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The best orthopedic pillows keep your head and spine, including your neck, correctly aligned. That said, most people with back pain will tend to focus on their mattress, assuming that if they get a comfortable ‘orthopedic’ mattress that provides good support then it will help reduce or eliminate their pain. In the words of a famous song, “it ain’t necessarily so”!
Sure, a good orthopedic mattress can relieve the pain of many types of orthopedic conditions, not just cervical conditions. The term ‘cervical’ refers to the neck, and while some cervical pillows are also referred to as orthopedic pillows, the latter are designed specifically to correct your body positioning in bed. The term can be used to refer to pillows intended to support your neck and shoulders, your knees and a full body pillow to keep your neck in the correct position in relation to the rest of your spine and to enable the sleeper to rest peacefully and healthily.
Here are our top 8 orthopedic pillows. We tested the Queen size of each where available.
The Best 8 Orthopedic Pillows
* Queen Size stated – King Size is 36” x 20” (91.4 cm x 50.8 cm).
** The Core Products Tri-Core Cervical Support Pillow is available in two sizes: Full (24” x 16” / 61 cm x 40.6 cm) and Midsize (22” x 15” / 55.9 cm x 38.1 cm).
Table of Contents
1. Snuggle Pedic Bamboo Luxury Shredded Memory Foam Pillow – Best Orthopedic Pillow Overall
The Snuggle Pedic bamboo luxury shredded memory foam pillow is a high-quality orthopedic pillow – in fact, the best orthopedic pillow in 2021 according to our tests. The shredded foam construction and zipper enable you to remove or add filling to change the loft and firmness to suit your personal needs. It is ideal if you and your partner prefer different levels of support to keep your respective necks comfortable and supported properly, and also oriented correctly in relation to the shape of your spine below it. In too many cases, people have had to sacrifice their own comfort to enable their partner to get a pillow just right for them.
Bamboo rayon is an excellent cover material when it comes to keeping cool. It absorbs heat throughout the night and helps prevent you from sweating too much and waking up in the night hot and damp. Shredded memory foam returns to its original shape just like the solid memory foam does. Although memory foam can generate more heat than other foams, the fact that it is shredded tends to reduce this. Any residual heat is where the bamboo cover comes into play to keep you cool.
Editor’s Notes: This is a high-quality pillow that correctly supports your head and your neck. No matter what your sleeping position is, the pillow conforms to the shape of your head and neck – and shoulders if you sleep high up on your pillow. It is an excellent pillow for snorers, particularly if you sleep on your back. The loft and filling can be adjusted to help stop snoring by changing your sleeping position. If you need extra memory foam, it is available free of charge on request. The pillow is also available in Standard and King sizes.
2. Cervical Neck Traction Pillow – Best Shaped Cervical Pillow
Manufactured by Arc4Life, this cervical pillow has a central area for your head, and two options for your neck: One to support your neck and you can rotate the pillow through 180 degrees to the other (traction V) which gently stretches your neck and provides some traction. The latter is preferred for back sleepers while the former is more suitable for side sleepers.
Your head rests comfortably in the center while the raised lower section supports your neck in its correct curved posture. The pillow is filled with polyester fiber that is very comfortable for your head and neck. This orthopedic pillow is available in three sizes (Large, Medium, and Small (Travel) but make sure you know the size most suitable for you. Too large a pillow in this cervical design can lead to neck pain. Dimensions are:
Large: 28” x 17” (70 cm x 43.2 cm) – Suitable for larger framed people of 6 ft in height or over.
Medium: 24“x 17” (61 cm x 43.2 cm) – Suitable for most people from 5 ft to 6 ft in height.
Small (Travel): 20” x 15” (50.8 cm x 38.1 cm) – Suitable for children or small adults of below 5 ft in height.
Thickness of each: 5”- 6” (12.7 cm – 15.2 cm)
The neck support side offers a gentler type of support than the traction V side. You are advised to use this pillow for a few days during which any neck pain or headaches should fade away as your body gets used to the pillow. If your pain persists then this may not be the pillow for you. You have 90 days to decide whether to keep it or not, with a full refund if it does not suit you. Many who use it have found their neck and back pain to have disappeared.
Editor’s Notes: This is a wonderfully comfortable pillow to lie on, although it can take a while to get used to. However, you get 90 days in which to check it out and decide to keep it or not. If not, then you can return it free for a full refund. There is also a full 5-year warranty. It is important that you take some time to get used to sleeping on this pillow. It may cause a little pain at first, but that should fade away and your neck problems improve. Make sure you purchase the size most appropriate to your height.
