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Best pillow for neck pain 2023: Banish stiffness and sore muscles

The best pillows for neck pain ensure you wake up in comfort. For our buying guide and bite-sized reviews, read on

Waking up with a sore neck is a rotten way to start the day. The best pillows for neck pain offer support in all the right places, ensuring that your shoulders and muscles are positioned properly all night long. No more waking up with sore shoulders, neck stiffness and headaches.

Our necks and backs need more careful attention than ever, now that so many of us work from home and spend our down time staring at our phones. “In my 20 years of clinical experience, I’ve never treated so many younger people with neck pain,” says Gary Jones, physiotherapist at Physio 206. “That’s got to be something to do with the mobile screen generation. It’s a big problem and it’s not going away.”

The right supportive pillow could make all the difference – but instead we sleep on the same saggy old pillow for years on end. “Think about how many hours you sleep each week,” says Gary. “Your car has an annual MOT, but how often do you do an MOT of your pillow? It’s literally, let’s wait until it’s gone threadbare!”

So in this buying guide, we’ll reveal how to choose a pillow that offers the correct support, alleviating not just neck pain but also back ache and headaches. We’ll also reveal our pick of the best pillows currently available.

Best pillow for neck pain: At a glance

How to choose the best pillow for you

What type of pillow is best for solving neck pain?

Moulded support pillows are supremely comfortable for your neck because they support its natural curve, says Gary Jones. “Your neck naturally curves slightly inwards, and contoured pillows help maintain that,” says Gary. “Over the years, that inward curve tends to flatten, especially if you spend too long stooped over your desk. So a moulded pillow with a high bit for your neck lets your body rest in a more natural and healthy position.”

Memory foam is especially well suited to providing the support your neck needs, so we’ve included several memory foam pillows in our rundown. Foam tends to feel quite soft at first, but it firms up as it moulds to fit the natural posture of your body, creating a cradle that supports your unique pressure points while you’re in the land of nod. On the downside, memory foam can feel a little too warm in summer, so some pillows include special cooling layers to offset clamminess.

If you’re considering a memory foam pillow, then be sure to check out our dedicated memory foam roundup next.

Natural latex also feels buoyant and supportive, and is a more natural and sustainable option than memory foam. However its eco credentials can push the price up – especially if you go for organic and other certifications. However, given how many hours you spend sleeping on your pillow and the life-changing impact of neck pain, a good pillow is worth investing in.

Feather and down pillows are soft but versatile, giving you the freedom to make them more and less puffy in different areas to lend exactly the support you want. However they quickly lose their “loft” (pillow jargon for height), and feathers can easily become displaced while you sleep, failing to give your head and neck consistent support through the night.

Does it matter what position you sleep in?

Side sleepers need higher pillow height than back sleepers, to accommodate your shoulder and support the inward curve of your neck. A too-flat pillow can lead to the dreaded “shoulder crunch”, stressing and straining the muscles in your neck as you sleep. Go for a memory foam or latex pillow that’s dense enough to maintain its depth throughout the night.

Back sleepers don’t need as much pillow depth. A pillow that’s too big will push your head upwards and lose this natural curve, causing neck and shoulder pain.

Front sleepers also need a flatter pillow than side sleepers. However in the longer run, it’s recommended that you switch to sleeping on your side. “Sleeping on your front is not a natural position for your neck to be in,” says Gary Jones. If you’re starting to experience symptoms, say you’re waking up with neck pain or headaches, then it may be time to change your pillow or even the position you’re lying in.” That said, if that’s a deal-breaker, check out our roundup of the best pillows for front sleepers.

How we test pillows

The best way to test a pillow is to sleep on it, and that’s exactly what we do. However, we don’t just put our feet up, we also take into account:

  • Firmness
  • Temperature
  • Loft (Height)
  • Value for money

What’s more, different people have different preferences and sleeping styles. For example, side sleepers might want a solid pillow with a bit more loft to it, while those prone to overheating during the night should be aware that memory foam can feel warm as it responds to your body heat.

We also consider other factors such as removable covers, trial periods and special features (can a pillow be adjusted? Does it have an ergonomic design?) all of which help us to form a comprehensive impression of a product.

READ NEXT: The best pillows for side sleepers

The best pillows you can buy to prevent and soothe neck pain in 2023

1. Tempur Original Large Pillow: Best memory foam pillow for neck pain

Price: £100 | Buy now from John LewisContoured memory foam is the pillow type of choice for people seeking relief from neck pain, and Tempur is the king of memory foam pillows. This classic robust pillow is pricey, but it’s a superb investment if you want to sleep better and wake in comfort.

The raised section supports your neck and helps your head, neck and shoulder muscles to fully relax in their natural posture while you sleep. The Large size is 11.5cm at its highest, which is not actually that high, so while it’s perfect for back sleepers you may need a bit of extra height to accommodate your shoulder if you’re a side sleeper. Luckily the Tempur Original also comes in X Large with 13cm of support, which is ideal for side sleepers. However it’s also worth noting that the pillow will compress and firm up over your first few nights of sleep.

Key specs – Filling: Memory foam; Cover: 100% cotton cover (machine washable 60C); Sizes: Large is 61cm x 31cm (11.5cm max height); also available in Medium (10cm height) and X Large (13cm height)

Buy now from John Lewis

2. BedStory Memory Foam and Microfibre Pillow: Best value memory foam pillow for neck pain

Price: £37 | Buy now from AmazonMemory foam is great for providing neck support. This pillow from BedStory will mould to the contours of your neck, regardless of what position you sleep in, springing back into shape when you lift your head. And at under £40, it’s much more affordable than some rival memory foam pillows – particularly ones from bed-in-a-box brands such as Emma.

