How to Choose a Pillow for Neck Pain

With so many types of neck pain pillows out there (water pillows, Foam pillows, cervical traction pillows, side-sleeper pillows), just thinking about it can make your neck pain worse.

Which pillow will help you most?

Since pillows for neck pain don’t exactly come cheap, some research is well worth it. That’s what we’re here to do for you, and especially find you the best pillow for herniated/bulging discs in the neck.
how to choose a pillow for neck pain

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A good neck support pillow will not only relieve your neck pain at home or when traveling – but will give you a chance to rest properly and speed up the healing process of your neck.

You can use it to treat a stiff neck, upper back and shoulder pain, neck arthritis, whiplash (and all neck injuries), spinal alignment, chronic neck pain, and headaches, and to improve your sleep quality.

How to Choose a Pillow for Neck Pain

how to choose a pillow for neck injuries and pain

The goal of using a cervical pillow is to help keep your head in neutral alignment when your head rests “squarely” on your shoulders.

Answer these 3 questions to determine the right type of neck pillow for you:

1. Sleeping Position

If you sleep in all different positions, you’ll need a neck pillow with comfortable surfaces for side and back sleeping, such as this one.

For example, with the Tri-Core cervical pillow, you can sleep on the rolls for back sleeping and on the wings for side sleeping.

Back sleepers need thinner pillows, so their head is not thrown too far forward. Also, look for a pillow with an extra loft in the bottom third of the pillow to cradle your neck.

If you want to train yourself to sleep on your back – here are the 2 best  back sleeping pillows

Side sleepers need a firmer pillow to fill in the distance between the ear and the outside shoulder, such as this one.

Check out our complete guide for pillows for neck pain for side sleepers!

Sleeping on your stomach is not recommended, but generally, stomach sleepers need a very thin, almost flat pillow.

They may not even need a pillow for the head and should consider tucking one under the stomach to avoid lower back pain.

By the way, this pillow will help turn you from a stomach sleeper to a side sleeper.

2. Neck Pillow Size

You have to choose the size of your neck support pillow by considering your height and weight. The bigger you are the bigger the pillow you will need.

For example, This pillow comes in 3 different sizes:  small, medium, and large.

Some pillow companies give you a chart to determine the right pillow according to your neck measurements.

3. Neck Pillow Filling

malouf neck pillow

Z 100% Natural Talalay Latex Zoned Pillowview on Amazon

There is no shortage of pillow fillings: down-feather combinations, water, memory foam (orthopedic pillows), and fiber.

If you suffer from allergies or asthma, the feather-based pillows may not be for you. But generally, having a few types of pillows, with different fillings, is a wise idea. This way you can choose the one that suits you most on a given day.

We highly recommend the popular Z by Malouf 100% Natural Talalay Latex Pillow

  • Memory Foam Pillows – these are popular because they reduce pressure points by continuously molding and adjusting to the shape of your body as you move throughout the night.
  • For example, this pillow is very popular.
  • Fiber Pillows – these are an alternative to the down pillows because they are less pricey, but be warned that polyester fiber pillows, such as the Iso Cool Pillow, may not last as long.
  • Down/Feather pillows – many sleep experts recommend these as one of the best pillows for a good night’s rest because with down pillows you can move the stuffing around so that you have the most support where you need it.

The Best Pillow for Herniated/Bulging Disc in Neck

If you suffer from a herniated disc or a cervical bulging disc, a neck traction pillow may be the best option for you.

For example, the Arc4life Cervical Traction Pillow.

You can use the traction side of the pillow (the side with the V) for a gentle stretch or the opposite side for support of the cervical spine.

This pillow is good for both back and side sleepers.

Generally, the best pillows for herniated/bulging discs in the neck are neck traction pillows, which are designed to create a certain comfortable stretch in your neck, while aligning your cervical spine when you sleep.

See the best cervical traction pillowsreviewed and compared!

How to Choose Travel Neck Pillows

High-quality neck travel pillow – view on Amazon

Travel pillows are great for supporting your neck while you wait in the airport or snooze on the plane. Choose a U or V-shaped pillow, such as this one. The V shape helps keep your head straight.

Inflatable travel pillows are usually U-shaped.

You can inflate them to be as firm as you wish, and you can deflate them and fold them to a compact and lightweight size for packing.

inflatable neck pillow for travel

Memory foam travel pillows are the firmest travel neck pillows and support the neck in the best way. They can be compressed and clipped for compact packing, and we find them to be the most comfortable travel pillows, which means they are the most expensive, unfortunately. Best suited for frequent flyers.

memory foam neck pillow for travel

Microbead travel pillows are filled with tiny polystyrene beads, and are u-shaped and lightweight.

These pillows are less comfortable and are not suited for light packing.

neck travel pillow microbeed
We hope it just got much easier for you to choose a pillow for neck pain.

To your health and happiness,

The Back Pain Relief Products Team


Get more neck pain relief at home with the best neck and shoulder heating pads!

Meital James

Meital James, Founder and CEO of 4 healthy living blogs, has a background in Naturopathic medicine, research, journalism, and nutrition. Her blogs are the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and experience and all the posts are verified by scientific findings.

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