There is nothing that facilitates a good night's sleep quite like a good pillow, and when it comes to proper neck support, a carefully-designed cervical pillow is a must. Cervical pillows vary in designs and materials, and some are certainly better than others when it comes to comfort and support. After comparing 11 popular pillows on their ability to comfortably support the cervical spine, we believe the Therapeutica Sleeping Pillow is the best cervical pillow for most people. Jointly designed by an ergonomics specialist and a chiropractor, this hypoallergenic foam pillow has features for both back and side sleepers to ensure proper alignment throughout the night. Article Summary
Getting a good night’s sleep is important. Proper sleep can help you feel refreshed and aid in your body’s recovery from injury, illness and strenuous activity. Plus, it’s just plain pleasant to lay down and knock out for a while. Cervical pillows are a special variety of pillow that has some sort of firm foam or another appendage to lift the neck and provide the perfect sleeping position to promote neck health and spinal position so that you not only get a restful night’s sleep, but you can get rid of that dreadful crick in your neck too.
The “cervical” in cervical pillow comes from the cervical spine, which extends upward from the thoracic spine (upper back) into where the spine meets the base of the skull. This is a flexible portion of the spine that is responsible for providing stability in our neck, even throughout strenuous twisting and bending. All of this twisting and bending can take its toll, and some of this damage often comes from bad sleeping posture. Super-plush pillows that allow you to sink into them can promote bad neck position during sleep, and cervical pillows aim to do the opposite of that and provide the support you need.
We all know how difficult it can be to find the right pillow – and in that regard, finding the best cervical pillow can be even harder. There are a variety of different designs, and some are certainly better than others. We took a look at 16 unique pillows made with cervical support in mind and compared their designs and materials (both interior and exterior). From there, we looked closely at customer reviews of each pillow – after all, the experiences of people who actually use them on a daily basis are going to be the best indicator on whether or not a particular design works properly. After hours of research and extremely careful consideration, we’ve narrowed our list down to three pillows that we believe offer the best cervical support and comfort.
The best cervical pillow overall
The Therapeutica Sleeping Pillow by Core Products is like the Rolls Royce of cervical pillows. Core Products is a trusted brand in the rehabilitation field, and this cervical pillow is another one of their many applauded products for its design, comfort, and support. This pillow is great for back and side sleepers, and will help to keep your neck in alignment all throughout the night.
The main reason this pillow is so widely applauded is because of its design. The pillow was specially constructed by an ergonomics designer and a chiropractor – the perfect combination of professionals to deal with body comfort and support. It features a center cavity with a wedge to cradle the head and support the upper back for sleepers who prefer a nose-to-the-ceiling approach to knocking out for the night. On each side of the center cavity, there are raised panels to accommodate the height of your shoulder while still keeping your spine in the perfect position. Since there are panels on both sides, you’ll be supported even if you roll in your sleep from one side, to the center cavity, to the other side.
Another great feature of this pillow is that it is made out of hypoallergenic foam. Not only is this ideal for people who have sensitive allergies, but when coupled with its adaptability for different types of sleepers, this means it can be used by literally anyone. There are five sizes to choose from so you can find the perfect fit for your body, and the foam is guaranteed to keep its rigidity for 5 years by the manufacturer, which is an impressive warranty that you are not likely to find from any other brand.
The only drawback to be aware of is that this is over twice the price of most other cervical pillows. However, with that said, we think the value it offers is absolutely worth the extra cost. In our opinion, your health is always something you should invest in, even if it means getting the right products will cost you a little more than usual (when it’s justified, of course – we’re not saying that the right products will always be the more expensive ones). In this case, although its price tag is a little higher, we think the Therapeutica Sleeping Pillow is unmatched when it comes to cervical support and comfort.
A more traditional design with unique benefits
ViscoSoft isn’t much of a therapeutic household name, but they do have a great contoured cervical pillow that incorporates some pretty cool technology. The ViscoSoft Arctic Gel Contour Pillow features a special cooling gel to keep you cool while you sleep, and also offers two differently-stuffed sides to give you some versatility in neck support. Loved by both back and side sleepers, this pillow is a consistent thickness from side to side, making it great for those who roll around a lot in their sleep.
