The Ultimate Guide to Finding the Right Pillow for Neck Pain


I get asked in our Santa Cruz Chiropractor office about what type of pillow someone should buy—a lot. We can help you figure this out AND it’s a difficult question to answer in many ways because we all have different needs and pillows are always changing. Not being one to back down from a challenge, I decided to do a comprehensive review of all of the pillow reviews for 2019 to help patients figure out what may be best for them. Rest assured I have not gotten compensation or free pillows from the companies or the websites sponsoring the pillows. In this guide I am going to tackle primarily pillows that are good for neck pain since those are the people that ask me the most.

If you try these once and find you’re in too much pain, consider coming into to see us for an adjustment. Our approach using DNFT chiropractic can help decrease the inflammation AND align the bones so your neck and the surrounding tissue function at its best. If we find your pain needs attention beyond the capabilities of DNFT chiropractic, we’ll refer you to the appropriate care.

Signs that you need a new pillow for neck pain

If you are waking up, or with a sore stiff neck that is a strong indication that you might benefit from getting yourself a new pillow for neck pain. If it’s been longer than 2 years experts say to replace your pillow. I am a little skeptical about the two-year rule so another indicator is if your pillow doesn’t spring back to life when you fold it or in the case of memory foam you’re seeing the material crumble.

Pillow material

Depending on when you bought your last pillow you may have noticed that there are a lot of different materials right now. How to select what material will work best for you depends on your needs, starting with what temperature you best like your pillow to be. Here is the temperature scale for materials – warmest to coolest:

Memory Foam

Polyester Fiberfill Pillow

Down Feathers



Gel Pillows

Water Pillows

Sleep position

Now let’s talk about what pillow for neck pain is best for you based on your sleeping position.  The majority of the population an estimated 67% are side sleepers. When you sleep on your side it’s important to have a pillow that is a little bit firmer and taller to make-up the space in between your shoulder and neck for the least amount of stress on your neck.

For back sleepers you’ll need a smaller profile than the side sleeper but in general want to avoid your head being flexed forward and should be in a neutral position so avoid overstuffed pillows or pillows intended for side sleepers. In general, I recommend avoiding down or feather pillows as they tend to break down quickly are prone to dust mites and other allergens as well as they tend not to give enough support throughout the night.

Sleeping on your stomach is hard on your neck because it is rotated all night. If you’re experiencing neck pain, you can try a body pillow to hold you comfortably on your side.

After combing more than 30 blogs, websites and review pages without a doubt the most recommended pillow is the Coop Home Goods – Premium Adjustable Loft Pillow. As the name implies it is adjustable so can fit any sleepers need. The reason it comes so highly favored is because along with being adjustable it hypoallergenic, machine washable and comes with a 5-year warranty. Additionally, it is made made without ozone depleters, PBDEs, TDCPP, TCEP flame retardants, mercury, lead and heavy metals, formaldehyde, phthalates regulated by the CPSC, or CFCs. All things you want to avoid in your pillow.

Best pillow for snoring and neck stiffness

In our Santa Cruz Chiropractor office, we have in the past recommended the Oxygen pillow carried by SC41 many of our patients have reported sleeping better with less snoring, less sleep apnea, less neck/jaw and shoulder pain. We recommend this pillow when you’ve had reoccurring neck stiffness or are having restless sleep.

Best pillow for radiating pain into the arms or numbness

If you’re suffering from radiating pain into their arm, first you should come get adjusted because DNFT chiropractic can help considerable with radiating pain, then we recommend the McKenzie type pillow to reduce stress on your discs and neck.

The best pillow has a neck roll with or without an area for your head to be cradled. It very important that your neck does not go into flexion (when your chin is tilted downward toward your chest) and ideally be slightly in extension (tilted slightly upwards). The pillow that best accomplishes this are the McKenzie Cervical pillow which is designed specifically for this issue. Our other patients have reported getting relief using pillows such as Xtra-Comfort Orthopedic Pillow which creates a space for your head but primarily supports your neck properly.

Overall, I tested the top two pillows: the Coop Home Goods and the Oxygen pillow. I like that the Coop Home Goods is customizable, but I have been converted to an Oxygen pillow devotee as I liked the feel of the pillow more.

The bottom line…

If getting a new pillow doesn’t seem to help, please give us a call and/or schedule a DNFT chiropractic adjustment for yourself in our Santa Cruz Chiropractor office. When you call us we’ll answer any questions you have and help you determine if you should come in for an analysis and adjustment—we can completely align your neck, shoulders, back, and all that impacts your neck. How will we go about helping you? Just read our page on what to expect at our Santa Cruz chiropractic office and you’ll get the idea. Take care…


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