The 9 Best Cervical Pillows for Neck Pain
If you suffer from acute or chronic neck pain, overlooking your pillow would be a mistake.
A cervical pillow gently stretches and relaxes your neck and shoulder muscles, while supporting your neck and keeping your spine aligned all night.
This results in neck pain relief at night, and speedier recovery from cervical injuries and disc degeneration, while allowing you a better and more restorative sleep.
If you suffer from a military neck, herniated cervical disc, neck arthritis, neck stiffness, or any neck problem – an orthopedic neck pillow – can be very helpful.
But, how to choose the best cervical pillow – for the best price?
- Do Cervical Pillows Work?
- Cervical Pillow vs. Regular Pillow
- How to Choose a Pillow for Neck Pain
- Cervical Pillows Reviews
- 1. EPABO Pillow – Best for Military Neck/Neck Fusion Surgery
- 2. Therapeutica Pillow – Best for Cervical Bulging Disc
- 3. TEMPUR Neck Pillow – Best for Neck Arthritis
- 4. Elviros Cervical Pillow – Best for Neck Pain and Arm Numbness
- 5. Cradle Me Cervical Pillow – Best USA-Made Butterfly Pillow
- 6. SpineAlign Pillow – Best for Side Sleepers
- 7. Arc4life Cervical Pillow – Best for Back Sleepers
- 8. Tri Core Cervical Pillow – Best for Forward Head Posture
- 9. Zamat Cervical Traction Pillow – Best for Morning Stiffness
- How To Use a Contoured Pillow for Neck Pain
- What Cervical Pillow Do Chiropractors Recommend?
- How to Use a Cervical Pillow
Do Cervical Pillows Work?
A systematic review of 11 studies with 309 participants has shown moderate evidence that a contoured pillow design, 7-11 centimeters of the central pillow height, and a cooling surface (all typical to cervical pillows) can improve sleep quality, spine alignment and decrease sleep-related neck pain.
In a hurry?
Through our research, here are our recommendations for the 8 best neck traction pillows of 2024. Below the table, you’ll find our full cervical pillow reviews.
|Best for Military Neck
|100% memory foam
|✅ $40 on Amazon
|Best for Cervical Bulging Disc
Polyester & cotton cover
|✅ $79-$99 on Amazon
|Best for Morning Stiffness
10-minute daily use
|✅ $24 on Amazon
|Tempurpedic Neck Pillow
|Best for Neck Arthritis
Knitted polyester cover
|✅ $71-$85 at Tempurpedic
|Best USA-Made Butterfly Pillow
|✅ $30 on Amazon
|Elviros Cervical Pillow
|Best for Neck Pain with Arm Numbness
|✅ $50 on Amazon
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Cervical Pillow vs. Regular Pillow
A cervical pillow supports your neck in the neutral aligned position and lifts your head to the proper height while you sleep on your back or side.
It helps your neck stay in its optimal C-curve (lordotic curve), consistent with the rest of your spine. and can improve posture, relieve and support tense muscles in the neck and shoulders, and increase blood flow to the head.
Cervical pillows are designed with a higher area where the neck is supported and a dip where the head is supported.
The higher area supports the natural curvature of the neck, while the dip cradles the head.
They are usually made of memory foam and have a contoured or curved design that conforms to the contours of the neck and shoulders, and they are available in a variety of sizes and heights – to offer perfect customization.
Cervical pillows can relieve neck muscle and joint strains, neck morning stiffness, neck arthritis, military neck, occipital neuralgia, whiplash injuries, neck spinal stenosis, and more.
How to Choose a Pillow for Neck Pain
When choosing a cervical pillow to finally feel some relief from neck pain, it’s important to consider the width of your shoulders and the size of your head.
If you are not sure of the ideal pillow height – choose an adjustable pillow.
Also consider the pillows’ durability, shape, size, filling, and materials – to make the best decision. Here are the details:
1. Resilience & Durability
Every pillow has a shelf life. With cervical traction pillows, the shelf life depends on the quality of materials, but mostly on how dense it is.
Some pillows have less stuffing in them, which makes them less dense and therefore will break down faster.
Others are denser, but because they are firmer, they could be less comfortable.
The best pillow will be dense enough to last for years, but not too dense to be uncomfortable.
To prevent your investment from disappearing in a year, look for a pillow that offers a warranty for losing shape and resilience.
For example, the Therapeutica sleeping pillow comes with a 5-year warranty for resilience.
