Choose the neck pillow that is right for you

Choosing a neck pillow can be a real pain in the neck! By understanding how a pillow relates to phases of neck problems and stages of healing, determining which pillow is best suited for your particular needs may become a little easier.

Choosing the right neck pillow can be a confusing task. At Neck Pillow Store we hope to make your decision a little easier by giving you some guidelines to help you choose a therapeutic support pillow that is right for your needs. We have selected some of the most popular pillows that can be used for the stages of neck problems upon which a better decision can be made.

You now have more choices than ever before in the pursuit of good health. While it’s good to have different options, too many choices can be confusing. To help, we need a basic framework for making the best choices. One area of growing confusion is the growing selection of neck pillows. As the number of pillows on the market has grown, so has confusion about selecting the right neck pillow for your needs.

General Recommendations

A softer pillow for acute problems (recent injury or flare up of existing problem) and a firmer pillow for chronic problems (one that has existed for weeks, months or years). This is a general guide that should accompany evaluation and management by a health care provider. Many people will have problems getting used to a firmer type pillow. Chronic conditions that have frequent flare-ups like arthritis may require a softer pillow.

There are pillows with separate areas for back and side sleeping and in choosing these types of pillows one needs to be aware that changing positions must be done consciously.

If after researching and you are still having difficulties choosing the right pillow, we suggest a simple memory foam contour pillow. They are an easy to use pillow which bridges the gap between different stages of care and types of pillows. It is a good pillow for general comfort or chronic conditions like degenerative arthritis. If you have a recent injury or an acute painful neck condition, we recommend the Therapeutica or a functional pillow that has separate areas for back and side sleeping for increased support and stability.

Some pillows are sized to different heights and use anatomical measurements set for standard type beds. You should also consider the type of bed you have. Some very soft beds sink down a lot, therefore, you must take this into consideration and perhaps choose a lower height pillow. We can not be responsible for all the different types of beds; water, memory foam, air filled, angled ect…

Displacement vs. Supportive Neck Pillow

There are really only two different categories: displacement and supportive.

A Displacement Neck Pillow uses materials such as memory foam or water that conforms or displaces to accommodate the head and neck. Memory foam, a type of viscoelastic foam, compresses under the weight and warmth of the head and neck to conform to their shape, thereby accommodating an existing condition. Similarly, the water in a water pillow also displaces to conform to the head and neck. A Displacement Neck Pillow will accommodate many distortions of the cervical spine (neck bones) to help stabilize an injury during the acute stage. The acute stage is the first couple of weeks when there is inflammation and pain present from a recent injury or flare-up of an existing condition like arthritis.

A Supportive or Corrective Neck Pillow uses the firm elasticity of resilient foams and fibers to provide support to the neck while softly cradling the head. Supportive pillows are best used in the period following the acute stage when we look to promote healing and prevent conditions from recurring. A Supportive Neck Pillow provides the resistance necessary to gently traction the neck and encourage return of the normal curve of the cervical spine. To select the best neck pillow among the displacement and supportive types, patients and health care professionals must determine the end benefit desired. Is the need to accommodate a recent injury or correct the cause of pain by restoring the natural neck curve? Sometimes we just need to maintain a normal, healthy neck.

Three Stages of Care For Neck Problems:

When people suffer an acute episode to the neck, the initial goal is to stabilize the area for comfort. This helps to reduce inflammation and pain. By accommodating the neck we prepare for correction of the cause which is often a mechanical problem with the neck. Accommodation and correction represent two stages of a three-stage system of addressing neck problems. The third stage is maintenance, and once discomfort improves and stabilizes, a person can enter the maintenance stage to ensure continued good health.

Through the stages of care different decisions are made regarding the selection of a neck pillow to help in the process. This allows choosing a pillow to help manage neck health according to the 3 stages regardless of which stage you are in. We will take a better look at these stages, however, by choosing a pillow that is designed to help throughout all 3 stages, we can minimize some of the guesswork.


May help provide comfort by conforming to and stabilizing the existing neck problem. Someone who suffers from an injury or a flare up of chronic pain needs to feel comfortable. During the Accommodate Stage, a person needs a pillow that stabilizes the temporary condition. Displacement neck pillows work well at this stage because they conform to the condition and provide immediate comfort. A Displacement neck pillow like a soft memory foam pillow or water pillow should be used for the short term to stabilize the neck, however, not all memory foam pillows are created equal.


May help eliminate symptoms by treating the cause of the disorder and restoring good health. After the neck has been stabilized, a person enters the Correction Stage. Perhaps the issue is a loss of the normal neck curve or chronic neck pain. In either case, a neck pillow may help. In addition to care from a professional health care provider, a supportive neck pillow can help to modify the sleeping position. Supportive neck pillows help eliminate problems by helping resolve the mechanical cause of pain and helps reestablish proper alignment. The supportive tri-core, with its trapezoid-shaped center and neck contours along with the orthopedic pillow encourage proper sleeping form and helps restore the normal cervical curve.

As with functional pillows, it is important that you consider your personal sleeping habits with the types of pillows that use varying heights and have specific areas for side and back sleeping. If you tend to change positions while sleeping, you may awake in the morning on your back with your head in the area for side sleeping. This can cause problems. If you are aware of your movements and purposefully move from back to side and side to back, then these pillows may be a good option. Corrective pillows can help alleviate headaches, neck muscle and joint strains, arthritis, and whiplash neck injury discomfort, and help restore proper nerve function.


Helps ensure good health by sustaining the neck in its proper, natural state. A pillow selected in the Maintain Stage should ensure continued good health by helping sustain the neck in its proper, natural alignment. For ideal maintenance, the neck pillow should provide maximum support and comfort. In fact, most people discover that once the normal curvature of the neck is restored, they crave the comfort of maximum support and this is one reason more supportive pillows have grown more popular. As consumers have become more conscious of the benefits of restoring and preserving the healthy, normal curvature of the neck, they have discovered that they sleep better at night and feel better during the day.

Most of the foam and combination pillows are good for the Correction and Maintain stages with increase in firmness respectively. Note: A pillow that provides good support during all three stages is the water pillow. The water pillow is heavy and requires initial set up, however, it stays in place and reacts well to changing positions.