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The 12 Very Best Pillows for Neck Pain

Because who doesn’t have tech neck?

Photo: Marcus McDonald
Photo: Marcus McDonald

In this article

Whether you’re navigating post-injury neck pain, a scrolling-induced achy hunch, or something in between, supporting your neck while you sleep can make a huge difference in your quality of rest, not to mention how much neck pain you feel when you’re awake. Keith Cushner, a product expert at, and his colleague Logan Foley, a sleep-science coach and the managing editor at, agree that the right pillow is pivotal in this regard. “A person’s sleep setup can play a crucial role in pain recovery, specifically neck pain,” Cushner tells us.

Neck pain can strike whether you are a side sleeper, back sleeper, stomach sleeper, or a combination of all three. However, Dr. Rennes Toussaint-Keshinro, a chiropractor and mental-health coach, advises that people with neck pain should stick to their side and back as much as possible to ensure that their head, neck, and spine are supported in a neutral position. Dr. Thomas Schuler, chairman of the National Spine Health Foundation’s Medical and Scientific Board and founder of the Virginia Spine Institute echoed this suggestion, noting that there are three natural curves in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spines “which go in opposite directions to balance each other.” These curves can decrease in size due to age, poor posture, or injury, “making it all the more important that they are supported while sleeping,” and the right pillow can help with that.

We talked to Cusher, Foley, Toussaint-Keshinro, Schuler, and four more experts, plus a lifetime back sleeper who finally found a pillow that eases her consistent neck aches, to determine the best pillows for people who are managing neck pain.

What we’re looking for:

Firmness and fill

Supportive pillows, which the experts we spoke to agree are the best option for people with neck pain, tend to be on the firmer end of the pillow spectrum. According to Dr. Schuler, “Those with neck or back pain will find that both medium-firm mattresses and pillows provide the best support at night.” Medium-firm pillows cradle your head and help your body stay in a neutral position and alignment while you sleep. However, Foley explains that “the right pillow firmness for you will depend on how heavy your head is, how high the pillow is, what position you tend to sleep in, and the firmness of your mattress.” The type of fill your pillow has will also affect the firmness level. Memory foam, latex, and wool tend to create a firmer sleeping surface while down, feather-fill, polyfill, kapok, and cotton materials are softer and more plush.


The loft, or height, of your pillow is a critical factor, according to Dr. Schuler. He explains that “the neck shouldn’t be elevated higher than the rest of your spine” which means people managing neck pain should avoid pillows that are overly lofty (typically higher than five inches) to ensure that their head isn’t forced into a painful angle. Dr. Toussaint suggests starting with a medium-loft pillow with a height between three and five inches. Finally, Foley says to be mindful of your body type: “The ideal loft for neck pain is one that aligns your neck with your spine,” he says. “It’s important to consider the width of your shoulders and the size of your head.”


Neck pillows come in various shapes and sizes ranging from standard rectangular forms to more specialized options that are designed to address neck pain in one way or another. Cervical pillows feature bolsters —or cylinder-shaped portions of the pillow — that nestle into the natural backward-C-shaped cervical curve of your neck to add support. Orthopedic pillows have a more detailed shape with several contours and cavities to support your cervical curve and align your spine with your neck and head. Orthopedic and cervical pillows can help you tackle specific pain points and alignment concerns while standard pillow shapes can offer you more level head support while you sleep.

Best overall pillow for neck pain

Fill type: Polyfill | Loft: Medium | Firmness: Firm | Care instructions: Hand-wash only

Cushner says the best pillow for neck and shoulder pain is “firm enough to hold the head at a healthy angle but soft enough to alleviate pressure points.” Ideal for back and side sleepers, this cervical pillow from Core Products has two different-sized bolsters on either side that offer more or less neck support, depending on your preference. If you’re a back sleeper, the valley in the middle cradles your head while the bolsters support your neck, keeping your upper body and spine in the right alignment. If you’re a side sleeper, you can lay your head on the pillow’s raised sides. Since this type of pillow shape can take some getting used to, the brand suggests that you acclimate to the smaller-diameter bolster first, even alternating between this pillow and your current pillow at first, and adjust from there. The pillow comes in three sizes and two colors.

Best memory-foam pillow for neck pain

Fill type: Memory foam | Loft: High, medium, or low | Firmness: Firm | Care instructions: Machine-washable cover

Alanna McGinn, the founder and CEO of Good Night Sleep Site, likes memory foam because it is hypoallergenic and “provides support to individuals suffering from neck, upper-back pain, or degenerative conditions.” Contoured for ergonomic support, this Tempur-Pedic neck pillow has a firm memory-foam interior that conforms to the natural curvature of your head, neck, and shoulders. Similar to the Core Products pillow above, the Temper-Pedic Neck Pillow features two different-sized bolsters designed to nestle under your neck to provide varying levels of support. The major difference here is this pillow has a slight slope in the middle for your head to rest on instead of a deeper cutout. For side sleepers in particular, this may be a more comfortable option. Depending on your body type and overall preference, you can choose from three pillow profile sizes — small, medium, and large — with the large having the highest loft at 4.75 inches and the small having the lowest at three inches.

