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Best Pillow for Neck Pain in 2024

If you struggle with neck pain, upgrading your pillow can help. Check out the best pillows for neck pain, tested by our sleep expert.

Caroline Igo Editor, Sleep
Caroline Igo (she/her/hers) is a wellness editor and holds Sleep Science Coach and Stress Management certificates from the Spencer Institute. She received her bachelor's degree in creative writing from Miami University and continues to further her craft in her free time. Before joining CNET, Caroline wrote for past CNN anchor, Daryn Kagan.
Expertise Sleep | Mattress Accessories | Vitamins and Supplements | Nutrition | Personal care Credentials
  • Carl R. Greer/Andrew D. Hepburn Award for Best Nonfiction Essay (Miami University, 2020)
Caroline Igo
12 min read
$125 at Pluto
Pluto Pillow on a bed
Pluto pillow
Best overall pillow for neck pain
$64 at Amazon
Brooklinen Marlow Pillow on a white bed
Brooklinen Marlow pillow
Best budget pillow for neck pain
$130 at Amazon
eli-and-elm.jpg
Eli & Elm Side Sleeper pillow
Best pillow for neck pain in side sleepers
$110 at Sleep Number
Sleep Number True Temp Pillow on a white bed
True Temp Sleep Number pillow
Best pillow for neck pain in back sleepers
$112 at Brooklyn Bedding
Brooklyn Bedding Cooling Pillow on top of a white bed
Brooklyn Bedding Luxury Cooling Memory Foam pillow
Best pillow for neck pain in stomach sleepers
$80 at Tuft and Needle
t-and-n2.jpg
Tuft and Needle Original Foam pillow
Best pillow for neck pain in combination sleepers
$179 at Walmart
Purple Harmony on a white bed
Purple Harmony
Best latex pillow for neck pain
$109 at Layla Sleep
Layla Kapok pillow on a white bed
Layla Kapok pillow
Best memory foam pillow for neck pain
$139 at Walmart
Coop Eden Cool+ Pillow on a white bed
Coop Home Eden Cool Plus pillow
Best cooling pillow for neck pain

If you frequently wake up with neck and shoulder pain, upgrading your pillow can make a major difference. Many pillows lack proper neck support or may not align with your sleeping style. I often experience neck pain if I’m away from my bed and not careful about the pillow I choose to sleep on. The right pillow can help you alleviate neck pain and get a more comfortable night's sleep. 

A proper pillow for neck pain can keep your body properly aligned while you're asleep, and keep you from sleeping in a manner that will cause further discomfort. You need to consider certain factors when picking the best pillow for neck pain. The most important ones are your preferred sleep position, pillow firmness and the pillow materials. Back and side sleeping are recommended as the ideal positions for pain relief, but there are options for stomach sleepers seeking aid too. 

We get into the important details below, including my best pillows for neck pain recommendations and what you should know when shopping for a pillow to relieve your neck pain. 

What’s the best overall pillow for neck pain?

pluto-pillow.jpg
Caroline Igo/CNET

My pick for the best pillow for neck pain is the Pluto Pillow due to its hybrid design, comfortable feel, its optional cool-to-the-touch cover and the fact that you can personalize it to suit you. This pillow can work for all sleepers and all body types. You can customize it to be firmer and its supportive foam makes the Pluto Pillow a winner for neck pain.     

I have tested over 50 pillows from 45 different top brands over the years. The nine pillows that made this list are the best pillows for neck pain on the market. I also included a few honorable mentions in case one of those might fit you better.

Best pillow for neck pain for 2024 

Pluto is a relatively new brand in the market. It tailors your pillow to you and your sleep needs. You'll take a quick questionnaire about your sleeping habits: Your preferred position, age and weight, the material and firmness of your current pillow, the firmness of your mattress, if you're a hot sleeper and so on. Once the company has all this information, you're presented with a pillow built for you. 

Regardless of how you fill out the questionnaire, your Pluto Pillow will come with a perforated foam core, a layer of hypoallergenic fibers and a smooth or cool-to-the-touch cover. Any sleeper should be able to find a pillow that is supportive in this sleeping position and help keep their neck and spine aligned. I chose a thinner pillow since I switch sleeping positions between my stomach and side, and I still wake up feeling like my neck was properly supported at night. 

