Pillows for Neck Pain

Do Pillows For Neck Pain Really Help?

Finding the best pillows for neck pain can be a daunting task. There are so many pillows to choose and everyone is different. How do you know which is the best? What is the right pillow for me?

Issues involving neck pain are usually caused by many factors. Typically, there is neck stiffness and perhaps tingling or numbness of the hand(s). There may be degenerative arthritis in the neck or pain may result from a disc problem. These conditions can make it difficult to find the best pillow to help with neck pain, resulting in sleeping difficulty. If you are looking to buy a new pillow and are confused with all the options, here are some tips which can help with your decision.

Do I Need A New Pillow?

This Is A Simple Questionnaire To Determine If A New Pillow Is Necessary

To see if pillows may offer any relief for neck pain, you may take this short test below. If you answer yes to any of these questions, you should look at the different pillows for some help.

Do you feel pain or stiffness in your neck, back arm or shoulder when you wake up? Yes No
Do you get frequent tension headaches? Yes No
Do you suffer from arthritis? Yes No
Have you been in a whiplash accident or prior injuries to your neck, shoulder or back? Yes No
Do you weight more than is recommended for your height and build? Yes No
Do your hands or arms frequently “fall asleep” during the night? Yes No
Do you sleep on a mattress that is more than 5 years old? Yes No
Do you toss and turn throughout the night trying to get comfortable? Yes No
Do you clench or grind your teeth while sleeping? Yes No
Do you snore loudly on a regular basis? Yes No

Do you suffer from neck pain while you are sleeping?

This can be the most frustrating. Typically, moderate or more severe levels of neck pain can prevent you from falling asleep, wake you when you are changing positions, or may be present with a headache when you wake up in the morning. Fortunately, there are many pillows that can help. If you have injured your neck, often you will have a stiffness. In order to ease the muscles, a pillow that is soft will be one that accommodates your neck and surrounds it in comfort.

A soft memory foam pillow can be very comforting and, since it is a special memory foam, will help keep your neck from being chilled on cold nights, and remain breathable and cool on warm nights. It is one of the most popular pillows for neck pain. Another way to get comforting support is the inflatable pillow, which will react to changing positions and can be adjusted for height, firmness and shape. It reacts like a water pillow, but when you are in pain, you do not want to mess with heavy water bags. The inflatable pillow is light and easy to fill.

For more severe levels of pain, a functional pillow may be necessary until things calm down. These pillows have special areas for back and side sleeping that are adjusted to the support your neck needs in both the back and side sleeping positions. One thing to be aware of when you see these types of pillows – usually with a lower section in the middle of different shapes and raised side sections or wings, is that you must move in a conscious manner when you change positions. With higher levels of neck pain, this is usually not a problem.

However, if you are a particularly deep sleeper or are taking medication for pain and sleeping, you could do more harm by sleeping on your side in the middle section, meant for back sleeping. If you can manage to change positions consciously or wake up from pain when changing positions, this is another popular choice. A good solution is the neck pain pillow, which is fully adjustable, while still providing the separate section benefits.

Pillows For Neck Pain From Arthritis

Do you suffer from cervical spine degeneration or neck arthritis?

Most often, an x-ray may show that you have arthritic changes that can often be related to neck pain. Medical terms for this condition refer to the location; cervical spondylosis or disc degeneration in the front part of the bone and facet arthrosis in the back part. These may occur together and produce difficulty in finding comfortable pillows for neck pain.

It is important to find a comforting pillow that supports the neck, yet allows for the changes that have happened. A firm, hard pillow is usually not the best pillow to use. A pillow is not going to get rid of these changes and the neck functions a little differently than without these changes. Therefore, a pillow that is accommodating to the neck is a good choice. The memory foam contour pillow was designed for sensitive necks and for these type of degenerative conditions. If you need more variability in size, the inflatable or a water pillow is another one of the good pillows for neck pain from arthritis.

Pillows For Cervical Disc Problems

Do You Have Disc Issues? Herniation, Bulging Or Disc Tear?

