Pillow Talk – How to Choose the Right Pillow

Choose The Right Pillow For Your Neck Pain


If you’re experiencing neck pain, finding the right pillow can make all the difference in the world. Choosing the right pillow is not as straightforward as it may seem, and it’s essential to consider two factors: your preferred sleeping position and how much you move during the night. In this article, we’ll explore the various options available to you for the best pillow for neck pain, with a focus on optimal comfort and support.

Back Sleepers and Pillow Selection

Right Pillow For Back Sleepers

If you prefer sleeping on your back, it’s essential to avoid any pillows that push your neck forward or extend your neck backward. The ideal pillow for you is one that matches the natural curvature of your spine, and it’s called a cervical pillow.

However, it’s important to note that everyone has a unique neck length and curvature, so it’s crucial to try out the pillow and determine if it provides the right level of support and comfort for you. Finding the perfect cervical pillow may require some experimentation and trial-and-error.

If you’re a back sleeper who changes positions frequently, contoured cervical pillows may not be the best option for you, as your head can end up in the wrong position. In these cases, it’s best to use a medium-firm pillow that isn’t contoured, as it will provide better support.

If you tend to switch to a side sleeping position, you may need an additional pillow for proper support, especially if you have broad shoulders. The key is to create support for your head and prevent your neck from being too flexed on one side.

Side Sleepers and Pillow Selection

Side Sleepers and Pillow Selection

If you prefer side sleeping and tend to stay in one position, a denser and slightly higher pillow can help keep your neck and head square on your shoulders. A cervical pillow may also work for you, but only if it supports the region between your neck and shoulders to maintain proper neck and spine alignment.

For those who move around in bed, it’s best to use a pillow that doesn’t push your head forward when lying on your back but still provides enough support when lying on your side. While cervical pillows may be helpful if you end up in the correct position, they could lead to neck stiffness and pain if not properly aligned.

Stomach Sleepers and Pillow Selection

Stomach Sleepers and Pillow Selection

Sleeping on your stomach is considered the worst position for your neck, as you must turn your neck to breathe comfortably. But if it’s your go-to most comfortable position, it’s essential to protect your neck by avoiding thick pillows that cause too much extension in the neck. Instead, opt for a thin pillow to provide some support while keeping your neck turned to one side. If you feel the neck is still too extended, you may opt for no pillow at all. To avoid placing excessive strain on one side of your neck, it’s important to vary your head position regularly and avoid keeping it turned to one side for extended periods.

A medium-height, firm pillow underneath your chest and your head will allow you to breathe properly and prevent your neck from being too extended. If you tend to move around and end up on your back or side, follow the same recommendations as previously mentioned. However, if you tend to sleep only on your stomach, placing a pillow vertically on your chest and head can keep you relatively supported.

All-Around Sleepers and Pillow Selection

For restless sleepers who switch positions frequently, a medium-firm pillow without contours is your best bet for comfortable support. This type of pillow provides adequate support for your neck when you sleep on your back, side, or stomach, minimizing stress on your neck in all positions. While it may not be perfect, it’s the ideal solution for those who sleep in a variety of positions.

What are the different pillow materials available?

Different Pillow Materials
The right pillow material can make all the difference in neck pain. There are several types of pillow materials to choose from, including down, memory foam, latex, bamboo, microbead, and buckwheat. The best pillow for you depends on your personal preferences and priorities. Consider the level of support, comfort, hypoallergenic properties, breathability, and durability you’re looking for. Each type of pillow material has its own advantages and disadvantages. Some people prefer the softness of down, while others prefer the firmness of memory foam. Bamboo pillows are great for people who are sensitive to allergens, and buckwheat pillows are ideal for people who prefer a natural, organic option.

Pillow Type






Regulate temperature well

Moldable to your head/neck

Can cause allergies in some

Difficult to clean/requires professional cleaning

Can be expensive (if high quality down)

Regular fluffing needed

Memory Foam

Conform to head

Reduces pressure points




Retains heat

Emits odor when new

More expensive


Good Support




Can be too firm/hard


May have Odor

More Expensive


Soft and comfortable


Breathable and regulate temperature

Environmentally friendly

Can be expensive

Not provide as much support compared to other

Not as durable



Conforms to your neck


Makes noise when you move around

Flattens over time, decrease in support

Not as durable

Retains heat



Customizable support


Breathable and regulate temperature

Can be heavy/dense

Makes noise when you move around

Not as comfortable and can be more expensive


Research shows that using a cervical pillow or an ergonomic pillow can be effective in reducing neck pain and improving sleep quality in patients with chronic neck pain. A cervical pillow is designed to support the natural curve of your neck, which can help reduce pain and stiffness.

Final Words

As a Physiotherapist, I personally use a medium firm contoured cervical pillow. This type of pillow allows me to adapt to my ever-changing positions while sleeping. However, even with the right pillow, neck pain and stiffness can still occur. That’s why I recommend incorporating a regimen of neck exercises, stretches, and strengthening to maintain good neck health. Check out more videos on our YouTube channel for ideas to help with your neck pain!

At EastWest Physiotherapy Burnaby, our experienced Physiotherapists can help you manage your neck pain and get back to your life. Contact us today to schedule a consultation. Don’t let neck pain keep you from living your best life.

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