Pros:

  • Completely customizable
  • Hybrid design 
  • Great for all sleeper types

Cons:

  • Not for those who enjoy down and latex materials
  • May off-gas for a few days

Brooklinen’s Marlow Pillow is made of memory foam and polyester fiber, and the outside cover is made of 100% cotton. While you can't remove any filling, the pillow comes with two zippers (one at the top and one at the bottom) that adjust the firmness. This pillow feels more like a down pillow to me, so this might be best for those who dislike foam. 

I found the Marlow Pillow to be even more supportive than a pillow made with shredded foam. My head doesn’t sink in as far as other pillows on this list, which is a good feature for neck pain. The Marlow Pillow is great for those who like firmer pillows and are on a budget.   

Pros:

  • Adjustable with two zippers
  • On the firmer side
  • Very supportive 

Cons:

  • Not for strict stomach sleepers 
  • Not for those who like to sink into their pillow

When considering the best pillow for neck pain, side sleepers need a lofty, tall pillow that properly supports the neck without going flat. If you sleep in this position, the Side Sleeper pillow from Eli and Elm is going to be your best friend.  

It's around 5 inches tall and measures 17 by 29 inches. You can get yours with extra fill if you want it even firmer. Conversely, you can take fill out to adjust its firmness level to your liking. It's also ergonomically shaped to contour around your shoulder and provides a good balance between soft and supportive. I like that it's pressure-relieving enough to take some weight off my neck, but it doesn’t lose its shape or durability. The inside is made with soft polyester fibers and bouncy latex shreds. It also has a removable, washable cover. 

Pros:

  • Shaped specifically for side sleepers 
  • Machine-washable cover 
  • Adjustable -- remove or add filling to your liking

Cons:

  • Requires a specific pillowcase 
  • Not for combination sleepers

The Sleep Number True Temp pillow in the Classic shape is one of the best pillows for neck pain in back sleepers. It also has additional features like its 37.5 Technology that uses natural volcanic minerals. In other words, it helps regulate your temperature and lets you sleep cooler than on other memory foam pillows. Combined with a cooling cover that's cold to the touch, it's a cooling pillow true to its name. 

Three foam inserts inside the Sleep Number True Temp pillow give it a cushy, pressure-relieving feel. It's really soft but still offers a good balance of support. If you want to make it even softer and less lofty, you can remove the inserts and adjust 

accordingly. Back sleepers should feel supported and sleep soundly, knowing their neck is properly aligned. 

Pros:

  • Cool to the touch
  • Comes in classic, contour and ultimate shapes
  • Soft, machine-washable cover

Cons:

  • Not for strict stomach sleepers

Imagine you're at the movie theater, and you get front-row seats. Your neck has been kinked for over an hour, and you walk out with slight soreness or irritation. The same thing goes for stomach sleepers who sleep on a tall pillow. While stomach sleeping isn't recommended for those with neck pain, if you can’t sleep any other way, look for a thinner pillow made of foam that can still support your neck.   

The Brooklyn Bedding Luxury Cooling Memory Foam pillow in a low loft is the perfect height for stomach sleepers. The pillow is thinner and has and has a hexagon-patterned cover that is truly cool to the touch. The memory foam itself is perforated, and the top is infused with copper. I like how supported my head and neck feel even when I’m sleeping on my stomach. Best of all, Brooklyn Bedding often has deals, so you can usually grab this pillow for under $99.

Pros:

  • Cool to the touch 
  • Machine-washable cover
  • Available in low and high profiles 

Cons:

  • Back sleepers may not find either profile comfortable

I’m a combination sleeper, and I've been using this pillow for years. Combination sleepers need a pillow to be adaptable when switching positions, and it should have around a medium loft to support one position to another. The Original Foam pillow from Tuft and Needle is all of those things and more. 

The Original Foam pillow is made of Tuft and Needle’s proprietary foam and it feels neutral, bouncy and versatile. I can easily switch positions during the night, and I don’t feel resistance from this pillow. The foam cradles my head but also gives my neck enough support, and the soft cover can easily be removed for a quick wash. It’s a simple pillow, but sometimes that’s all you need. Also, you can often find this pillow under $100 during frequent deals.  

Pros:

Cons:

  • Some stomach sleepers may need a thinner pillow
  • May off-gas for a few days 

The Purple Harmony pillow is available in three different heights: low, medium and tall. It's fitting for all sleepers of all sizes. It softly cradles your head and cervical spine while keeping it in neutral alignment with the thoracic and lumbar spine. 