Sometimes called a slipped disc, disc problems can be painful and produce a pinched nerve in the neck with symptoms such as pain, weakness and numbness and/or tingling in the arm and/or hand. It can also cause neck and shoulder pain or just neck pain. Significant disc problems can result in a great deal of discomfort regardless of a pillow. However, there are some factors that can help in choosing a good pillow for disc problems.

With a pinched nerve that results in pain and muscles spasm, you may find more relief with your head tilted to one side. In fact, patients will often present with a head tilting to one side called an antalgic posture. This is because leaning to one side can help take pressure off the nerve. When sleeping on your back, it is easy to tilt your head, however, those who prefer side sleeping, this can be a real problem. To solve this, you can place a towel under the pillow on one side, or many buckwheat pillows will allow easy adjustment of the height on one side. The neck pain pillow is designed with this purpose and is the most adjustable for a pinched nerve.

To make the buckwheat pillow more comfortable, you can place a towel over the pillow or the comfort buckwheat pillow has a quilted case and cover. This can help get you through the painful inflammation phase of a herniated disc or help with muscle spasm. Since traction for the neck can be very helpful in relieving pain from a pinched nerve, the pillo-pedic pillows provide a mild traction feature that can be helpful for back sleepers by gently providing a neck stretcher effect. Combine one of these pillows with any of the cervical traction devices for symptom relief at night and during the daytime.

Pillows For Neck Curve Problems

Do You Suffer From Loss Of The Normal Neck Curve?

The normal neck has a gentle C-shaped curve which allows for strength and proper muscle function. Loss of this normal curve is a common problem. It can indicate muscle spasm and/ or biomechanical problems. This condition, where the spine becomes straight is often termed cervical hypolordosis, military neck or a reversal of the curve – cervical kyphosis. Mostly any of the pillows for neck pain will have support for the normal curve by using contours under the neck. A pillow like the therapeutic pillow is very good as part of a program to restore the proper cervical curve. Additionally, neck rolls can help in this process along with certain traction pillows designed for this purpose which are not for sleeping. Posture modification, ergonomics and restorative neck exercises are also a vital components in combination with orthopedically designed pillows for neck pain in restoring the proper curve of the neck.

Materials Used In Pillows For Neck Pain

Do You Have A Preference For The Fill Of The Pillow?

Some individuals have allergies which prevent using materials like foam, fiber, latex or even buckwheat hulls. Many find feather pillows comfortable, yet they may not supportive for the cervical spine. The solution for this is the feather neck pillow, which incorporates a memory foam neck support, thereby allowing the benefits of a feather pillow, while permitting proper neck support. Buckwheat pillows are natural and we have organic buckwheat pillows for neck pain that are comfortable and environmentally friendly. Buckwheat pillows allow for adjustments and a custom fit, therefore, it is important to have a pillowcase with a zipper to allow for removal or adding of hulls.

Water filled pillows are very comfortable and react to changing positions automatically making them very good pillows. They can also be customized for level of fill. These tend to be heavy pillows. While some prefer a pillow that will stay in place, others do not want to deal with a heavy pillow and having to adjust the level of water. A great solution is the inflatable pillow. You get the same reactive adjustment which automatically changes as you change positions, and it is lightweight, easy to fill and is adjustable for the height as well as firmness and shape. It is a great choice in pillows for neck pain, especially for those having troubles finding the right one due to its superior comfort, action and adjustable properties.

Memory foam can be very comforting and is one of the most popular materials in neck pillows. Some memory foam pillows are molded in the manufacturing process and this forms a skin over the top. This makes the pillow last longer, however, it retains heat and does not react as well as an open cell memory foam pillow. The memory foam contour uses an open cell design, which makes it breathable, very reactive, soft and great for sensitive necks.