3. UTTU Sandwich Memory Foam Adjustable Pillow – Best Adjustable for Different Sleeping Positions
The UTTU Sandwich Memory Foam Pillow is adjustable for height, comprising 3 layers, of which the central one can be removed to lower the pillow. It is manufactured in China using a 3 lb proprietary UTTI Dynamic® Foam. This density of memory foam is supportive and prevents you from sinking into your pillow during the night. It also helps to maintain the correct alignment of your spine. The proprietary memory foam, CertiPUR-US certified free of toxic materials, conforms to the natural curve of your head and neck, ensuring that you sleep well without discomfort.
Editor’s Notes: The UTTA Sandwich orthopedic memory foam pillow is good for all sleeping positions. Stomach sleepers are best with thinner pillows, and the middle layer of three can be removed to accommodate front sleepers as well as back and side sleepers. The machine-washable bamboo fiber cover wicks away moisture and helps keep you cool. The proprietary memory foam does not sink as much as most other memory foams and is more effective at keeping you cool.
4. ROYAL THERAPY Memory Foam Pillow
The Royal Therapy memory foam pillow is filled with shredded memory foam. This means that, while the pillow is firm when delivered, you can make it softer by removing some of the shredded fillings. It absorbs the weight and heat of your head and shoulders, thus providing full support for your salient features (head and shoulders) and also for your neck. This pillow achieves that in such a way as to support your head and neck while maintaining their natural alignment relative to each other.
Proper spinal alignment helps prevent neck and back pain by adapting to your personal unique shape when sleeping. The cover is manufactured using a bamboo and polyester mix that is odor-free and hypoallergenic. It is non-toxic and safe to sleep on, and also inhibits the growth of molds, fungi, dust mites, and bacteria. It is also a cooling fabric, preventing you from heating up during the night.
Editor’s Notes: This is a well-designed orthopedic pillow, providing good support to keep the neck stable and also helps to maintain a natural positioning of the head in relation to the neck. If you find it too firm for you, you can soften it while retaining cervical support by removing some filling. The pressure-absorbing properties of this orthopedic pillow are excellent.
5. Multifunctional Memory Foam Knee Pillow – Best Knee Pillow
The multifunctional memory foam knee pillow, available from the EasyLife group, is one of the best orthopedic pillows on the market for those suffering from sciatica: pain in the sciatic nerve in the legs. It is designed to fit between your knees to improve circulation and reduce pain by supporting your legs and lower back. This knee pillow can also be used by women during pregnancy and anyone else who needs knee support or relief from painful muscle fatigue.
Editor’s Notes: This multifunctional memory foam knee pillow can be used beneath your knees, between them or below your lower legs to help relieve the pain of sciatica or relieve pressure on the lower back (lumbar region). It is also useful to reduce pressure on your legs and back in bed during pregnancy. Some people use it for extra support while sitting. Some people also find it comfortable to use as a regular pillow.
6. Mediflow Fiber Water Pillow – Best Water Pillow
The Mediflow Fiber water pillow offers a different solution to memory foam. Rather than using foam for support, it uses water. It is constructed with a bottom layer of water and a top layer of soft polyester fiber. It provides excellent, comfortable support for your head and neck, and also adjusts that support when you move your head while you sleep. The result is a pillow that reduces neck pain no matter what sleeping position you use. You can reduce the level of firmness by altering the amount of water you use.
Editor’s Notes: This is a very comfortable orthopedic pillow to sleep on, particularly if you get the water fill just right for your sleeping position. If you prefer, you can fill the water bladder with air – this works quite well and eliminates any sloshing. It seems particularly good for people who change their sleeping position during the night. The trial period of 30 days is good – if you don’t want to keep it then return it for a ‘no questions asked’ refund.
7. Perform Pillow Cervical Neck Pillow
Made in the USA by Perform Pillow, this cervical neck pillow is designed to reduce or eliminate neck pain. It provides ergonomic support for your head and neck, thus aligning your spine correctly. The foam is a type of premium memory foam that is breathable and comfortable and particularly suitable for contour pillows. The weight of your head and neck form a groove in the contour to correctly support and cradle your head and neck. This reduces pain, and often eliminates it, to enable you to sleep much better than with a conventionally shaped pillow.
If you have tried a conventionally-shaped cervical or orthopedic pillow, then try this. You might be very pleasantly surprised by how comfortable it feels and how your neck pain is reduced. The cover is 56% polyester and 43% bamboo fiber. It is available in three thicknesses: Thin/Medium/Thick. The thicker and lower sides of each pillow are (in inches): Thin: 3½ – 2¼ for children and those with small necks or who prefer a thinner pillow. Medium: 4¼ – 3 for those that like an average pillow, and Thick: 5 – 3¾ for those with large necks or who prefer a thicker pillow.
