Do you wake up wondering “why does the back of my neck always hurt?” Are you a back sleeper who has trouble sleeping because of constant neck pain? If so, the problem may be a combination of your sleeping posture and your choice of pillow.

Sleeping on your back is usually considered to be a good position because it evenly distributes weight across your body, takes the pressure off your back, and also helps with spinal alignment. But don’t get excited just yet because it’s entirely possible to go wrong with back sleeping.

If you use the incorrect pillow — one with an extremely high loft, for example — your neck may tilt upwards, which can lead to sleep apnea and snoring. It will also throw your neck out of alignment, leading to neck pain. If you use a really soft pillow, your neck may sink lower than the neutral position, which again leads to neck pain.

In this article, we discuss what is the proper way to sleep to avoid neck pain and we review the best pillow for back sleepers with neck pain in 2019.

Why Does the Back of My Neck Always Hurt?

The back of your neck may hurt for several reasons, including injuries and medical conditions like osteoporosis and arthritis. However, the most common cause of neck pain after sleeping is simple — your sleeping position and bedding.

If you don’t use the correct sleeping position with the appropriate type of pillow for that position, you can suffer from neck pain. If you’re a back sleeper, you should go for medium or high loft pillows that are firm enough to support your neck and keep it in alignment with the rest of your body.

If you use a thin low-profile pillow while being a back sleeper, your neck will slump backward, which will place great pressure on your spine and back. If you use an extremely high profile pillow, your neck will elevate upwards, which will again lead to neck pain. So it’s important to strike the right balance.

What is the Best Sleeping Position for Upper Back and Neck Pain?

Sleeping on your back is a perfectly good sleeping position for upper back and neck pain. But if you’re still suffering from neck pain — despite having the right pillow — you can take the following measures:

  • Place a pillow under your knees because it will facilitate spinal alignment.
  • Use lumbar support to maintain the natural curve of your lower back.
  • Use a cervical pillow with elevated neck support to keep your neck aligned with the rest of your body.

If sleeping on your back doesn’t work out for you, maybe you can try sleeping on your side instead. When you sleep on your side, you can try one of the following sleeping positions:

  • Use the fetal position by tucking your knees into your chest.
  • Tuck a pillow between your knees while sleeping on your side.

If you’re suffering from back pain or neck pain, you should avoid sleeping on your stomach at all costs. This position places tremendous pressure on your entire back and it will worsen your situation. If you can’t help but sleep on your stomach, you should place a pillow under your abdomen to support your back.

Top 3 Best Pillows for Back Sleepers with Neck Pain

Elite Rest Contour Sleeper — Best Neck Support Pillow

Elite Rest Contour Sleeper is a memory foam contour pillow with a generous width of 12 inches. This memory foam pillow is ideal for back sleepers because it perfectly contours the shape of your head and neck to offer optimal support. This memory foam pillow is also contoured, which means it has an elevated loft of 4 inches on one side and a low loft of 2.75 inches on another side. As such, you can rest your neck on the elevated rounded corner so your head is nestled within the concave part of the pillow. This provides ideal neck support because it keeps your neck in a neutral position and also prevents you from moving your head around.

Core Products Tri-Core Pillow — Best Cervical Pillow

Core Products Tri-Core Pillow is the best cervical pillow on the market because it has a tri-core design, i.e., it has rounded corners on all sides along with a concave center. As such, you can rest your neck on any of the sides of the pillow and your head will be cradled in the middle. Since your head is cradled within the hollow center, it doesn’t move around and your neck remains in a neutral position. This pillow is generally pretty firm so your head doesn’t sink lower than is necessary, but it still comes in three firmness levels — gentle, standard firm, and firm. If you’re currently suffering from neck pain, you should go for the standard firm or firm options.

Coop Home Goods Premium — Best Shredded Memory Foam Pillow

When you’re sleeping on your back, you need to make sure your neck remains in a neutral position. However, the height at which your neck aligns with the rest of your body will differ for different people. That’s why Coop Home Goods Premium is brilliant for back sleepers with neck pain. This is a shredded memory foam pillow so you can add or remove the filing to increase or decrease the loft height. This allows you to adjust the memory foam pillow according to your own specifications and achieve the perfect loft height for neutrality. The only issue here is that shredded memory foam isn’t very firm, so your head may sink a little when you’re sleeping.