The most interesting feature of the ViscoSoft pillow is the cooling gel mentioned above, named ‘Arctic Gel’ by the company. This gel is designed to keep your head cool, a technology that is starting to become more popular in recent years. This pillow contains 2 lbs of cooling gel, which is quite a bit more than most other cooling-gel-style pillows on the market, and users love the difference it makes. The COOLMAX fabric on the outside of the pillow is also a unique material, as it is not only hypoallergenic, but it repels any moisture or microbes that might be in the room.
Both the cooling gel and hypoallergenic cover surround the memory foam core, which provides support and comfort all on its own throughout the night. In terms of design, this pillow is much more on the traditional side of cervical pillows with no fancy additional support like our top pick, but it works wonderfully nonetheless. Each side of the pillow offers a unique feel that allows you to choose the side that works better for your neck.
With all of these fantastic features, how did this pillow not make our top pick? Due to the consistent thickness and material of this pillow, it doesn’t offer the same versatility of our top pick. The upper back wedge and head cradle of the Therapeutica are just too well designed for the ViscoSoft pillow to stand a shot at the gold. With that said, the ViscoSoft Arctic Gel Contour Pillow would still be great for those who want a more simple design or anyone who wants to try the unique addition of the cooling gel.
A more simple and versatile pillow
If you had issues with the designs of either of our picks above, the D-Core Cervical Pillow (also by Core Products, the company behind the Therapeutica pillow) is a much more versatile design that should be easily suitable for everyone. This is the cheapest cervical pillow on our list which also makes it easily affordable for everyone, and it has some great qualities that have made it our third pick.
The D-Core Cervical Pillow is characterized by the unique “D” shape in the middle of the pillow that acts as a tool for increased neck support by bringing the head back. It also supports the head’s natural shape to allow for superior comfort and a good night’s sleep. This pillow has a cotton exterior and is filled with 100% polyester, which is rather normal for any pillow.
Another interesting aspect of this pillow is its versatility. The D-Core pillow features support on both sides of the center cavity, just like the Therapeutica, but the top and bottom have different widths for varied neck support. This not only makes it usable for people with different support needs, but it can help you get the support you need at different stages of recovery if you’re recovering from a neck or spine injury.
The D-Core Cervical Pillow is our third choice simply because it’s a little basic. Being basic doesn’t inherently mean it’s bad; on the contrary, it actually offers great support and it’s priced very well. However, our top pick and runner up are just so jam-packed with unique features that it couldn’t quite stack up. To be fair, though, the hypoallergenic foam and monumental amount of support from the Therapeutica and the cooling gel and extra firm contours of ViscoSoft can’t really be measured up to by any other pillow.
How we picked our top three
Although a cervical pillow seems simple enough, the varying designs and features can make choosing one not so cut and dry. In that light, there were several aspects that played into our decision of which products would make our top picks. These aspects are not only involved in what make a pillow comfortable and long-lasting, but the specific way each pillow supports your neck and moves you into the prime position for a good night’s sleep that will help to heal and correct your cervical spine. Here are some of the key factors we considered when researching cervical pillows.
There are many different designs and padding configurations that cervical pillows use to support the neck. This padding varies pretty widely in materials used, but more importantly it varies in shape and design. There are many pillows out there that claim to be cervical pillows, but instead are quite regular pillows with a touch of foam in the middle. Some of these different shapes present accessory purposes and can even be multi-purpose.
Before choosing the best cervical pillow, we familiarized ourselves with proper cervical spine posture during sleep. We spent hours studying research, notes, and other experiences so that we could have an intimate understanding of how the head, neck, and spine should be positioned for proper alignment. With this knowledge and experience, we have carefully chosen cervical pillows with neck support designs that promote the best possible neck position to maintain and even improve the health of the cervical spine. We considered all types of users young and old, healthy and injured.