Neck traction pillows come in different shapes.
You have trapeze-centered pillows, butterfly-shaped pillows, contour pillows, cut-out pillows (for side sleeping), and ones that have a wedge extension to support your upper back.
It depends on personal preferences, but I can tell you that some pillows are not well-fitted for side sleepers.
If you’re a side sleeper, choose a pillow that has side-sleeping portions (“side wings”) that do not allow your head to slip back to the center while you’re sleeping, or allow your neck to be tilted either up or down.
Related: The 2 best back sleep training pillows
Cervical traction neck pillows come in different sizes (usually small, medium, and large).
Sometimes the size depends upon the distance between the side of your head and your shoulder.
Other times it depends on the size of your bed.
For most average-sized people the medium size should be perfect.
The best pillows offer a variety of heights to choose from – so you can choose the pillow that fits your neck size most.
For example, the excellent Coop Home Goods Cut-Out Side Sleeper Cervical Pillow comes in sizes Queen and King.
Some cervical pillows are made with foam, some with memory foam, and some with Polyester fiber.
They all have their pros and cons, but some say that memory foam is less than ideal, because as you sleep and the pillow gets warm – your head sinks into the pillow, and spinal alignment is reduced.
The foam will feel “harder” than Polyester but will support your neck a bit better.
For example, the arc4life cervical linear traction pillow is stuffed with Polyester fabric, while the Therapeutica pillow is made of foam.
Cervical Pillows Reviews
Below you’ll find our top recommendation for cervical pillows for military neck, neck fusion surgery, cervical bulging disc, neck arthritis, and neck pain with arm numbness – for back and side sleepers.
1. EPABO Pillow – Best for Military Neck/Neck Fusion Surgery
The Epabo memory foam neck support pillow is made with breathable memory foam and has a contour to support the cervical spine in the back sleeping posture.
It also has a special area to rest the side of the head, so it does not stray too far forward on the pillow.
This pillow’s special design allows you to take out a removable piece of memory foam at the bottom of the pillow if it feels too high for you.
This mainly applies to stomach and back sleepers.
The height on the sides stays the same. See the image below:
The pillow’s firm neck support and slightly raised parts for the shoulders keep the head at the correct angle, which is why it’s the best pillow for a military neck, See the image below:
- Firm enough to support the neck during the night, yet comfortable
- Adjustable neck loft
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Fits all sleep positions, even stomach sleepers find this pillow comfortable.
- Good customer service
- Reasonable price
- It can take about 2 weeks for the foam to conform to your neck shape before it feels comfortable, but it’s worth the wait.
- Can have a chemical smell (that dissipates)
✅ Available on Amazon ($40)
2. Therapeutica Pillow – Best for Cervical Bulging Disc
The Therapeutica orthopedic cervical pillow (recommended by many chiropractors) incorporates 2 pillow shapes into one with different heights for back and side sleeping.
Although it has an odd shape, it correctly positions the head and neck, both when sleeping on the side and back.
The center tongue, which supports the neck towards the area between the shoulder blades, works perfectly and gives the gentle stretch you need to relieve a bulging/herniated disc during your sleep.
A unique feature of this pillow is the wedge extension which supports your upper back as well.
The Therapeutica pillow is made of foam, which is dense and won’t crumble easily.
In any case, this pillow has a 5-year warranty for shape and resilience.
This is one of the best cervical traction pillows for side sleepers, thanks to its excellent side wings, which are easy to keep your head on when you’re sleeping on your side and won’t make your head tilt forward or slide back down to the center.
Related: The Best pillows for side sleepers with neck pain (including buckwheat pillows, latex pillows, and more!)
- This pillow is very comfortable to sleep on while aligning your neck and spine – either on your back or on your side.
- Extra-firm and supportive enough for side sleepers who need the extra lift to maintain healthy posture throughout the night
- It takes no getting used to, and the side wings are better than any other pillow we’ve tried.
- This pillow would probably not be comfortable for someone with a reversed cervical curve, or an immobile neck. For almost everyone else it can be the perfect cervical pillow.
✅ Available on Amazon ($79-$99 according to size)
3. TEMPUR Neck Pillow – Best for Neck Arthritis
The TEMPURPEDIC neck pillow is designed to follow the natural curve of your body and keeps the neck aligned for back and side sleepers all night – without any more bells and whistles.
This neck alignment is crucial for preventing neck arthritis pain at night.
