Neck pain and postural issues are the most common muscular problems faced by individuals today. Because we are used to living with a stiff neck and back, the symptoms can be subtle and hard to identify. Commonly, sufferers experience headaches, tingling in the arms, muscle pain, tenderness, and a weakness in the arms.
During sleep, this can result in tossing and turning, waking up still groggy, and having a hard time initially falling asleep. Experiencing even one of these symptoms can indicate that you have neck problems. Fortunately, there are many pillows designed specifically for those of us who suffer from these issues.
Remember that often these are problems we have forced our bodies to become adapted to over many years. Adjusting to a proper sleeping posture can take a few days to get used to. Often, during this brief transitional period, we may experience some “rebound pain”- the feeling that our symptoms are getting worse.
This is simply the effect of our bodies adjusting to proper posture, and for the first time in years becoming aware of all the torment we have put it through.
Top 7 Pillows for Neck Pain
#1 ZG-Home Queen Memory Foam Cervical Neck Support Orthopedic Contour Pillow
This style of memory foam pillows is one of my favorites. The shredded memory foam design allows air to pass through the pillow, providing superior cooling in hot climates. Due to the dynamic way that memory foam softens with the application of heat and pressure, this pillow will adapt to the sleeping style of even the most awkward sleepers. Although this pillow is marketed specifically to individuals who suffer from neck pain, the design is simply not ideal.
Because we have spent years forcing our bodies to adapt to a less-than- ideal sleeping posture, we require a firmer pillow that forces our heads into the correct position. Using a highly adaptive pillow such as this will just allow us to subconsciously change our position in our sleep, continuing the pain cycle we have become accustomed too.
#2 Sleep Innovations Contour Memory Foam Pillow
Here is another pillow I have recommended to clients before. Those of us looking for an inexpensive way to get in on the memory foam craze are in luck! Priced at only $25, this is a very affordable option. The shape of the pillow is designed to match the contours of our head and neck.
This unique design is suitable for both back and side sleepers, and gently holds our head in the correct position for a more restful and adaptive sleep. But for those of us with postural issues, we need a pillow that can adapt to the specific needs of our body.
Being a solid block of foam means that this is not really a “one size fits all” product, even though it is marketed that way. While this is a great pillow to move on to once you have adjusted your posture, for immediate relief of neck pain we will have to look elsewhere.
#3 Medium Profile Memory Foam Neck Pillow by Perform Pillow
This pillow, although very similar to the last, has a couple of subtle changes that appear to address all of the issues with our previous product. For starters, the pillow is supposedly adaptable by changing the orientation. Simply flip it over if you have broader shoulders, or use it upside down to reduce the rigidity.
On top of this, the cover is made of a bamboo based material to improve airflow and cooling. I can’t say enough positive things about bamboo, but their claims regarding pillow orientation are simply unfounded.
Memory foam pillows require a firm base in order to adapt correctly. Using it upside down will just cause a springy effect that is not ideal for this pillow type.
Sadly, false claims are a problem you will encounter frequently when pillow shopping. While this is an excellent choice for individuals who have excellent posture, I cannot recommend it for this specific purpose.
#4 TAMPOR Hypoallergenic Contour Memory Foam Neck Pillow
The memory foam in this pillow is non temperature, high-tech memory foam. Which mean it will not warp or change shape if it gets too hot or cold. It also means it can withstand a ton of pressure and still perform great.
The orthopedic contour of this pillow complies with the natural curvature of your head and neck so that it doesn’t put any stress on your head, neck, or back. The pillow cover is a breathable polyester cover that will help regulate your temperature so you don’t get too hot or too cold.
It is also hypoallergenic and dust mites resistant. The best part about this pillow is that it is great for all types of sleepers. Whether you sleep on your back, stomach, or side, this pillow contours to your body, giving you a better night’s sleep.
There really are no downsides of this pillow, except maybe your friends stealing it from you! Honestly, I haven’t had a single problem with this pillow. I definitely recommend it to anyone who is tired of buying pillows, only to have them mess with your neck and back and then having to be replaced.
#5 Remedy Side Sleeper Contour Pillow for Neck, Shoulder, and Back Pain Relief
The Side Sleeper Pillow is an excellent product for those of us who suffer from back, neck and ear pain. Individuals who have back and neck problems often need a firmer pillow to hold their head in a central position all night. One of the largest drawbacks of a firmer pillow is the additional pressure put on your ears.
This can be a very frustrating night time experience, and leads to the desire to flip over onto your other side or back. The Side Sleeper Pillow is the only one I’ve found that addresses this issue. By creating a small divot in the center of the pillow, pressure on your ear is reduced. Because of it’s unique “U” shaped design, the pillow gently cradles your head.
