How to Choose the Best Pillow for Neck Pain, Back Support and Posture
A supportive mattress that contours to your body in the right places is a must for a comfortable bedtime – so why should pillows be any different?
If you struggle to get a good night’s sleep or wake with body aches and pains in the morning, changing the type of pillow you use could be just what you need. To relieve neck pain and stiffness, finding the right option is often a process of trial and error, but our handy guide is a great place to start with knowing how to choose a pillow that suits your wants and needs.
Keep reading as we talk through the best pillows for neck pain, back support and posture, along with the important things to consider such as pillow shape, fill and density.
Pillows for neck pain and support
Choosing a pillow to suit your needs is key for a blissful night’s sleep. Without the right pillow height, firmness and filling, you can put strain on your neck which can worsen existing neck pains and daytime stiffness. The best pillow for neck pain will keep your neck supported and in a neutral position during sleep; here are a few of our favourites.
Memory foam pillows
Memory foam is a popular pillow filling for those seeking neck support. Designed to respond to heat and pressure, memory foam pillows contour to the shape of the head and neck, forming a supportive cradle which can reduce tension in your neck and shoulders. Hypoallergenic, affordable and available in solid or shredded form, memory foam pillows are great for keeping the spine aligned as you doze.
However, there are a couple of drawbacks to keep in mind when choosing your perfect pillow. Memory foam is prone to retaining heat, can have a limited lifespan and its slow response to pressure may not be for everyone. So, if you’re a combination sleeper who tends to overheat in the night, check out one of our other picks in this list.
A natural, eco-friendly material used in everyday objects like balloons, rubber gloves and bandages, latex can also be found in pillows. Offering a supportive, buoyant feel which minimises pressure points in the neck, latex pillows are durable, retain their shape and offer moderate contouring, which could be just what you need if you suffer from neck aches and pains. Latex pillows are breathable, and with many options featuring carefully placed holes for temperature regulation, you can say goodbye to feeling hot and bothered while you sleep. Latex is also resistant to mould, mildew and dust mites, so is a great option for a clean sleep environment.
The main disadvantage is that latex is a common allergen, meaning that latex-filled pillows are a no-go for some. While they’re a great sustainable and organic option, this often comes with a price tag, making latex pillows more expensive.
Another type of pillow which is favoured for neck pain, is buckwheat. Filled with the outer shell of buckwheat seeds (small, grain-like seeds), these hulls interlock and conform to the shape of your head and neck for support where you need it. The naturally open shape of the hulls encourage airflow, making buckwheat a great material choice for a cool night’s sleep. Not only are buckwheat pillows durable, resistant to allergens and environmentally friendly, but they’re also adjustable – simply add or remove hulls to change the height and firmness of your pillow to suit you.
On the downside, buckwheat pillows aren’t as soft as traditional options and can be noisy when you change positions as the hulls rub against each other. They also command a higher price point, so this is something to keep in mind during your pillow search.
Cervical pillows, also known as orthopaedic, contour or rounded pillows, are designed to help relieve neck and shoulder pain. Their distinctive shape has a higher, raised area around the neck with a gentle depression for your head to prevent it from moving around. By holding your head still, cervical pillows keep your neck and spine aligned which can minimise neck stiffness or strained muscles.
This pillow shape may not suit everyone though and can encourage a ‘Marmite’ response; some people love them for the relief they bring, though others find them uncomfortable.
Pillows for back pain and support
If you suffer from back pain, it’s important that you choose the right pillow to give the support you need for your condition. The best type of pillow for back pain is widely considered to be memory foam, though here are a few alternatives which promise to cushion your head and give you a restful sleep.
Goose and duck feathers have been a popular pillow fill for decades due to their soft, lightweight feel, strength and easily mouldable shape –which works well for those who switch sleeping positions frequently during the night. Compressing easily to cradle the head and neck, feather pillows can be particularly helpful for sleepers with back pain who are looking to reduce tension in the head and neck. Though slightly firmer than down pillows, many feather pillows are customisable and allow sleepers to adjust the fill of feathers; not to mention, feathers are an affordable filling compared to down.
However, over time, feather pillows can lose their support as the feathers compress and become displaced under the pressure of your head. To help combat this, pillows need regular fluffing to remain comfortable. It’s important to know that many pillows mix feathers with a small amount of down, so if you’re allergic to down, make sure to double check the label before you buy.
Made from the insulating under-feathers of ducks, geese or swans, down is incredibly soft, durable and lightweight, making it a popular choice for pillows. With no quills, it’s much softer and lighter than feathers, but compresses easily for malleable support. This type of pillow can ease tension in the upper back as it cradles the head, neck and shoulders.
Despite the luxurious comfort of down pillows, they do come with a couple of drawbacks, including a high price tag. Their softness means that they can easily lose their shape and it’s argued that some styles are too soft to properly support the neck – hence why many companies blend down with regular feathers for extra stability. Down pillows are hypoallergenic, but steer clear if you’re allergic to ducks and geese; instead, opt for down alternative pillows which are made from polyester.
Tip: Make sure to look out for ethically sourced down pillows which are certified by the Responsible Down Standard.
Polyfoam (or Polyurethane-based foam to be exact) is a filling which offers moderate contouring and can relieve pressure for back pain sufferers. Lightweight, hypoallergenic and typically affordable, most polyfoam pillows are a good option if you’re looking for mild support whilst you sleep. Some people find that polyfoam pillows have a quicker response to pressure than memory foam, too.
A downside to polyfoam pillows is that low-density means they can have a shorter lifespan and need to be replaced sooner than other types of pillows. This can result in permanent indentations over time and inconsistent support. Like memory foam, polyfoam can trap heat so isn’t the most breathable option for sleeping.
Pillows for posture
Ergonomic pillows have been found to improve not only sleep quality and duration, but also relieve neck pain and posture. These pillows may be unique in shape, but they can offer great benefits if you decide to give the right one a try. Keep reading as we select some of the different types of pillows for posture.
Slim pillows are a much thinner version of a conventional pillow and are ideal for front or back sleepers, or people with smaller frames. The lower profile of slim pillows can help to reduce pressure as they promote the proper alignment of your neck, spine and shoulders – the same posture as if you were standing up straight. For those who find sleeping with thick or multiple pillows uncomfortable, slim pillows could be the answer you’ve been looking for.
A triangular orthopaedic pillow often made from polyfoam or memory foam, wedge pillows are an affordable option for relieving body pains in a range of different places. Available in various sizes, wedge pillows are designed for people with poor circulation, pregnancy discomfort, acid reflux and pain in the spine and neck. By encouraging you to sleep at a gentle incline, your back is supported, and this reduces pressure on your lumbar spine – making wedge pillows especially good for back sleepers.
Bolster pillows – also known as rolled or body pillows – are long, cylindrical pillows sometimes used for decoration and other purposes, but are particularly useful for neck and leg support. Placing the pillow under your neck, knees or between your legs can relieve pain and pressure from your neck and promote a healthy spinal alignment.
We hope this guide has shown you the best pillows for neck pain, back support and posture, so you can enjoy a blissful night’s sleep and wake up pain and ache free.