The extra firm contoured TEMPUR material keeps your neck from sinking into the pillow, and the 3 sizes you can choose from make it fit for all body types and sleep positions.
Size and neck height:
- Durable and firm – doesn’t lose shape over the years, supports and aligns the neck well
- Good customer service and established brand
- Comfortable – the soft cover balances out the firm material
- Does not fit the stomach sleepers
- May be too firm for some people, and may aggravate neck pain
RELATED: The Best Tempurpedic Pillows for back/neck pain
4. Elviros Cervical Pillow – Best for Neck Pain and Arm Numbness
The special butterfly design of the Elviros memory foam pillow allows you to align your head with the rest of your body and spine.
The slope in the center keeps you from slipping out of place, and the thickness and softness are just right (medium-soft).
The unique feature of this pillow is the special cut-outs in the sides that give your arms a comfortable place to rest and prevent arm numbness.
The pillow comes in different sizes and two heights so you can choose the best one for your bed size and neck size.
Side sleepers should choose the lower height (4.1 inches).
Users are delighted with this pillow and report pain relief after neck surgery and even from severe neurological diseases.
- With armrests
- 30-day trial with free returns on Amazon
- Zippered cover that is machine washable
- Keeps head in place to align the cervical spine and prevent neck pain
- Fair price tag
- The height may not fit larger than average neck
- Takes some time to get used to, according to users
✅ Available on Amazon ($50)
5. Cradle Me Cervical Pillow – Best USA-Made Butterfly Pillow
The Cradle Me cervical contour pillow is made with odorless memory foam that is nontoxic & hypoallergenic – which stays firm, at least for a year.
The versatile butterfly design (with the “wings”) cradles your head and supports any sleep position (except stomach sleeping), with multiple heights you can choose from while supporting the natural neck curvature.
You can flip it around to take advantage of the different thicknesses, and it works great for back and side sleeping.
We love that the neck support under the neck doesn’t dig in when you sleep on your back, and the pillow doesn’t shove your head forward either.
The butterfly wings just seem to cradle your face without squishing your cheeks in.
We love the fact that this pillow is made in the USA, and the company has great customer service.
- Firm enough to support your neck yet has a soft, comfortable cover
- It doesn’t wrap around your face or require fluffing every 5 minutes
- 100% money-back guarantee from the company
- Made in the USA
- Fits all sleep positions, except stomach sleeping
- Some users feel that the pillow is too soft, and some complained that it has flattened out after a few months.
✅ Available on Amazon ($30)
6. SpineAlign Pillow – Best for Side Sleepers
The SpignAlign pillow was designed by Dr. Jason Loth, a sports chiropractor with many years of experience.
The 3 strategically placed zippers on the back of the pillow allow you to adjust the shredded fill blend (CertiPUR-US® certified) in any way you want to, meaning you can have a 2-inch loft or a 5-inch loft if you choose.
When you take the SpineAlign pillow out of the box, it seems like the middle part (head section) is flat while the sides are somewhat firm.
But make no mistake, everything about this 4-sided cervical pillow is adjustable and customizable.
(There is a step-by-step guide for adjusting the pillow – on the official site).
This four-sided pillow has separate places for head support, neck support, and side and back sleeping.
The soft quilted cover feels great against the skin.
- Has zippers that allow you to remove and adjust the fill to your liking
- Made with safe, non-toxic polyfoams
- 60-night trial
- Takes some time to find the right adjustment
- Not a good choice for stomach sleepers
7. Arc4life Cervical Pillow – Best for Back Sleepers
The arc4life cervical pillow is a V-shaped cavity center pillow.
The special “V” shape in the neck pillow cradles your head and gently lifts your head away from your shoulders.
At the same time, the neck roll underneath supports your neck.
While sleeping on your side, the soft wings keep your head at the right height from the mattress, to relieve strain on your neck and shoulders.
The pillow keeps your neck in proper alignment so it’s awkward, but after a couple of nights, it becomes very comfortable.
Through our research, we’ve found that the arc4life starts to lose shape after 12 months. We found no warranty.
- Quite comfortable and is especially well-fitted for people sleeping on their backs
- You can use the traction side for sleeping – to give your cervical spine a gentle stretch or the support side for sleeping.
- The V is not prominent, it is subtle, just enough to keep your head and neck in the proper position. However, if you have a short neck you may find this pillow not right for you.
- It takes a couple of nights to get used to but then becomes very comfortable.