Editor’s Notes: This pillow is raised top and bottom neck pain, back pain, and other potential orthopedic issues. Those who suffer from neck pain and back pain often find relief from this design of pillow. The memory foam enables the raised top and bottom areas to recover quickly from the indentations caused by supporting your neck.
8. Core Products Tri-Core Cervical Support Pillow
This pillow has a concave center that comfortably cradles your head while the cervical roll supports your neck. This results in excellent support for your neck which may also be realigned as the pillow helps restore the natural curvature of your neck and spine. This can result in the correction of several potential neck and spine issues that other pillows might cause. This is one reason for the Core Products Tri-Core cervical pillow being among our best orthopedic pillows in 2021.
This pillow comes in two levels of firmness: Standard and Gentle. The Standard firmness option is best if you have a serious cervical issue The Gentle option is recommended for slight misalignments, although it is by no means a soft pillow. Soft pillows should be avoided if you suffer from neck and/or back pain because of a misaligned neck in relation to your spine. Please note that this pillow is filled with virgin polyester fiber and the cover is woven using an equal blend of cotton and polyester.
Editor’s Notes: This orthopedic pillow provides excellent support, helping keep your neck and your spine aligned naturally. This promotes a correct posture and reduces pain, particularly neck pain. The two neck roll width options and two pillow sizes provide four different options for you. It might take you some time to get used to this type of pillow: you are best to slowly ease yourself into using it over a few weeks. Immediate permanent may not relieve your pain satisfactorily – give it time and it should work.
Buyer’s Guide to Orthopedic Pillows
Most people spend a great deal of time choosing the right mattress, and even the best duvet for themselves. Many are unaware of the importance of their pillow, and fail to make the correct choice of pillow to meet their needs. Before we explain what to look for when buying an orthopedic pillow, let’s first discuss what exactly such a pillow is. They are also known as cervical pillows, though not all orthopedic pillows are cervical – meaning relating to the neck, or cervical vertebrae. These are the 7 vertebrae that support your head, running from the top of your head down to your chest. They are also fairly thin and delicate bones that need as much cushioning as they can get while you sleep.
If you fail to choose the correct pillow your entire spine can become misaligned, leading to neck and back pain, cramps in your neck and back muscles, imbalance, and a general feeling of stiffness and poor health. Too many pillows are designed for softness and comfort, and even if you do not have issues with your neck or back muscles, the poor support that regular pillows might offer, and poor posture while sleeping, can lead to severe pain in your neck and back. An orthopedic pillow is designed to help you avoid such issues, or even cure them if you are already in pain. It can improve the circulation of your blood, reduce pressure, and support your natural body shape. Here’s a guide to choosing the best orthopedic pillow for your needs.
The Best Type of Orthopedic Pillow: Here’s a guide as to the type of pillow you need
There is no ‘best orthopedic pillow’. We have already reviewed the best pillows for neck pain in 2021, and you can read this review by clicking on the link. These are often referred to as ‘cervical pillows’, although they may not have been designed specifically to support the neck. True cervical pillows are designed to provide ergonomic support to your neck, while orthopedic pillows are intended to support your back or even your knees. Both types can help maintain a good shape to your entire spine. Here are some of the more popular and effective forms of orthopedic pillow for the neck, shoulders, and back.
1. Cervical Pillows: Most orthopedic pillows are cervical pillows, constructed to support your seven cervical vertebrae; in other words, your head and neck. There is little point in supporting your neck if your head can flop around, and vice versa. Some cervical pillows are of a traditional pillow shape, while others are shaped, with a central indented area to support your head, and a raised area at the bottom of the pillow to support the neck. This design supports the head and neck in such a way that vertebrae from the top of your skull to the bottom of your neck lie in a straight line. We have included three such pillows in our selection (2, 7, and 8.)
Regularly shaped pillows can also act as cervical pillows, particularly if they are filled with memory foam – shredded or not. The memory foam adopts the shape of the head and neck, and often also the shoulders, to maintain the top seven vertebrae in a straight line. Some of these are adjustable, where you can increase the foam fill to provide more support while the foam conforms to the shape of the head and neck. Our selections 2 and 8 are filled with polyester fiber, #5 is water, and polyester fiber while the others are memory foam.
