Is my pillow causing my neck pain?

Woman sleeping on large pillow in her bed

Is my pillow causing my neck pain?

If you’re regularly waking with a sore neck, fuzzy head or a headache then it certainly is…

We spend around a third of our life sleeping and your head weighs 4.5-5.5 kilos (10-12lbs) – so really it should come as no surprise that a poor pillow causes neck pain.

Your neck contains seven of the spine’s 33 vertebrae, so using pillows which don’t provide support means our body compensates by engaging neck or back muscles at a time when it should be resting. 

Add injuries like whiplash, health conditions like arthritis, or ‘tech neck’ caused by constantly looking down at your smartphone, and it all leads to a pain in your neck.


What is the best position to sleep in to avoid neck pain?

Too many pillows cause the neck to curve upwards keeping it bent throughout the night. Too low or thin a pillow makes the head drop squashing the shoulder leading to a numb arm. If you sleep on your stomach — a position that twists and pushes the neck backward — then using a pillow pushes the head back further. 

The recommended position for optimal sleep is sleeping on your side. It allows your body to get plenty of oxygen during the night. Sleeping on your left-hand side can even help reduce heartburn symptoms.


Which is the best pillow for neck pain?

Neck pain comes from using pillows that are too soft. Today pillows come in a variety of materials from memory foam to latex, with a variety of fillers from feathers to wool, polyester, and even water!

The key things to remember are if you have a firmer mattress, you’ll need a thicker pillow because your shoulder won’t sink into the mattress very much. If you have a memory foam mattress topper or a pillow-top mattress, you’ll need a thinner pillow, because your shoulder will sink into the bed.

Natural latex offers support without heating you up like memory foam, which can cause restlessness, while neck pain research has suggested water pillows can be effective at reducing and improving quality of sleep.

There are pillows specifically designed for back, side and front sleepers and it’s essential to ‘try before you buy’ wherever possible to find the right one for you. Before buying a pillow, remember to review the warranty and return policy in case it turns out to be a bad buy.


Where should I place my pillow to prevent neck pain?

Many people sleep with their pillow below their shoulders, but ideally you want it below your head and neck – not your shoulders at all. 

Making sure you have the right amount of support while sleeping is important, and this can include supporting your knees, hips, or stomach. For example, if you find sleeping on your side uncomfortable putting a cushion between your knees helps prevent the top leg from pulling your spine out of alignment.


When should I replace my pillow?

The National Sleep Foundation says you should replace your pillow every two years. This is because the pillow absorbs body oil, dead skin cells, and hair. An old unwashed pillow can contain as much as 10% of its weight in skin scale mould, dead and living dust mites and their allergen laden droppings!

Make sure you use hypo-allergenic pillow covers and wash them often and the pillow itself should be washed every six months (check your pillow’s label for washing instructions).

It’s time to replace your pillow if it becomes lumpy, misshapen, discoloured or constantly needs fluffing up to keep its thickness. Another test is to fold it in half and see if it stays that way. If it does, it’s time for a new one.

For more great advice on how to get a good sleep go to The Sleep Council website at  for helpful advice and tips on how to improve sleep quality and create the perfect sleep environment.

Are you struggling with neck pain? Massage, reflexology and acupuncture can all help. Call 0778 7592298 to book an appointment today.