The Purple Harmony is unlike any pillow. It's made with the brand's own Gel Flex Grid and a slab of latex foam, making it soft and supportive at the same time. The feel of the is similar to gel, like a shoe insole; it's soft and squishy but never loses its shape. With the latex foam, you have a pressure-relieving pillow that promotes proper alignment and great airflow. You'll never have to fluff the Purple Harmony in your life. 

Pros:

  • Breathable and cool to the touch
  • Unique honeycombed-pattern grid
  • Soft, machine-washable cover

Cons:

  • Expensive 
  • Not everyone will like the latex-grid feel

The Layla Kapok pillow is an eco-friendly pillow made with natural fill sourced from the fibers of kapok tree seed pods. Alongside Layla's shredded memory foam fill, it makes for a plush, cushy and supportive pillow that supports and promotes proper spinal alignment. I love how I feel comfort and support, even when I switch sleeping positions during the night. 

The Layla Kapok, like a few others on our best pillow for pain list, is adjustable. You can remove the filling to size it to your preference. 

Pros:

  • Adjustable -- remove or add filling to your liking 
  • Plush and supportive 
  • Soft, machine-washable cover

Cons:

  • Can be lumpy 
  • Not for strict stomach sleepers

If you're a hot sleeper, switching to a cooling pillow is a simple change that can help you from overheating at night. Some pillows use materials that hold onto your body heat, such as dense memory foam. Pillows that feel cool to the touch, such as the Coop Eden Cool Plus Pillow, are truly game-changing. 

The Eden Cool Plus pillow contains a heat-wicking inner liner, a gel layer and a shredded gel-infused memory foam core. The filling is airy, breathable and Greenguard Gold and CertiPur-US certified. When you lie down, you can feel the pillow contour to you and take pressure off your neck. One side claims to be cooler and firmer than the other, but I didn't feel that when testing. Another great feature of this pillow is that it is adjustable. Make it as firm or soft, high or low as you desire.

Pros:

  • Cool to the touch 
  • Adjustable and hypoallergenic 
  • Machine-washable cover

Cons:

  • Not for strict stomach sleepers
  • Not for those who don't like to sink a little into pillows

Other pillows I tested for neck pain 

While these pillows didn't make my initial list, I still wanted to highlight these four pillows. One of these might work best for you and your neck pain.

Tempur-Pedic Neck pillow: This popular pillow from Tempur-Pedic didn’t live up to the other pillow for neck pain options on this list. One, I found it too firm. While pillows that properly support your neck are usually on the firmer side, the Tempur-Pedic Neck pillow is more like sleeping on a rock. While that isn’t for me, it could be for you. It's shaped to mimic the natural curve of your neck, which can be helpful for back and side sleepers.   

Cozy Earth Silk pillow: I’m a huge fan of this pillow, but there's no way to get around the price -- which is why this didn’t make my initial list. The Cozy Earth Silk pillow is made of 100% Mulberry silk and has a viscose bamboo shell. If you're a stomach sleeper, this pillow is thin enough to properly support the neck and cradle the head. I love how soft it is, but if you are experiencing a lot of pain, a medium to medium firm pillow may be better. 

Boll and Branch Down pillow: Down and down alternative pillows usually aren't the best for neck pain. These pillows are often softer and are prone to flattening during the night. I do think that the Boll and Branch Down Pillow sticks to its shape well and still offers support to the head. If you dislike memory foam, this pillow might work better for you. 

Avocado Down pillow: Like the Boll and Branch, this pillow from Avocado is also made of down. It comes in three firmness options and is Downmark certified, RDS certified and Climate Neutral certified. I tested the soft option as a stomach and side sleeper, and while I think the loft is perfect, I found it didn’t have enough support for neck pain. However, the medium and firm options may be better suited for back and side sleepers who like ethically sourced down pillows. Currently, the pillow is out of stock in the standard size and only available in a king size.

How I tested the best pillows for neck pain

CNET editors pick the products and services we write about based on editorial merit. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission. We are still testing the best pillow for neck pain and will update the article accordingly. 

Loft

The word "loft" refers to a pillow's height. Different sleeping positions require a different pillow height. The goal is to have a pillow that supports the head and neck and keeps your spine in a straight alignment. 

Firmness

The firmer the pillow, the more supportive it is. I looked for pillows that had a firm, supportive feel that still relieved tension around the joints. Softer, flat pillows may not be ideal when dealing with neck pain. 