- If you are a side sleeper, you should know that the side wings are not firm enough to keep your head in them and you may find your head sliding back to the center (and out of alignment) when you’re side sleeping.
8. Tri Core Cervical Pillow – Best for Forward Head Posture
The Tri-Core Cervical Pillow has a unique trapezoid center that gently cradles your head and supports the neck in its natural position.
The head cradle combined with the neck support can help correct forward head posture while you sleep.
It is also a reasonably priced pillow, compared with others on this list.
For example, the Core 200 costs half of the Therapeutica and Arc4life neck pain pillows price.
The Tri-Core neck support pillow comes in 2 firmness levels. The large one is about 3-4 inches high (lifting your head).
To be exact – on the wider side, it is about 3″ deep and about 5″ across to the indentation. On the narrow side, it is less than an inch deeper and about 6″ across to the indentation.
It may not be comfortable in the first few days, but later it becomes very comfortable.
Pros & Cons
The Tri-Core 200 is a comfortable pillow, even for side sleepers. The side wings are firm enough to keep your head well-supported and in good alignment, but not too firm to be uncomfortable.
This is quite a firm pillow so if this is what you need or your doctor recommends – it delivers.
It’s as firm as it can be without being hard.
✅ Available on Amazon ($44 with code under the price)
9. Zamat Cervical Traction Pillow – Best for Morning Stiffness
The Zamat cervical traction pillow is designed specifically to restore the natural curve of your neck, while gently decompressing the cervical discs – for 10 minutes a day.
It is not a pillow for sleeping, it is made as a neck traction device that is very comfortable and my trial has shown that it’s highly effective.
You can use the wedge side for a more gentle stretch, and the other side to take it up a notch and give your neck a more powerful stretch.
Specifically, the NekGenic pillow stimulates occipital pressure points of OCBR (Occipital Cranial Base Release) and CV4 (Compression of the fourth ventricle).
Under the comfortable fabric (which is removable and washable) there are acupressure nodes for a gentle massage to release the neck muscles surrounding the cervical spine.
The special fabric contains millions of magnetic particles, which help boost blood circulation, reduce inflammation, and are known to relieve aches and pains.
I place it on a hard surface (yoga mat/floor carpet) and use it for 10 minutes before I go to sleep – 5 minutes on each side.
I can feel the stretch immediately, and wake up without any neck stiffness or pain.
✅ Available on Amazon ($24)
See more cost-effective ways to do Neck Traction at Home!
How To Use a Contoured Pillow for Neck Pain
In our experience, many people do not know how to use their contoured pillows correctly.
Physical therapist Winsen Citra explains:
The contour pillow has two different heights: a short side and a tall side.
The short side is meant for sleeping facing up, while the tall side is meant for sleeping on your side.
When using the contour pillow facing up, the groove supports the neck and the shoulder should not be on the pillow.
When using the contour pillow on your side, the head lies flat on the bed, the neck is supported by the taller side of the pillow, and the shoulder should not be on the pillow.
What Cervical Pillow Do Chiropractors Recommend?
Through our research, most chiropractors recommend a firmer pillow – either a memory foam pillow, a latex pillow, or a hybrid pillow (with multiple fills) – all of them will keep their shape better throughout the night, provide more support, and especially helpful for side sleepers.
A firm pillow is a good choice for people with severe neck pain since it keeps the head and neck in place while you are sleeping.
One of the best hybrid pillows, for people who want combined fillings (for more comfort), is the Eli & Elm Side Sleeper Pillow – which is filled with removable Latex and Polyester and is fully adjustable.
It’s also anti-microbial, mildew-proof, and dust-mite-resistant, and the cover is zippered and machine washable. The only problem is the price.
How to Use a Cervical Pillow
If you are a back sleeper, make sure to bring your shoulders up to the pillow, with the neck wedge side close to you, and rest your neck on the contoured neck wedge.
If you are a side sleeper, rest your face on the elevated sides. If you are a stomach sleeper, you may want to consider a flatter pillow.
Here’s a short video explanation, showing you the Epabo Pillow:
To your health and happiness,
The Back Pain Relief Products Team
Ahmed Radwan, Nicholas Ashton, Trever Gates, Austin Kilmer, Michael VanFleet,
Effect of different pillow designs on promoting sleep comfort, quality, & spinal alignment: A systematic review,
European Journal of Integrative Medicine, Volume 42, 2021