Fiber pillows are popular because of the comforting feel. They come in many shapes and designs and use stitching to limit fiber migration. Although they feel soft, many are firm to avoid fiber wear and compression. Therefore, unless you like a firm fiber pillow, many fiber based pillows will lose their supportive properties after a relatively short period of time. This is a reason they tend to be inexpensive. A combination of fiber and foam makes for a good pillow for neck pain, maximizing the properties of both. The Pillo-Pedic Neck Pain Pillow are two pillows for neck pain that combine these effectively to achieve a therapeutic pillow offering comfort, relief of pain and a true, lasting form of gentle traction not achieved with the use of fiber fill alone.

Sizing Pillows For Neck Pain

Are You Particularly Large Or Small?

Pillows come in many sizes to fit any size. Some come in just one size and most will fit into this category. The average height for a pillow is about 4 inches and this will fit most average size adults. Some pillows offer 2 size heights in one pillow (different height or shape lobes). The material, being a soft chemical free memory foam, will have an effective height of 3 and 4 inches. Some pillows for neck pain come in different sizes that are measure by body height or neck to shoulder length, like the popular side sleeping pillow, which is great for those who are side sleepers or have neck and shoulder pain. The therapeutic functional pillow comes in different sizes from child to extra large adult. The inflatable pillow is one that can be adjusted for height and is great for all size individuals.

Pillows For Neck Related Headaches

Do You Suffer Neck Tension Headaches?

The structures of the neck are sensitive and can refer pain to the head. Typically, poor posture when sleeping can result in a morning headache, especially using more than one pillow and having the head pushed forward. Most pillows designed for the cervical spine will help to keep the head and neck in a good posture, thereby helping to prevent these headaches. A pillow for headache relief uses an ice pack in a design that wraps around the neck and back of head to help with relief of a current headache or to apply cold therapy to injured muscles.

Firm Or Soft Pillows For Neck Pain

Do You Prefer Firm Or Soft Pillows?

Some individuals have a preference for either a firm or soft pillow. In general, a softer pillow will provide better relief from pain. Firmer pillows will help to restore the curve of the neck better. Pillows vary in firmness levels. Even memory foam pillows can be firm depending on the density and if it is an open or closed cell foam. Firmness can also be subjective, with some thinking a pillow is firm, while others feeling the same pillow is soft. In general, our memory foam pillows are soft, along with the inflatable and water pillows. The neck pillow tends to be firm along with buckwheat pillows, however, the egg crate pillow is one of the best firm pillow options.

Travel Pillows For Neck Pain

Do You Travel For Business Or Leisure? Use A Favorite Chair Or Recliner for Sleeping?

Traveling can be stressful, resulting in tension headaches and stiff neck muscles. Riding for long periods can place the neck in poor posture causing strain. Even though many recliners look and feel comfortable, many do not provide proper neck support. Fortunately, there are pillows for neck pain that can help. For reclining or traveling, u shaped pillows can help provide support and comfort. They can also prevent the head from falling to one side, which can result in a stiff neck. There are pillows for neck pain that support posture while sitting and this can be helpful for poorly designed seats. For those who sleep away from home, there are smaller versions of standard pillows that are compact and still provide the support and comfort you need.

Still having problems deciding on which of the pillows? You may need to combine a functional pillow with a uniform surface one according to your symptoms in a two pillow strategy for neck pain. Please also see Choosing The Right Neck Pillow, the Best Pillow Choice For Neck Pain. We also encourage you to contact us and we are always happy to assist you in any way possible in choosing pillows for neck pain.

Author Bio

Stephen Ornstein, D.C. has treated thousands of neck, shoulder and back conditions since graduating Sherman Chiropractic College in 1987 and during his involvement in Martial Arts. He holds certifications as a Peer Review Consultant from New York Chiropractic College, Physiological Therapeutics from National Chiropractic College, Modic Antibiotic Spinal Therapy from Dr. Hanne Albert, PT., MPH., Ph.D., Myofascial Release Techniques from Logan Chiropractic College, and learned Active Release Technique from the founder, P. Michael Leahy, DC, ART, CCSP.