The material construction of a pillow can have a major impact in its levels of comfort and support. We looked at the foam inside the pillow as well as the covering on the outside, plus whether or not any additional materials were used in the construction. When looking at materials, we were considering comfort and support at the forefront of priority, but we also made sure to verify each material would last for the long-term. A pillow can be heavenly in terms of comfort, but that won’t do you much good if it falls flat after a couple months.
After verifying a pillow’s design met our standards for proper cervical support, and after making sure its materials were both comfortable and built to last, we turned to customer reviews to see what actual users thought of using each pillow on a day-to-day basis. If 100 unaffiliated people all tell you that the same car has the same problem, it wouldn’t be too farfetched to believe, would it? The same thing goes for cervical pillows.
While positive reviews are always charming to read, we specifically looked for negative ones to see if there were any trending issues to be aware of. Any pillows that received overwhelmingly-negative reviews were cut out from our list immediately, and any pillows that had significant recurring issues were also cut. While no pillow will have a perfect rating since everyone has different bodies and sleeping preferences, the three pillows we chose all have mostly positive reviews without any serious recurring issues. Therefore, these should be the best cervical pillows to use based on statistical feedback alone.
Things to consider before buying
Everyone’s bodies are different and everyone has different preferences when it comes to sleeping, so it goes without saying that there are some additional everyone should consider before buying a certain pillow. Regardless of what we thought of each pillow, your personal situation might warrant a different product as a better choice. Here are the main questions you should ask yourself when shopping for a cervical pillow.
Which position do you often sleep in?
The specific contours of your cervical pillow can lend themselves better to different sleeping positions, and it’s recommended to match your pillow to your personal sleeping position. Some pillows are better for those who sleep on their back, and some are more tailored to keep the head and neck in place while sleeping on your side. We highlighted this specification within each review of our top three, just make sure to read reviews and thoroughly read the manufacturer’s description if you decide to go with another option.
Do you have a material preference?
Deciding which material you wish your pillow to be made out of will lay the foundation for your choice. One of the biggest factors that play into this is the presence of any allergies. There are many pillows made out of latex or contain polyester, which can trigger reactions in those allergic. If this sounds like you, a hypoallergenic foam pillow will be the best course of action. However, if you have no allergies, and your preferences aren’t too strong, it will open up your options more.
Which foam density do you prefer?
Just like mattresses, there is a pretty wide preference spectrum in terms of cushion or firmness. A softer pillow will allow you to sink into It more, but will offer less support than a pillow that is firmer. This preference will often correspond with mattress preference, but as a starting point, you can use this guide on choosing the right pillow based on materials and sleeping positions. Try out some different pillows if you have the opportunity, especially if you’ve been buying the same cheap pillows from the department store your whole life.
Do cervical pillows actually work and should you use one?
While cervical pillows are widely used and widely available, there are skeptics out there that dismiss the claims of the pillows’ benefits as snake oil and marketing a useless product. Who is right? Before we discuss the benefits, let’s get a cold, hard fact out on the table: cervical pillows are often recommended by physical therapists, doctors, surgeons and other medical professionals. If your doctor tells you to use something, you’re probably going to trust him or her, right? With that said, let’s hop into the various benefits of using a cervical pillow and who might benefit from sleeping on one.
Head and neck pain is very common upon waking, even for those who haven’t experienced an injury to the cervical spine. There have been several studies (like this one from Penn State or this one from PubMed, just to give you two quick examples) that have supported the use of cervical pillows for dissipating pain, correcting the c-spine and decreasing those symptoms as they woke. For those groggy risers with cricks and headaches, a cervical pillow could be a great tool for you to wake up on the right side of the bed more often.