Adjustability

Many pillows these days are made to be adjustable because brands know that pillows aren't a "one size fits all" deal. This way, you can remove filling or inserts to adjust the firmness and loft to your specific needs. It also makes pillows accommodating for different body types -- the larger your build, the taller and firmer your pillow should be

Price

Some people have the budget to invest in an expensive pillow that helps relieve pain, but others need pain relief without spending over $100 on a pillow. Most of these pillows are often on sale, and you can easily snag them for under $100 when they are on discount. 

What to consider when choosing the best pillow for neck pain

Sleeping position

Side sleeping has been shown to reduce pain in the neck and spine. Side sleepers can lie with a tall pillow supporting their neck and head, keeping it in a straight line with their spine. Keep a supportive pillow between the knees to maintain the hips in alignment and reduce pressure on your hips and joints. Check out our top picks for the best pillows for side sleepers for even more help with pain relief. 

Back sleepers benefit from medium loft pillows that keep the neck or cervical spine in a proper C-shaped curve. Back sleeping is ideal for minimizing pain because it distributes pressure evenly across your body and reduces pressure on the spine. 

Stomach sleepers report the greatest amount of neck pain during the day, and stomach sleeping can put added pressure on your back and shoulders. It's not recommended as a good sleeping position when dealing with pain. That said, you can sleep with a thinner pillow or a pillow with a low loft. You can also try putting a pillow under your hips to promote better spinal alignment if you can't switch to your side or back. 

Pain type

Sleeping with neck pain is most comfortable on the side or back, but your pillow must keep your cervical spine in neutral alignment to avoid increased pressure on the neck. Back sleepers with shoulder pain should sleep with their pillow supporting their shoulders and neck, and another underneath their knees to relieve pressure off the spine.

Sleeping with shoulder pain is most comfortable when you sleep on your back or non-injured shoulder. Back sleeping is recommended because it evenly distributes weight without disturbing either of your shoulders. Still, you can also sleep on your side with a pillow beneath your armpit to relieve pressure. 

Sleeping with back pain is most comfortable when you're on your back, so you ensure straight spine and neck alignment. You can also place a pillow under your knees to relieve more pressure off your spine. 

Materials

Certain materials are better at keeping their shape, propping your head up and cradling your neck and shoulders. The best pillow for neck pain is often made of a type of foam and has a good balance between pressure relief and support, with a decent firmness. While down or down alternative isn’t usually the best material for neck pain, if you find a down pillow with ample support and decent design, it might work for you.  

Loft

The loft of your pillow is important when you're dealing with pain. Your pillow's height should accommodate your specific sleeping position to keep your spine, neck and head in alignment. 

Side sleepers benefit from taller, loftier pillows that support their head. Stomach sleepers benefit from thin pillows that cradle the head, and back sleepers need a medium loft that promotes a proper C-shaped curve. 

Best pillow materials for neck pain 

Memory foam

Memory foam is known for its pressure-relieving properties and is a good choice for support and comfort. This is why several of our picks are made from memory foam. It'll contour around your shoulders and head while never going flat. 

Latex foam

Latex foam is an airy, durable and supportive foam that's also squishy. Many brands use organic latex foam, making their pillows eco-friendly and hypoallergenic. Latex foam has similar pressure-relieving characteristics to those of memory foam but it's much bouncier. 

Poly foam 

Polyurethane foam is cheaper to make than memory or latex foam, meaning these types of pillows are more affordable. It's more responsive than memory foam and more like traditional soft foam than latex foam. To put things in perspective, comfortable couches are made with polyurethane foam.

Best pillow for neck pain FAQs

What pillows do chiropractors recommend?

Many chiropractors suggest memory or latex foam because of their supportive and pressure-relieving qualities. These foams contour around your curves, keep the neck and head propped up and promote a straight spinal alignment.

Can pillows cause neck pain?

Yes, your pillow plays a key part in preventing added pressure to the neck and spine. If your pillow doesn't accommodate your sleeping position, you risk improper spinal alignment and increased pain.

Are firm or soft pillows better for neck pain?

Pillows on the firmer side of the scale are better for neck pain. They offer ample support and help to keep the neck in the correct position all night. However, firm pillows aren’t comfortable enough for everyone. If you are someone who likes softer pillows but is still experiencing neck pain, try a medium pillow -- or one that's just in the middle of the firmness scale -- for both comfort and support.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.