By providing additional support to the back of the head and side of the face, the temptation to roll over in your sleep is reduced. Due to the unique design promoting a more restful, less turbulent sleep, the Side Sleeper Pillow is my #1 recommendation for individuals who suffer from neck and back pain.
#6 Serta Perfect Sleeper Standard/Queen Bed Pillow
What’s included? The Serta Perfect Sleeper comes packaged in biodegradable material so you can feel good about not contributing to the landfill overfill problem. What to like about the Serta Perfect Sleeper:
- Soft damask cover made out of 100% cotton
- High-quality 300 thread count
- Made from recycled materials
- Biodegradable packaging
- Stain Release technology
Hypoallergenic EcoFill. Serta’s EcoFill pillow filler is made from recycled water bottles. Water bottles are one of the biggest plastic waste problems in America, so turning them into something new and useful is a very environmentally friendly idea. Because the water bottles have been processed from tough, crunch plastic and turned into soft pillow filler, they’re 100% clean and safe to lay on.
Even better, they’re comfortable and hypoallergenic; since they’re made out of a synthetic material, they’ll be less likely to attract dust and mold spores as well as other common household allergens.
300 thread count. 300 thread count simply means that these pillows have 150 warps and 150 wefts in their weave. The higher the thread count, the better and softer fabric feels. (Though ridiculously high thread count numbers tend to be a rip-off and marketing gimmick.) At 300, these pillows are right in the ideal thread count range.
Stain Release. Stain Release is a Serta technology that prevents stains by hampering their ability to penetrate into the fibers of the fabric. Should wine be spilled, the Serta Perfect Sleeper Pillow can be treated quickly without fear of the stain setting in in the meantime.
Biodegradable packaging. Going along with the environmentally friendly fill, Serta has chosen to make the Perfect Sleeper packaging also friendly to the environment. The result is a package that can break down in as few as three months.
First impression of the Serta Perfect Sleeper. I knew that the package the pillows came in was made of biodegradable material, but I honestly couldn’t tell; it felt like normal packaging to me. The reason that I mention this is that I think it’s important to note, the reason being that many people hear eco-friendly terms and assume that it’s going to be uncomfortable, weird or smell bad.
Worry not, because there is nothing outwardly out of the ordinary about the Serta biodegradable packaging. The real magic happens after it’s made its way to the dump where it degrades in as few as three months. As long as it’s in your home, it will be indistinguishable from an ordinary packaging.
And again, I only mention this because people tend to have a phobia about recycled products. And, of course, that obviously extends to the fill itself—Serta’s EcoFill.
Honestly, I can’t tell the difference between EcoFill and “normal” hypoallergenic pillow filler. The EcoFill is soft but firm enough to offer support. It’s also easy to maneuver in bed when I need to change sleeping positions, which I frequently do. (I sleep in every position, which is why I’m somewhat of a pillow aficionado—I go through a lot of them!)
The fabric on the pillow is nice and soft. Obviously, I used these pillows with pillow cases just because—well, who doesn’t? But it’s nice to know that the 300-thread count is believable, because it means that these pillows should hold up well.
I didn’t plan on testing out the Stain Release technology aspect, but that plan went out the window when my two-year-old spilled juice on my pillow. I treated both the pillow and the pillow case right away.
Long story short, the pillow case came out stained—the pillow didn’t. So, was it Stain Release? Or did the pillow case just product the pillow? It’s hard to say, but I was still impressed by the fact that it didn’t stain.
Like many people, I have allergies, which is why I chose to try a hypoallergenic pillow in the first place. I have to be very picky about pillows—even those labeled hypoallergenic—for this reason. I’m happy to report that the Serta Perfect Sleeper didn’t trigger my allergies.
Disadvantages of Serta Perfect Sleeper. Some customers have bizarrely received non-Serta pillows. This isn’t a problem with the Serta pillows in question, but rather a shipping error. If you’ve received the wrong pillow, contact customer service for a resolution.
Wrap Up. The Serta Perfect Sleeper is a soft, comfortable pillow option. It fits great on both standard and queen size beds. The damask cover is smooth and soft and the Eco-Fill holds its shape. I’d recommend it to all of my friends!
#7 Remedy Microbead Pillow
Microbead pillows have gained popularity over the last few years. Starting out as the simple neck pillows used for flights, people quickly realized that the design made for one of the most comfortable and adaptable options on the market. Most high-end pillows are designed to improve posture, holding your neck in a specific position.
However, what works for one person, doesn’t always work for another. If you can’t seem to get comfortable at night, and find that firm pillows cause you pain or discomfort, microbeads might be the solution.