Best neck-support pillow for side sleepers

Pillow Cube Classic

Fill type: Memory foam | Loft: High | Firmness: Firm | Care instructions: Machine-washable cover

One of our favorite pillows for side sleepers, the Pillow Cube’s defining characteristic is its square shape, designed to maintain a 90-degree angle between your head and shoulders and relieve pressure on your neck. Made of structurally firm carbon-core memory foam that is naturally antimicrobial and designed to cradle your head while holding its shape, the Pillow Cube is encased in a cooling, machine-washable cover. You can choose from three sizes — standard, thin, or thick — depending on your height. The standard size can accommodate people who are six-foot-three or shorter, the thin size is ideal for people under five-foot-three, and the thick size is for people six-foot-four and taller. If you sleep exceptionally hot and need a bit more in the temperature-regulation department, the brand also sells a cooling version of the pillow that it says will help you sleep up to ten degrees cooler.

Best neck-support pillow for back sleepers

Fill type: Gel-infused memory foam | Loft: Low | Firmness: Medium-firm | Care instructions: Machine washable cover

Thick, fluffy pillows can actually lift your neck out of alignment, exasperating further aches. Amanda Kruel, VP of Innovation Merchandising at Mattress Firm, recommends a lower-loft, medium-firm pillow for this reason. And Dr. Janet Kennedy, a clinical psychologist and the founder of NYC Sleep Doctor, explains that for back sleepers especially, neck support is essential “to minimize snoring and keep the airway open.” After Strategist senior editor (and back sleeper) Crystal Martin noticed that higher-loft pillows put strain and stress on her neck, she switched to the super-slim Blue Wave pillow. “I like that it’s still supportive even though it’s thin. I sleep with it turned vertical, so it’s underneath my shoulder blades and it supports my neck enough, so it’s not dipping too far back,” she says. Available in three lofts — super-slim (3.25 inches), ultra-slim (2.75 inches), and hyper-slim (2.25 inches), the brand suggests the ultra- and hyper-slim pillows for stomach sleepers and people who sleep with their arm under their pillow, and the super-slim for back sleepers (the brand also notes that all three pillows are too thin for side sleepers). The interior of the pillow is a single slab of gel-infused perforated memory foam with a medium-firm texture. Like most memory foam pillows, the pillow itself is not machine washable, but the cover can be washed with the rest of your laundry.

Best cervical roll bolster pillow for neck pain

Fill type: Solid memory-foam fill | Loft: Medium-high | Firmness: Firm | Care instructions: Machine-washable cover

Similar to the Core Products and the Tempur-Pedic pillows that feature built-in bolsters for neck support, this cylindrical bolster pillow by AllSett can be used as a companion to a standard bed pillow to relieve stress on your neck. The machine-washable plush cover is soft and cozy, while the sturdy memory-foam interior is firm and responsive. To create a combination pillow setup, you can slide the bolster pillow into the space between the base of your head and your shoulders while placing an adjustable-loft pillow underneath your head. Additionally, you can use the bolster pillow between your knees for extra spine support.

Best adjustable loft pillow for neck pain

Layla Kapok Pillow
From $109

Fill type: Kapok fiber and shredded memory-foam fill | Loft: Adjustable | Firmness: Adjustable | Care instructions: Machine-washable cover

Derived from the pods of the kapok tree, kapok fiber is a fluffier, airier alternative to wool or cotton. The Layla Kapok pillow combines kapok with shredded memory foam for a plush yet supportive feel. The standout feature of this pillow is its adjustability — you can increase or decrease the loft and firmness by adding or removing fill to customize your sleeping experience. “Buying pillows with adjustable lofts is a good call if you’re not sure which one will work best for you,” says Cusher.

Best curved pillow for neck pain

Fill type: Copper-infused gel memory foam | Loft: Adjustable | Firmness: Adjustable | Care instructions: Machine-washable cover

If you’re a side sleeper or back sleeper who needs extra neck support and shoulder pressure relief, a curved pillow like this one by Scrumptious can help you achieve pain-free alignment. Filled with copper-infused gel memory foam, the pillow naturally pulls heat away from your body so you don’t overheat while you sleep. The pillow can be adjusted by removing or adding filling for more customized support.

