Neck pain is a real — pun 100 percent intended — pain in the neck. It can also seem pretty random. One morning you're fine, the next you can barely turn your head without howling in agony. The best pillows for neck pain can help, because the cause of your pain could be the way you're sleeping (especially if that's on your stomach with your neck twisted in a knot). But it can also have a lot to do with the quality of pillow you're choosing.
"All those hours spent staring down at our smartphones is causing trouble for spinal alignment and we’re feeling the painful effects of it in the neck and in the back, especially when we sleep," says Dr. Neel Anand, professor of orthopaedic surgery and director of spine trauma at Cedars-Sinai Spine Center in Los Angeles. "If you sleep on your back with your head bent forward or on your side with your head significantly bent to the side, you may exacerbate your current neck pain."
And, when it comes to comfortable pillows for back, side, and stomach sleepers, Anand says it’s not a decision to make lightly, because your neck and back may live with it for years to come (no pressure or anything).
"Many people set out to buy a new pillow or mattress because they have a problem to fix: Their current pillow is causing a neck ache, they find themselves tossing and turning at night, or they feel aches and pains when they wake up," Anand says. "But no matter what has spurred your new expedition, keep the proper alignment of your neck and back as a priority in your decision-making and you’ll have a much better chance of a good night’s sleep and happier mornings."
Anand suggests looking for a pillow that keeps your neck parallel to the mattress and adapts to your specific sleep position. He is partial to memory foam, foam contour, and cervical contour pillows, which he calls “extremely effective for most because your neck rests on a less elevated side when laying on your back or on a more elevated side when sleeping on your side.” If you have a firmer mattress, get a thicker pillow so that there’s less cushion for your shoulder to sink into. If your mattress is made from memory foam, the opposite rule applies: A thinner pillow is needed to compensate for your shoulder sinking into the bed.
No matter how amazing your pillow is, it's important to know when neck pain requires more than retail therapy to cure. If your pain becomes chronic or you experience other symptoms like tingling, numbness, or weakness in the shoulders or arms, visit a doctor to rule out Degenerative Disc Disease.
Assuming your neck pain is nothing more than run-of-the-mill annoying, check out these six great pillows for neck pain.
1. A Contoured Memory Foam Pillow That's Made Out Of Hypoallergenic Bamboo
If you suffer from allergies and neck pain, you're going to need the very best (and very specific) bedding — and this hypoallergenic memory foam pillow is a great place to start. This super firm but lightweight pillow is a good fit for all sleeping styles and boasts a wave design that supports your neck and shoulders and encourages proper spinal alignment. Thanks to an eco-friendly, naturally anti-bacterial bamboo cover, dust mites, mold, and other allergens won't come within an inch of your sinuses. And, if you happen to be a sweaty sleeper or just prefer not waking up with your face sticking to a pillow, you're in luck: the pillow cover is infused with Kool-flow technology that encourages air to circulate through the pillow.
2. A Molded Memory Foam Pillow With Cooling Gel For Back And Side Sleepers Who Get Hot During The Night
Provide therapeutic support to your head and neck and keep the temperature regulated all night long with this memory foam pillow, which comes in standard and queen sizes. Medium-firm memory foam molds around your neck and head to prop it up just enough so that your spine is aligned. The pillow itself is made with two pounds of cooling gel that actually reacts with your body to provide a continuous cooling surface. Adding to the cooling experience, its moisture-wicking pillowcase is made with a special fabric that provides incredible, constant ventilation.
3. A Thinner Memory Foam Pillow With A Low Profile And Bamboo Cover
If you have a smaller neck or need (or just prefer) a softer pillow with a lower profile, this contoured memory foam option is thinner than most and was designed by a chiropractor. The pillow varies in size from one end to the other — from 2.25 inches to 3.5 inches — and works best for back sleepers. If you sleep on your side, no worries: it can be turned upside down and used while side sleeping so that your shoulder tucks under the pillow slightly for better alignment. Countless reviewers say this is the memory foam pillow that finally got rid of their neck pain. It also includes a hypoallergenic bamboo cover that is resistant to allergens and stays cool.
4. A Cervical Contour Latex Memory Foam Pillow That's Softer Than Most
Put less pressure on your neck and head with this cervical neck support pillow, which comes in small, medium, and large sizes. Designed by a celebrity chiropractor and featured on The Doctors TV show, this latex memory foam pillow has a valley that supports the head for back sleeping. The pillow is slanted to provide a cushion for the neck and shoulders while side sleeping and is described as "much softer" than other memory foam pillows, which is good to keep in mind if you don't love firm pillows.
5. A Firm Memory Foam Pillow With Built-In Features For Side And Back Sleepers
A tried-and-true contour pillow that boasts built-in features for both back and side sleepers, this non-toxic foam pillow is available in five sizes and boasts four unique components that help support your back and neck no matter how you love to sleep. A valley center cavity and wedge extension provide support for your head and thoracic spine when you're on your back. The raised side panel was designed specifically for side sleepers to cushion the shoulders and prevent pain. A fitter cover comes with each order and you should expect a pillow that's on the firmer side.
Bustle may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was created independently from Bustle's editorial and sales departments.