If you have suffered from a severe injury to your neck and back, or are experiencing high levels of discomfort, we wouldn’t recommend starting with a firm pillow right away.
If your condition is serious, you should definitely consult with your doctor before making any changes. In many situations, the best option is a pillow that will adapt to your specific needs.
A Design That’s Been in Use for Over 300 Years. Our modern economy is fast paced. Fads come and go. Hot new technologies blow us away, only to be replaced by something better a few years later. In this day and age, anything that can stand the test of time is something special.
Although microbeads themselves are a relatively new invention, these pillows are just a modern twist on a classic design. Buckwheat pillows have been in use for over 300 years. Farmers removed the feathers from their pillows, and replaced it with buckwheat.
For a long time, it was believed with buckwheat had healing properties. Modern versions could be heated up in the microwave, and used to sooth a sore neck. But they had a very herbal smell to them, so these weren’t used very often. It turns out, it wasn’t the buckwheat itself that had healing properties. It was ergonomics of the shells.
Farmers often has muscle, back, and neck problems. And the malleable nature of buckwheat pillows enabled them to heal quickly. Today, microbeads are used because they are synthetic and odorless. It’s been many years in the making, but the buckwheat pillow is finally accessible to everyone.
Plenty of Airflow. If you live in an area that gets warm and humid, you’ll love the airflow of the Remedy Microbead Pillow. There is lots of space between the beads themselves, which allows warm air to rise and cool air to take its place.
With most pillows, the firm outer case restricts this. But Remedy’s option is made from a very light fabric that is 13% spandex. In this specific pillow, the airflow is as good as it gets.
Ergonomic Upgrades. By default, microbead pillows are amorphous. They do not try to hold any specific shape. You apply pressure, and they get out of the way. In many ways, this is the main draw to the pillow. But there is a limit to how much flexibility you need.
Even with a severe neck injury, or completely unique sleeping position, we all have the same basic anatomy. What remedy did was add a little internal stitching that guides the beads. It keeps some of them grouped together near your neck.
This is often the area that needs additional support, which puts this pillow in a class of its own. You still get all the flexibility of a microbead pillow, but with a level of support that you won’t find in any other model.
A Suitable Supplement. I’ve tried a lot of pillows in my day. Once in a while, I come across a pillow that has many advantages, but one frustrating quirk. For example, one of my memory foam pillows doesn’t support my neck as much as I’d like.
Most of the time, you have to choose one pillow or the other. You’re not going to start stacking them on top of each other, or cutting them into pieces. But the Remedy Microbead pillow is different.
It’s not very large, and it’s very easy adjust. Whether you want something small to put under your neck, or perhaps a little shoulder support, this inexpensive microbead pillow can compensate for the flaws in something you already own.
Disadvantages. If you’re interested in this pillow, there is a pretty good chance that you’re not happy with firmer options. For most of you, this would be a good choice. You certainly won’t find a pillow that is softer, or more adaptable than this one. But it won’t work for everyone.
Heavyset people may find that it doesn’t provide nearly enough support. Additionally, it is quite small. As a 6’2” man, I probably wouldn’t want this as my only pillow. Everyone situation is different, but this pillow is definitely ideal for the smaller and lighter readers.
Wrap Up. All of us have different needs. For many people, their sleep problems are postural. In these cases, a pillow that helps you retrain your body to sleep in a specific way is helpful. But there can never be a one -size fits all approach. If your needs are unique, then a pillow that tries to force you into one position or another may not be the solution. Instead, The Remedy Microbead Pillow is designed to adapt to you.
For others, this compact pillow can be used to compensate for any flaw with your current pillow. It works best as a neck support, but is flexible enough to use as you see fit. The only exception is large, broad-shouldered, or tall people. At 6’2,” I find this a little small for my needs. My solution was to use an adjustable memory foam pillow. It does require a little manual adjustment, but it provides many of the same benefits of this microbead option.
The Adjustment Period
When making pillow recommendations to family and friends, I often get asked about this “adjustment period” and what it feels like to address neck pain. When you first wake up after sleeping in the correct position you will feel fantastic!
But as you return to your desk job and once-again expose your body to the effects of poor posture, you will feel the pain start to return. In some cases, it can feel even worse than before! When you experience neck pain every single day, your body becomes used to it and the pain tends to fade over time. After you finally give your body a break from this, it can react very strongly to being put in an uncomfortable position later in the day.
Remember to listen to what your body is telling you. Take a couple minutes to stand up and perform some simple stretches. Make a conscious effort to hold your head up and sit correctly in your chair. It can only take a few minutes to adjust your posture, and the positive effects will last a lifetime.