Best quick-adjust pillow for neck pain

$104 for 2

Fill type: Chopped memory-foam and microfiber fill | Loft: Adjustable | Firmness: Medium-soft | Care instructions: Spot clean

Filled with a proprietary blend of chopped memory foam and down-alternative microfiber, the Marlow pillow has two compression zippers on either side, and when they are unzipped, the pillow expands vertically, adjusting the loft instantly and without the hassle of adding or removing any filling. I tend to be a side sleeper and found that the zippers made the pillow especially simple to adjust to the right loft for my height. After straining the base of my neck during an overly ambitious gym move, the Marlow Pillow helped me sleep with my head, neck, and spine in alignment and wake up with more mobility than I went to bed with.

Best latex pillow for neck pain

Fill type: Shredded latex fill | Loft: Adjustable | Firmness: Adjustable | Care instructions: Machine-washable cover

If you can’t fully claim a single sleeping position, you’re in good company. JD Velilla, the head of sleep experience for Serta Simmons Bedding, says, “An individual’s ideal sleep position is guided by their own personal preference, with most people not remaining in one position all night.” This latex-filled adjustable pillow from Saatva has buoyant responsiveness that is useful when you are moving from your back to your side throughout the night. While the latex core responds to your tossing and turning, the micro-denier fiber-padded inner pillow creates a soft plushness. For a lower loft, you can remove the inner pillow, and for a higher loft, you can adjust the filling to sit more in the center of the pillow. Since this is a plusher pillow instead of the firmer options we’ve included on the list, it may not be the best choice for those struggling with chronic neck pain, as all of our experts agree firmer is better for neck injuries, pain, and recovery. However, this pillow could be ideal for people with minimal neck discomfort who need a bit of extra support.

Best pillow for severe neck pain

Fill type: Molded foam | Loft: Medium | Firmness: Very firm | Care instructions: Machine-washable cover

If you have severe neck pain, talking to a doctor about your treatment options is the best first step. But if you suspect your sleeping position is to blame, a corrective pillow like this highly structured one might help. It is designed to align your neck, support your thoracic spine, relieve jaw pain, and comfort your head. There are four sizes to choose from — average, petite, large, and extra-large — and the optimal sizing is determined by the horizontal measurement from the base of your neck to the tip of your shoulder. This pillow is also made by Core Products, maker of our top pick, and the brand warns that your neck pain may actually increase as you get used to the Therapeutica pillow’s rigid shape. However, over time, it can help reduce stiffness. As you use the pillow, the firm molded foam will soften a bit while maintaining its supportive structure.

Best cooling pillow for neck pain

Fill type: Hyperelastic polymer, latex, polyester knit | Loft: Low, medium, or high loft | Firmness: Medium | Care instructions: Machine-washable cover

Waking up in a pool of sweat is equal parts gross and annoying. The innovative honeycomb-core interior of the Purple Harmony pillow creates a well-ventilated sleeping surface, while the GelFlex and latex work together to support your neck and head while you sleep. The springy material is designed to be hyperadaptive, and the pillow is available in three loft heights: low, medium, and high. The lowest loft is best for people with a smaller frame, the medium loft is ideal for side and combination sleepers with a medium-to-large frame, and the highest loft works well for people with large frames who are combination and side sleepers.

Best water pillow for neck pain

Fill type: Water-and-fiber fill | Loft: Adjustable | Firmness: Adjustable | Care instructions: Machine-washable cover

Sleeping on a sack of water might not sound like the most appealing way to doze off, but water pillows can be excellent for neck support. Additionally, McGinn says there isn’t any sloshing around at all, and “since the water pillow has some weight to it, it will stay put to keep head and neck from moving.” Acting like fluid memory foam, the water consistently conforms to the shape of your head, helping to lessen any neck stress caused by tossing and turning. If you’re a bit intimidated by the functionality of a water pillow, this one by Mediflow is pretty straightforward. The pillow is made with an adjustable water pouch that is covered in a soft poly-fiber filling. For a firmer pillow, which is best for neck pain, you can fill up the pouch with more water. Conversely, less water will give you a softer, flatter pillow.

Some more Strategist-approved products for neck pain

Our experts

• Keith Cushner, product expert at
• Logan Foley, sleep-science coach and the managing editor at
• Dr. Janet Kennedy, clinical psychologist and founder of NYC Sleep Doctor
• Amanda Kruel, VP of Innovation Merchandising at Mattress Firm
• Alanna McGinn, founder and CEO of Good Night Sleep Site
• Dr. Thomas Schuler, chairman of the National Spine Health Foundation’s Medical and Scientific Board and founder of Virginia Spine Institute
Dr. Rennes Toussaint-Keshinro, chiropractor and mental-health coach
• JD Velilla, head of sleep experience for Serta Simmons Bedding

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The 12 Very Best Pillows for Neck Pain