3 Critical Factors in Choosing a Pillow for Neck Pain

pillow for neck pain

When did choosing a pillow for neck pain become such a difficult task?

With so many types of neck pain pillows out there (water pillows, foam pillows, traction pillows, side-sleepers 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, a little research  is well worth it.

A good neck support pillow will not only relieve your neck pain, but will give you a chance to rest properly and speed up the healing process of your neck.

On the other hand, a bad neck pillow may definitely exacerbate many of the underlying causes of your neck pain and will keep you from a good night’s rest.

How to Choose a Pillow for Neck Pain

chossing a neck pain pillow

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 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 outside shoulder, such as this one.

Check out our 2017 Complete Guide to Side Sleeping Pillows + Reviews!

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 pillow you will need.

This pillow, for example, comes in 3 different sizes – small, medium and large.

3. Neck Pillow Filling

malouf neck pillow

Z 100% Natural Talalay Latex Zoned Pillow – check Amazon rating for 2017

There is no shortage of pillow fillings: down-feather combinations, water, memory foam 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 Zoned 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 pricy, 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.

Travel Neck Pillows

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.

Neck Pillows for Herniated/Bulging Disc

cervial traction neck pain pillow

Arc4life Cervical Linear Traction Neck Pillow – check today’s price HERE

If you suffer from a herniated disc, a neck traction pillow may be the best option for you. For example, the Arc4life Cervical Linear Traction Pillow.

You can use the traction side of the pillow (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.

Here’s more about how to use this great pillow:

Please check out our post about the Top 3 Cervical Traction Pillows for Neck Painright HERE.

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

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 6 comments
William Smith - 4 years ago

How does then one choose the best pillow for neck pain? There is an overabundance of pillows available in the market, all claiming to be the ideal most pillows for neck pain. and you have provide a good information regarding this. Thank you very much for this.

Karen - a couple of years ago

I tried traction at my PTs office on Friday and last night had such terrible shoulder pain I hardly got any sleep. I took aspirin which did nothing to relieve the pain, used pain relieving gel on my shoulder and neck area and these did little as well. I have 2 bulging discs in my cervical neck and was wondering if traction may be the wrong way to go for me. My pain is always worse at night when I lay down and a lot of daytime activities like opening and shutting windows, lifting, sweeping, vacuuming, etc irritate my bulging discs and shoulder pain. How long does it take for the discs to scar over and the pain to subside? I use to have numbness in my left hand and tingling in my left forearm but this has subsided with dry needling and PT and exercises. However the neck pain and shoulder pain continue. The manual handson traction that my PT has done in the past seems to help more than the traction machine, which caused me more shoulder pain. Any other suggestions? I will await your reply….Karen R.

    meital - a couple of years ago


    First of all, for the pain – The best drug free pain relief method to my knowledge is infrared therapy through an infrared heating pad.

    It can do wonders and give you long lasting pain relief – Without medication, and is proven to speed healing of muscle pain as well as bulging/herniated discs.

    You can see my post about it here:


    As for traction, in my experience it is usually very helpful for cervical disc problems, but if it has caused you pain maybe you should get back to the manual option with your PT.

    Obviously, the better you sleep (an neck traction pillow can be a huge help with that) and the better you eat and stay active – The faster you’ll recover from this.

    I know it’s a lot of pain but try to stay positive and expect only good things to come, and it shall become your reality.

    I wish you all the best and perfect health,


Jessica - a couple of years ago

Thanks for sharing this! I am a side sleeper myself and had to “try out” several different pillows before I settled on one.

I’m using the Arc4life cervical pillow and boy, does it make a huge difference :)

A lot of us don’t realize, but mattresses and pillows are the two things that people shouldn’t save on.


    meital - a couple of years ago

    Thanks Jessica, for sharing your experience with us!:)

Sean Daniels - last year

An extremely useful post for people suffering from neck pain due to a variety of sleep disorders and how to go about selecting the best neck pain pillow that is recommended by experts.


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