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Best Pillow for Pain (Back, Shoulder and Neck) in 2024

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Brooklinen Marlow pillow Best pillow for side sleepers with shoulder pain

By using the right pillow you can help relieve pain and achieve a more restful, comfortable sleep. Your pillows and mattress play an important role in keeping your body in proper alignment, preventing further discomfort. There are certain factors to consider when considering the best pillow for back pain, shoulder pain and neck pain. The most important of which are your sleeping position and 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 pain recommendations and what you should know when shopping for a pillow to relieve your 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 shoulder pain in side sleepers and will update the article accordingly.

Loft: Regarding pillows, the word “loft” refers to their 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 back, shoulder or 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. I wanted to include a fair share of both options so most people can afford a comfortable night’s sleep.

Materials and comfort: Memory foam and latex foam tend to make the best pillows for pain relief. They offer pressure relief, contouring and support without losing shape or requiring regular fluffing. Some down pillows are beneficial for pain relief, especially when placed under the lumbar region or in between limbs.

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 small to 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 pillow under your hips to promote better spinal alignment if you can’t switch to your side or back.

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.

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.

Certain materials are better at keeping their shape, propping your head up and cradling your neck and shoulders. The best pillow for back pain, shoulder pain or neck pain will have a good balance between pressure relief and support, with a decent firmness.

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.

Memory foam is known for its pressure-relieving properties and is a good choice for support and comfort. This is why several of our best pillow for back pain picks include memory foam. It’ll contour around your shoulders and head while never going flat.

Latex foam is an airy, durable and supportive foam that’s also squishy at the same time. 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 is much bouncier.

Down pillows act as a good added cushion around the body when trying to support your knees, shoulders or lower back. As long as the down pillow has a supportive design, it can also benefit back and stomach sleepers who need small to medium loft.

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, comfy couches are made with polyurethane foam.

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