This page will comprehensively answer the question: what is the best pillow for neck issues? The right pillow can ease neck pain and help you sleep better. You can read about different types of neck pillows and how they work for different sleeping positions and check out the pillow buying guide.
Types of Neck Pillows
If you’re wondering what pillow is suitable for neck pain, the answer is all of the options below. The pillows can help people with different kinds of neck pain and misalignment.
Cradle pillows have an ergonomic design that gently but firmly supports your head to prevent strain. It will cradle your head and neck so that your spine is aligned and there is no stress or tension on your spine.
These pillows are conducive to all sleeping positions, making them the perfect choice for people who often move at night. Cradle pillows are one of the simplest neck pillows and are comfortable for most people.
A side pillow is a cervical pillow for side sleepers. When you sleep on your side, your neck and head can become even more strained, resulting in severe neck pain and back discomfort. Side pillows have deep contours, so your neck is fully supported and aligned with your head.
These pillows can come in a few different shapes, but all serve the same purpose and offer deeper grooves for optimal spinal alignment. These pillows are not suitable for back or stomach sleepers, as the deeper contours can misalign the spine further in those positions.
Cervical rolls are one of the more dramatic types of neck pillows. These rolls are designed to be used in tandem with a standard pillow. You can slip the roll, which is about the size and shape of a couch arm, into your pillowcase at the bottom of your pillow.
Placing the roll at the base of your pillow increases ergonomics and adds substantial support for your neck, allowing your head to rest on the standard pillow. If you suffer from severe neck pain, this pillow is one of the best options because it substantially increases neck support.
Comfort pillows are similar to combination pillows. They combine the simple design of a standard pillow with the added support and benefits of orthopedic pillows. Comfort pillows often have a normal shape but feature special filling that is easy to adjust and shape into an ergonomic design. These pillows are ideal for people who frequently switch positions while sleeping. So, if you’re not a side sleeper, back sleeper, or stomach sleeper and more of an every-position sleeper, this pillow is the best option. Depending on your current position, you can move and adjust the dense filling to support your neck as much or as little as you need. A side sleeper may want a more pronounced place for their neck to rest, while a stomach sleeper needs a flatter pillow. Comfort pillows are the most flexible and versatile type of neck pillows.
How You Sleep Matters
As mentioned, your sleeping position determines your ideal type of pillow for reducing neck pain. Below are some tips for caring for your neck and spine in some of the most common sleeping positions or situations. Consider how you sleep while reading this section. If you’re not sure how you usually sleep, ask your partner, record yourself one night, or try to think about it while falling asleep.
If you want to use a cervical neck pillow, sleeping on your back makes it easy. Most cervical pillows are designed for back sleepers. They have a higher section to support the natural C shape of your cervical spine and a lower section to keep your head aligned without straining your neck. A standard cervical pillow can reduce neck pain and discomfort if you sleep on your back religiously. The best pillows for back sleepers are cradle pillows, comfort pillows, or cervical rolls.
Side sleepers will not benefit as substantially from standard cervical pillows as back sleepers will. If you always sleep on one of your sides, you need a cervical pillow with a more pronounced neck section to ensure your spine is aligned. When you rest your head on your side, the unnatural curve of your neck is even worse than when you lay on your back. Overall, side sleepers should seek out thicker cervical pillows with deeper contours. The best pillows for people who sleep on their side are side pillows, comfort pillows, or cervical rolls.
If you’re a stomach sleeper, it changes the whole game. Cervical pillows contour and support the natural C shape of the vertebrae in your neck. If you sleep on your stomach, using a rigid cervical pillow would push your neck in the wrong direction, inverting the C and probably causing you tons of discomfort in your throat. It would be like hunching your neck aggressively, which is horrible for your spine. The only neck pillow suitable for stomach sleepers is the comfort pillow. When sleeping face down, you should keep your head and neck as low as possible, so a thin pillow is the best choice. Stomach sleepers should keep their spine as straight as possible and their head lightly supported.
Sleeping on the go
Sleeping on the go is different, as you don’t have as much control over your positioning and environment. Whether you want to nap on a plane or doze off in the car, you should still ensure your neck and head are properly supported. The best options for sleeping on the go are the horseshoe pillows you often see at airports. You can also use a comfort pillow or the Neck-O Pillow to provide more support and comfort. However, the horseshoe pillows are more compact and conducive to packing and traveling. The best way to sleep will always be lying down, giving your spine a chance to uncompress and let your muscles relax. Make sure you keep your head and neck as supported as possible if you have to get some shuteye while on the move.
What To Consider When Looking For A Pillow
Consider this a pillow-buying guide. Keep the following factors in mind when shopping for a new neck pillow.
Thickness is a complex aspect of your pillow. You want a pillow to be thick enough to support your neck but not so thick that it props up your head too high, preventing your spine and muscles from relaxing. Side sleepers should seek out thicker pillows, while stomach sleepers are better off with thin pillows. You want a thickness conducive to a straight and relaxed spine.
Your mattress will impact what pillow is best. Your pillow and mattress are partners, so they have to work well together. If you have a softer mattress, get a thinner pillow. You can get a slightly thicker pillow if you have a firm mattress. Soft mattresses allow your body to sink so your head is closer to the mattress. Therefore, you need a pillow that will not drastically lift your head, misaligning your spine.
The loft is the compressed height of the pillow when you lay your head on it. Loft is similar to firmness but different from thickness. A pillow may be super thick but have a low loft, meaning it flattens easily. Stomach sleepers should opt for a low loft, while back sleepers can benefit from a medium or high loft. Side sleepers should choose pillows with high loft to support the natural curve of their neck from the side.
The support your pillow offers should be one of your top considerations. The best neck pillows have a raised section to support your neck while the compressed area cradles your head. Super flat pillows or pillows with low loft may not offer any support, so it’s important to find the right combination of thickness, loft, and support.
Pillow covers can be made of silk, satin, synthetic, nylon, polyester, and cotton. The pillow cover will not drastically impact your neck and spine comfort but will help improve sleep. You want a breathable and soft material that will keep you comfortable in hot and cold weather.
Sleeping Challenges After a Cervical Neck Surgery
You may find sleeping more uncomfortable and difficult if you recently had cervical neck surgery. It’s nearly impossible to fall asleep if your neck is in pain, and insomnia won’t make the healing process any easier. You can solve many sleeping challenges after cervical neck surgery with the right ortho pillow for neck pain.
What Is The Best Pillow To Use After Neck Surgery
Unsurprisingly, the best pillow to use following neck surgery is a cervical pillow! Following surgery, your neck will be more vulnerable and sensitive until it heals. You will likely delay the healing process and cause unnecessary pain and discomfort if you sleep in an unhealthy position. The best pillow for a neck surgery patient is a more rigid neck pillow that can properly guide your head and neck to align your spine.