Do you often suffer from neck pain? Are you wondering “why does the back of my neck always hurt”? Well, there may be many reasons for neck pain, but the root cause of neck pain after sleeping is usually a combination of incorrect sleeping position and wrong choice of pillow.
It’s crucial to ensure perfect spinal alignment when you’re sleeping. Your neck should be placed in a neutral position and in alignment with your spine. Your pillow should ensure this spinal alignment otherwise you’re likely to wake up with neck pain.
In this article, we discuss the root cause of neck pain after sleeping, what is the proper way to sleep to avoid neck pain, and we review the best pillows for neck pain.
Why Does the Back of My Neck Always Hurt?
Neck pain can occur for a wide range of reasons — muscle tension, injury, meningitis, and medical conditions like disc herniation, osteoporosis, arthritis, spinal stenosis, and many others. However, the most common cause of neck pain after sleeping is related to muscle tension.
Muscle tension may occur because of poor posture while sitting, incorrect sleeping position, sleeping with your neck in the wrong position, or extended periods of sitting and working over a desk. The good news, however, is that you can relieve neck pain if you change your sleeping position and use the right neck pillow.
What is the Proper Way to Sleep to Avoid Neck Pain?
The following are the best sleeping positions to avoid neck pain.
- Back Sleepers: This is one of the best positions to avoid neck pain because your neck and spine are neutral and there’s no strain on pressure points.
- Fetal Position: this is an extremely popular position in which you curl up on your sides with your knees tucked into your chest. This position facilitates spinal alignment, especially if you have the right pillow under your neck.
- Side Sleepers: This is a common sleeping position but it can place pressure on your shoulders and hips, which is why it’s crucial to find the best neck pillow to neutralize the pressure.
- Stomach Sleepers: This is the worst sleeping position and it can really aggravate your neck pain. But if you must sleep on your stomach, you should use a low-loft pillow or no pillow at all.
Qualities of the Best Pillow for Neck Pain
The following are some of the qualities of the best pillow for neck pain.
- Adjustable Loft: Your pillow should have an adjustable loft height, especially if you’re a combination sleeper. Side sleepers generally need a high loft, back sleepers generally need a medium loft, and stomach sleepers need a low loft. That’s why you should get a pillow with an adjustable loft so you can modify it according to your specific needs.
- Contour: It may be a good idea to get a cervical pillow or a contour pillow. These are pillows with rounded corners that you can rest your neck on. They cradle your head and provide support to your neck to facilitate spinal alignment.
- Material: If you don’t use a contour pillow, you should at least use a pillow made of memory foam or another material that conforms to your body. This ensures that the pillow provides optimal support to your neck, no matter how much you toss and turn.
- Cooling: If you’re a hot sleeper or if you live in a hot region, your pillow should also facilitate air circulation and prevent heat retention.
Best Pillows for Neck Pain
Elite Rest Contour Sleeper is the all-time best pillow for side sleepers with neck pain. This is a memory foam contour pillow with a loft height ranging from 2.75 inches (at the lowest contour) to 4 inches (at the highest contour). This allows you to rest your neck on the rounded elevated contours. When you’re sleeping on your side, there isn’t enough support for your shoulders because of the gap between the mattress and your head. This pillow makes up for that distance with the high loft at the rounded side. This pillow is also made of memory foam so you can rest assured that it will bunch up under your neck, no matter how much you toss and turn.
As a stomach sleeper, you’re at a disadvantage. When you sleep on your stomach, you place tremendous pressure on your entire back and neck, which can lead to neck pain.Elite Rest Slim Sleeper, however, is an extremely low-loft pillow measuring only 2.75 inches and it features rounded sides. As such, you can rest your head on this pillow to neutralize the pressure points. This pillow is made of natural latex foam so it’s extremely comfortable and it’s firm enough to prevent your head from sinking lower. As such, this pillow ensures spine alignment when you’re sleeping on your stomach.
Coop Home Goods Premium is suitable for all kinds of sleeping positions, but it’s especially suitable for back sleepers. This pillow is made of shredded memory foam, which means you can adjust the loft height by simply adding or removing the memory foam filling. As a memory foam pillow, it also conforms to the shape of your body to offer optimal support. The only issue is that the memory foam may occasionally shift around inside the pillow so you’ll have to manually readjust it.
Our physicians and pain specialists have spent hours upon hours on research and they’ve thoroughly vetted some of the most popular neck pillows on the market to curate this list. We sincerely hope these pillows provide relief from neck pain and help you get a good night’s sleep.