Have you ever spent a long time on a train, bus or passenger seat of a car with your body facing forward and your head turned to the side and looking out the window? You know that feeling you get in your neck when you turn your head straight again? This same thing happens, albeit with more subtlety, when you are sleeping and your spine isn’t aligned properly. Tilting your head out of alignment on a comfy, squishy pillow for 8 hours every night can do a number on your neck, and getting it back into alignment is as simple as laying down on a cervical pillow if that damage isn’t too severe.
Cervical pillows have a certain slope to them which keeps your spine neutral. Neutral, in relation to the cervical spine, means curved gently inwards and not tilting or bending in any direction it isn’t supposed to. Keeping these vertebrae neutral during sleep will not only help to prevent headaches and neck pain in the short-term, it can help prevent several ailments associated with an immobile or warped c-spine, which can include complete immobility of the neck, a permanent tilt, numbness, loss of bladder control and difference in the use of the limbs. The higher up on the spine an injury occurs, whether from sudden impact or recurring movement, the worse it is, and the cervical spine is at the very top.
Cervical spine anatomy, functions, and purposes
With all this talk about proper positioning, it’s important to understand cervical spine anatomy. The cervical spine is made up of seven vertebrae, from C1 at the base of your skull down to C7 at the bottom of the neck before the thoracic spine begins. These vertebrae increase in size as you move down the back to adapt to and handle the heavy loads from above.
There are discs that separate the vertebrae and act as a cushion in between them, as well as a shock absorber. Keeping the discs in line is just as important as keeping the vertebrae in line, as the damage of either one can lead to pinched nerves, migraines, alignment issues and many other symptoms up to, and including death.
Now that we know a little bit about the anatomy of the cervical spine, we can hop into its main functions. First, the cervical spine is responsible for housing and protecting the spinal cord, which sends electrical signals all throughout your body and allows you to function normally.
The c-spine is also responsible for supporting the head and acting as a shock absorber (whiplash, anyone?) in case of injury. Without the strength of the c-spine, we would walk like bobbleheads and have no spinal cord protection at the base of the skull. The last purpose of the cervical spine we’ll discuss is facilitating blood flow to the brain. Openings in the upper vertebrae allow blood vessels to come through and supply your brain with ample blood to process and stay healthy.
Other accessories you can use to improve your cervical spine health
Cervical spine health is no joke, and any damage to your c-spine can affect your mobility greatly. In that, there are a number of great traction devices that your spine could benefit from, especially if you have extensive damage or stiffness in your cervical spine (and your doctor’s approval). Here are a few of these products you can use to increase cervical spine health and accelerate your results faster.
First, cervical traction devices are commonly used by chiropractors and physical therapists to correct the c-spine and straighten it out. A traction device is basically any device that can be used to straighten out your neck. The most common varieties of traction device are pump devices and over-the-door units. Pump devices, as the name suggests, are inflatable devices (many look like the neck pillows you see people use for travelling) that stiffen and straighten the neck as air is taken into the device. This provides extreme control and gradual straightening of the neck with great mobility, as these devices are small enough to take anywhere.
Over-the-door devices consist of a harness that is strapped around the jaw and head and pulled upwards by a strap or cable that is attached to your door. Some of these devices have water bags to control resistance, but the best can be easily adjusted by hand, without the use of water bags. Over-the-door units aren’t as portable as inflatable devices, but many prefer them due to the amount of tension you can achieve for larger corrections.
Another great cervical spine accessory, and something you can use to extend your c-spine treatment from just during the night, is a collar. Collars are stiff pieces of foam or plastic that are strapped around your neck to provide support and rigidity while keeping the neck straight, or helping to straighten it if there has been some migration. Many of these collars are quite comfortable and can be worn around the house while doing chores.
Wrapping it up
If you have headaches, neck pain or other symptoms after waking or throughout the day, it may due to misalignment of your cervical spine. Cervical pillows are a major tool in correcting the c-spine and not only improving your health, but waking from your nightly sleep with fewer aches and cricks. Choosing the best cervical pillow can be tricky, so get clearance from your doctor or attending specialist and pay close attention to our guide – it will point you in the right direction in your purchase and assist you on the road back to a healthy neck and back.