Best Pillow for Neck Pain
Have you been wondering what the best pillow is to relieve neck pain? Ask experts in the field such as orthopedic doctors, doctors of chiropractic or physical therapists and you hear recommendations for a “supportive “pillow as a supplement to treatment for reducing neck pain.
What makes the best pillow
Ultimately, a pillow’s ability to help alleviate neck pain and correctly align the spine, while supporting the neck in its natural position makes the best pillow. A study completed in 2014 investigated the effect of different pillow shape, content on cervical curve, pillow temperature, and pillow comfort (1). They found comparing orthopedic, memory and feather pillow that the orthopedic pillow allowed for the best in support, maintaining temperature and scored the highest in comfort.
Qualities of the best pillow:
- Supports cervical curve
- Properly regulates temperature
- Provides comfort
Why an orthopedic pillow
A healthy neck has ideally a “C” shaped curve. According to the Harrison Spinal Model created by Dr. Don Harrison an ideal cervical spine has a geometric shape that approximates a ‘piece of a circle’ or “C” shape (2).
A pillow to support this shape is preferred over a pillow that puts pressure on the neck and head. A 2016 study revealed that a pillow that increases the elevation of your head 60mm while lying on your back can increase cranio-cervical pressure and adversely affect neck alignment by 30% (3).
How to select an orthopedic pillow
Fortunately, there are only a three components to consider when looking at a orthopedic pillow to help with neck pain. The size is based on your preference. A larger pillow may not fit in your pillow case or it could take up to much space. Most orthopedic pillows are firm but there are options for greater firmness if that is what you like. Materials will range from organic cotton to non-organic polyester mix. Choose material that matches your needs. If you are sensitive to polyester mixes then choose a 100% cotton content and fabric.
Components to a orthopedic pillow:
The best pillow for neck pain will be one that offers the best in support of the c-shape curve of your neck, maintains temperature and is comfortable. The orthopedic pillow does all these things. Select a orthopedic pillow that fits your preferences in size, firmness and material.
(2) Harrison DD, Harrison DE, Janik TJ, Cailliet R, Haas JW, Ferrantelli J, Holland B. Modeling of the Sagittal Cervical Spine as a Method to Discriminate Hypo-Lordosis: Results of Elliptical and Circular Modeling in 72 Asymptomatic Subjects, 52 Acute Neck Pain Subjects, and 70 Chronic Neck Pain Subjects. Spine 2004; 29:2485-2492.
Because sleep comprises one-third of a person’s life, using an optimal pillow for appropriate neck support to maintain cervical curve may contribute to improve quality of sleep. Design of orthopedic pillow conforms to orthopedic guidelines to ensure the right support of the cervical curve.
The aim of this study was to investigate effect of different pillow shape and content on cervical curve, pillow temperature, and pillow comfort. A feather pillow is regarded as a standard pillow, and a memory foam pillow is one of the most popular pillows among pillow users. We, therefore, compared these two pillows with an orthopedic pillow. Twenty healthy subjects (10 men and 10 women; age range, 21-30 years) participated in the study. Each subject was asked to assume the supine position with 3 different pillows for 30 minute in each trial and then cervical curve, pillow temperature, and pillow comfort were measured. When comparing the cervical curve of the 3 different pillows, that of the orthopedic pillow was significantly higher than that of the other 2 pillows (p < 0.001). The degree of temperature increase was significantly lower for the orthopedic pillow than for the memory foam and feather pillows (p < 0.001). The visual analog scale (VAS) score of pillow comfort was significantly higher in orthopedic pillow than the other 2 pillows. This study shows that pillow shape and content plays a crucial role in cervical curve, pillow temperature, and pillow comfort and orthopedic pillow may be an optimal pillow for sleep quality.