in the bedding industry. They have a strong reputation for quality pillows that provide complete support, and a great customer service department to ensure complete satisfaction. Their Conforma Memory Foam Pillow is a solid 5-inch thick foam pad that won’t warp, break down or flatten. It maintains its shape throughout the night no matter how much you move and is a fantastic stomach or back support for side sleepers and pregnant women. Even though the Conforma is a single pad of memory foam, the finely drilled tunnels that perforate the entire surface provide easy air flow to keep the surface cool and comfortable at all times.
Memory foam is great for allergy sufferers as well, because the material is naturally hypoallergenic, and also resists mildew, mites and most of all, maintains the proper neck alignment so you always get a good night’s sleep and awake pain free. Your pillow makes up a large percentage of the sleeping surface your body relies on to be comfortable during the night. Picking the right pillow makes a big difference in the type of sleep you get. The Classic Brands Conforma Memory Foam Pillow is soft and comfortable, and instantly matches the shape of your head while still being firm enough to make sure your neck is safe from strain and injury.
Typical consumer reviews of Conforma Memory Foam Pillow include:
“Great for everyone in my family. My kids love it and my husband and I love it.”
“Just the right mixture of softness and strength to keep my neck from hurting while being soothing to sleep on.”
“Sturdy and easy to keep clean.”
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- How to Clean a Memory Foam Pillow
- Guides to choosing the best mattress for Back, Stomach, Side Sleepers (Top 10 rated mattresses will be included)
How to Choose the Best Pillow to Avoid Neck Pain
When selecting a pillow to get rid of neck pain, consider your typical sleeping position. While most people will move about at least once during the night, they typically favor one position over others. People who prefer side sleeping need a thicker pillow than people who sleep on their stomachs and backs.
There are several choices in the list above that are made to take into consideration several positions, and offer easy ways to make any position comfortable and safe for your neck. Some pillows, however, that are extremely thick should be avoided for stomach or back positions because they can force the neck out of position further.
Because support is so important when choosing a pillow to get rid of neck pain, memory foam and water filled pillows are great choices. They will not flatten out or bunch up while you sleep, so you never have to worry about them losing their shape in the middle of the night, leaving you vulnerable.
First Thing to Look for in a Pillow for Neck Pain
A study by Harvard Health Department at Harvard University says that people with neck pain should consider using a pillow made of memory foam, or a firm, adjustable inner core pillow like a water based pillow that will conform to the head and keep the neck in proper alignment with the spine. Cervical and orthopedic pillows are created specifically to perform that function.
A Johns Hopkins study showed that water based pillows and memory foam pillows have the advantage because they redistribute the weight of your body as you move, and absorb the shock to your vertebra. Water filled pillows are great because you can adjust them to your desired level of firmness as well.
Second Thing to Consider for Neck Pain Pillow
Care and ease of cleaning is something that may not be first on your list of worries when looking for a pillow to relieve neck pain. While it is true that the ability to clean your pillow won’t make any difference in how well it supports you, it will make the sleeping surface you have healthier and more pleasant. Consider the long-term. These pillows are made to last, and that means you won’t have to be buying new ones every year. Because they last so long, however, you will want to clean them, and you should clean them often for a better sleeping experience. Pick a neck pain pillow that has an easy to remove, washable case, and an inner core that is easy to either wash in a machine or wipe clean with a damp cloth.
Best Types of Neck Pain Pillows
All of the pillows in our list are made of strong fiber filling, memory foam or are a water based construction for a reason. Those are the very best types of pillows for neck pain relief. They provide support while being luxurious and comfortable. They are easy to clean and won’t flatten out, or separate during the night.
Pregnant women need added support for their bodies during pregnancy, and a full-size pillow made of memory foam or water chamber are the best choices. Make sure that the pillow you choose to support your body during pregnancy also has great air flow to keep it cool so you do not become warm over night from the buildup of body heat inside the padding of the pillow.
Roll-shaped pillows are another choice often looked at by people suffering from neck pain. While they are very good for short-term use, while traveling or in unusual sleeping positions, they are not the right choice for everyday sleeping needs. They only support the neck and not the head or upper back and shoulders the way a full-sized pillow will.
The Best Type of Pillow for Sleeping for Neck Pain, Pinched Nerve & Herniated Disc Video by Dr Mandell
The Best Pillow for Neck Pain, Pinched Nerves & Headaches Video by Dr Mandell
The pillows listed here are all great options for getting rid of neck pain while enjoying the ultimate in luxury and comfort. They are an important purchase for anyone who regularly experiences neck pain when waking up, or difficulty dealing with neck pain during the day. Making the wrong choice in neck pain pillows can do more harm than good. It can add to the problem and make you more miserable than you were without it. So, make sure you choose the pillow that matches your sleep position, size needs and filling preference.
Whether you suffer from sleep position neck pain, or chronic neck pain from an injury or illness, these pillows listed here will help provide relief and offer you a great night’s sleep. Click on the links above to buy them from Amazon.com to get the added benefit of great prices and quick shipping.
Last updated: 5/2021
Last update on 2021-05-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API