Can a Pillow Help to Relieve Neck and Shoulder Pain?

Best Pillows for Neck and Shoulder Pain

When you sleep, you want rest and relaxation. It is time for your body to unwind, and for your brain to unpack all the events of the day. A perfect night’s sleep does wonders for our bodies and our minds, but this perfect night’s sleep is escaping us, and it could be all down to your pillow.

If our bodies are unaligned and unsupported, then our muscles become stressed and strained. If our neck is not in the correct position when we sleep, the muscles in our necks and shoulders can become tight and tense. This is worsened if you already have an underlying condition.

The right pillow will help to ensure that you get the best night’s sleep possible. Wake up feeling great, physically and mentally, instead of stressed and depressed.

We take a look at some of the best pillows to aid you in getting the rest you deserve.

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How Should I Sleep if I Have Neck Pain?

This depends on how you sleep. We know that we just asked the very same question, but stay with us. There are three sleeping types: stomach, side, and back sleepers. Sleeping on your back (1) is considered to be the best way to alleviate pain, though sleeping on your side can often work just as well. 

People who sleep on their stomach tend to experience the most shoulder, next and back pain (2). It can be hard to break a sleeping habit, but it may be beneficial to try and change your sleeping routine. Let’s look at some of the best pillows for getting a good night’s sleep.

RELATED: How to Use a TENS Unit for Neck Pain

Best Pillows for Sleeping Positions

While sleeping on your back, or side, is considered to be better for relaxing your stressful muscles, you may not be able to break the habit of sleeping on your stomach. Here, we talk about pillows for all three sleeping positions. (We are not going to talk about the spread-eagle, sideways, child pose)

Best pillow for sleeping on the back

What should you be thinking about when sleeping on your back?

A low pillow will help. Most people sleep with too many pillows under their head, leading to the neck being unaligned as they snooze. Think about how long you sleep. That is a long time to have your neck out of position.

Sleeping on the back

To compliment a low pillow, you can roll up a towel, or use a small pillow of similar shape, and place it under your neck for added support. You can buy pillows which have this incorporated.

Try to find a position where your neck is not bent forward, and your head feels extended. It is also recommended that you sleep with a pillow under your knees to relieve back strain.

Our recommendation is:

Coop Home Goods - PREMIUM Adjustable Loft

An adjustable pillow with elastic memory foam which can be added or removed to find the optimum sleeping position. There is ventilation to ensure the perfect sleeping temperature, it is dust mite resistant, hypoallergenic, and constructed with environmental impact in mind. This is a pillow which will support your neck, and bring you a peaceful sleep.

Click here to check the price and read more reviews.

Best pillow for sleeping on the side

If you sleep on your side, you will need a higher pillow than a back-sleeper.

The goal is to still provide support to your neck. You want your neck to be in the same position as it is when you are sleeping. Once again, you can roll up a towel or use a pillow to place under, and support, the neck. Sleeping with a pillow between your knees will take some of the strain from your spine.

Our recommendation is:

Beans72 Organic Buckwheat Pillow

The first time you see this pillow, you may think that someone has thrown a sack of grain into your bed, but you might be amazed by the results. The pillow molds to your head and neck, giving a lot of support. More buckwheat is included so you can find the optimum fill level for your sleeping position. A very breathable pillow, which will become your new best friend.

Click here to check the price and read more reviews.

Best pillow for sleeping on the stomach

Sleeping on your stomach can place your head in an awkward position, and add undue stress to your neck. We recommend trying to change your sleeping position if you can. A hard task, but one which could improve your life.

Stomach-sleepers should opt for a flat pillow, or no pillow at all. If using a pillow try to place it under your forehead so that your nose is off the mattress and your neck is in a more natural position. Sleep with a pillow under your abdomen for extra spine support.

Our recommendation is:

Bluewave Bedding Ultra Thin Gel Memory Foam Bed Pillow

This pillow helps to create a natural position for your body. The Bluewave Bedding Ultra Thin Gel Memory Foam Bed Pillow is a full 2-3 inches thinner than other slim pillows.  The memory foam has temperature regulating cooling gel particles and ventilation so it stays cool.

Click here to check the price and read more reviews.

Pillow Types to Consider Based on Your Needs

Sleeping is a big part of our lives. It can be hard to make a change as big as this one, but it can be extremely beneficial. When choosing a pillow, you should first know which type of sleeper you are. It may be a case of trial and error to find the right pillow, but this is a decision which will last a lifetime. Some other things to consider are:

  • Cervical pillows, or orthopedic pillows, have a unique shape. These pillows feature in-built neck supports. They are often made with memory foam. The neck support may take some getting used to, but if it is bothering you, you can flip it, and you may find more comfort.
  • Feather pillows are classics. These are great for fussy sleepers who change position often. Feather pillows can be manipulated on the fly, giving the correct support as needed.
  • Memory foam conforms to your body to offer support in the places which need it.

A careful consideration when choosing a pillow is how it fits your body. The pillow should fit you, not the other way around.

Stretch Your Neck Before Going to Bed

Most of us spend a large part of our days in a sitting position. We slouch. We fidget. We hunch. Our posture is worse than it has ever been. Poor posture can lead to tense muscles, which can develop into pain. When this pain follows you to bed, you can say goodnight to a restful sleep.

Stretching a sore neck helps to loosen tight muscles and relieve pain. The levator scapula muscle connects your neck to your shoulder blade. Here is a great way to stretch it:

  • Stand at right angles to a wall. Your shoulder should be 12 inches from the wall.
  • Raise your arm over your head; as high as you can. Take a breath, then lower your arm towards the wall until your elbow and palm are against it.
  • Turn your head in the opposite direction and bend your head down to look at the floor. Place your free hand on the top of your head and gently pull forward. Hold for 30 seconds.

Watch this video for some quick and effective neck and shoulder pain relief exercises and stretches.

If neck pain ever persists, and you have trouble sleeping, always consult a doctor. A pillow can help, but it is not always a cure.

If you like to consume information in graphical format, here's an infographic explaining how to find the best pillow for you.

How to find the best pillow - infographics

Infographic by Health Works

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Jeanette Lynn