Because it reacts to your body temperature, memory foam can sometimes feel hot and clammy – particularly in the warmer months. BedStory claims that its pillows are cooling, thanks to a layer of perforated gel-infused foam. That said, it’s important to take these claims with a pinch of salt, and sleepers who are prone to overheating in bed should bear this in mind before purchasing a memory foam pillow.

For more information on this, check out our best cooling pillow buying guide and roundup.

Key specs – Filling: Memory foam; Cover: Microfibre and tencel (machine washable); Sizes: 1 (60 x 40cm; 13cm height)

3. The Moon by Rested: Best memory foam pillow that feels like down

Price: £65 | Buy now from RestedDown pillows feel luxuriously soft, but that sinking feeling isn’t so great for your neck and shoulder muscles, which need more support. This pillow’s visco-elastic memory foam does a brilliant job of mimicking the softness and give of down, but it also offers superb bounce-back and enough support to avoid shoulder crunch and a stiff neck.

We also love the way one of the long edges curves inwards, creating a nook for your shoulder to fit into. However if you have a long neck or shoulders you may find this pillow just a little too flat (12cm) for comfortable side-sleeping.

Key specs – Filling: Memory foam (visco elastic polymer); Cover: ‘Sleepsoft’ outer cover (machine washable); Sizes: 1 (40 x 60cm; 12cm height)

Buy now from Rested

4. Silentnight Eco Comfort Pillow: Best deep pillow for neck pain

Price: £18 | Buy now from AmazonIf you would prefer a more traditional shaped pillow to alleviate neck pain, Silentnight’s Eco Comfort pillow is a great choice. A sustainable alternative to memory foam, it’s filled with the brand’s “Eco Comfort fibres” which are made from 100% recycled materials (including 17 plastic bottles for each pillow).

Both soft and firm options can help alleviate pressure on the neck, though we would recommend side sleepers opt for the latter. The Eco Comfort is also designed, much like memory foam, to spring back into shape when not in use, though we’d argue that it still benefits from a plumping up from time to time.

Key specs – Filling: “Eco Comfort Fibres” made from recycled plastic; Cover: Unspecified; Sizes: 1 (74 x 45cm; height not given)

5. Original Groove Pillow: Best ergonomic pillow

Price: £30 | Buy now from GrooveOriginally called the EasySleeper pillow, the Groove Pillow is a contoured memory foam pillow with a little dip in the middle to cradle your head and neck. This is designed to ensure proper spinal alignment for both side and back sleepers. We found it comfortable and supportive, if ever so slightly on the thin side, and we never woke up with a sore or stiff neck during testing.

The memory foam inner is infused with bamboo and charcoal, which is far from an uncommon feature in today’s bedding market (the materials are lauded for their antibacterial, hypoallergenic and supposed cooling properties), and the cover is machine washable. Importantly, the pillow also comes with a 100-night trial period, at the end of which you can return it for a full refund if you’re unhappy. It’s already a reasonably priced pillow at £30, but having this trial period certainly doesn’t hurt when it comes to buying with confidence.

It’s also worth mentioning that we tested the pillow with a standard 50 x 75cm pillow case, which had a slightly loose fit. Given the unique shape of the pillow, you might get a better fit from one of Groove’s pillow cases (measuring 69 x 43cm): these start at £15, and are available in a range of materials including cotton, bamboo and linen.

Key features – Filling: Memory foam; Cover: Quilted scuba (neoprene) (machine washable); Sizes: 1 (60 x 35cm, 11/6cm height)

Buy now from Groove

6. Habitat Orthopaedic V Shape Firm Support Pillow: Best V-shaped pillow for neck and back pain

Price: £14 | Buy now from HabitatA V-shaped pillow is a great choice if you suffer from back and neck pain, and struggle to get comfy on standard pillows. Buyers report that it’s more medium than firm, and ideal for side-sleepers who want to hug the pillow and sleep with one knee resting on it – a position which soothes your back while the other branch of the V supports your neck and head. This pillow does come with a pillowcase, which is handy because you’ll struggle to fit it inside your standard cases!

Key specs – Filling: Polyester; Cover: 70% polyester 30% cotton (machine-washable at 40C); Sizes: 1 (75m x 75cm)

Buy now from Habitat

7. Eve Memory Foam Pillow: Best firm memory foam pillow

Price: £69 | Buy now from EveEve’s pillow hasn’t got an ergonomic shape like some of the other options in this roundup, but it is one of the best memory foam pillows, particularly if you’re after something with a firmer feel. Indeed, it ranks much higher on the firmness scale compared to some of the other memory foam pillows we’ve tested. Not only that, but it’s quick to regain its shape once you lift your head and, much like The Moon by Rested featured above, offers great bounce-back.

It’s this level of support that makes the Eve memory foam pillow a decent choice for sleepers who might be struggling with neck pain and shoulder crunch. And if, by chance, you don’t notice an improvement in your sleep, Eve offers a 30-night trial period at the end of which you can return your pillow for a full refund if you’re not happy.

Read our full Eve Memory Foam Pillow review

Key specs – Filling: Memory foam; Cover: Polyester (machine washable); Sizes: 1 (42 x 66cm, 13cm height)

Buy now from Eve

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