2. Non-cervical Orthopedic Pillows: Most orthopedic pillows are also cervical pillows, suitable for both neck and back problems. However, the multifunctional memory foam knee pillow (#5) we have tested and reviewed is designed to relieve stress on the legs or lower back. If you have sciatica, this is a good choice for you. The pillow is designed to fit between your lower legs or beneath them. The reduced pressure on your legs can reduce the pain of sciatica, and can also help reduce pressure on the legs during pregnancy. Such pillows can also be used to lie on beneath your lower back, or lumbar area, to help reduce lower back pain.
3. Water Pillows: Water pillows are useful as orthopedic pillows because they do not compress as other pillows do. Water cannot be compressed, so you can easily adjust the firmness of this type of pillow by removing or adding water. Some pillows, such as the Mediflow Fiber water pillow we reviewed, are designed with a top layer of premium soft polyester fiber for added comfort. It reduces neck pain no matter what sleeping position you use. Our #6 choice is an excellent example of this type of orthopedic pillow.
4. Full Body Pillows: Full body pillows are designed to accommodate your full body. They are particularly popular with pregnant women for the extra comfort they provide, and they can also reduce muscle and nerve pain. The Moonlight Slumber Comfort U Total Body pillow is one example that we looked at but was not included in our review because it is included at #1 in our Best Pregnancy Pillow reviews. Pregnancy pillows can be used as orthopedic pillows in many cases, so it’s worth checking this review out – particularly if you are expecting a baby.
Which is Best?
There is no such thing as the best orthopedic pillow since a lot depends on your condition. Our #1 choice, the Snuggle Pedic Bamboo Luxury Shredded Memory Foam Pillow, is an excellent general-purpose cervical pillow that can reduce most neck and back pains – or in some cases even eliminate them. Our #2 choice, the Cervical Neck Traction Pillow, is our best shaped cervical pillow for neck support and traction.
The orthopedic pillow you finally opt for will depend on the condition you suffer from. All those above can help with neck pain, though the most versatile seems to be the Cervical Neck Traction Pillow manufactured by Arc4Life. It has a top and bottom to the pillow, the bottom edge being suitable to provide stretching (traction) to your neck. It can be rotated so the top edge comes to the bottom to provide good support, rather than traction, for your neck. This pillow is also available in three sizes, large, medium, and small: the sizes are explained in our review above.
Dimensions – What Size of Pillow Do I Need?
Orthopedic pillows come in various sizes; unlike mattresses, there is no standard. Some may be advertised as King or Queen, etc, although there are no generally accepted standard dimensions. We have provided a list of dimensions in our chart to enable you to decide which is best for you – and your partner if you are a couple. Our advice is to measure the height and width of your existing pillow and choose something of similar size if there is one. Otherwise, measure out the stated new pillow size on your bed to establish how it would look.
Pillows of a normal rectangular shape tend to be filled with memory foam. This type of foam conforms to the shape of your head and neck to provide proper support for all types of sleeper. They normally work equally well for side, back, and front sleepers. Shaped pillows tend to be made from polyester fiber or microfiber. They usually have a central area for your head and are thicker to the bottom of the pillow to support your neck. Some are rotatable and shaped with different thicknesses top and bottom to suit different sleeping positions or different depths of necks. Other cervical pillows are raised at the left and right sides to keep your head stable.
Other Things to Look For
Warranty/Trial: Orthopedic pillows can work for you or may disappoint you depending on your reason for purchasing it. You should make sure it has a warranty against poor workmanship or material defects. Many will also give you a trial period, usually from 30 days upwards. During this period you may return your orthopedic pillow for a full refund, usually with no questions asked. It would be good, however, to explain why you are returning it. This enables the manufacturer to address the problem for future buyers.
Health Certification: Most pillows are made using foams that are free from hazardous substances such as heavy metals (lead, cadmium, mercury, etc.), ozone depleters such as halogenated hydrocarbons (e.g. tetrachloroethylene, carbon tetrachloride, methylene chloride, 1-bromopropane, vinyl chloride, and phosgene.) Certifications to look for are CertiPUR-US (for foams) and OEKO-Tex (for textiles). No pillows in our review contain hazardous flame retardants.
Allergens: None of the pillows we have included in our review contain latex or down/feathers. These are allergens that are often found in other pillows, comforters, and mattresses. Most orthopedic pillows are hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites. This means that they contain no known allergens and prevent the breeding of dust mites.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the questions we have been given regarding orthopedic pillows.
Manufacturers make claims that such pillows, also known as ‘specialized’ pillows, are constructed and designed to help relieve neck pain and often also back pain. They claim that they provide better than normal support for the neck, or neck and spine, and provide good support for your neck while you sleep. Buyer reviews of such pillows certainly indicate that this is the case. However, not all neck and back pain is caused by the same condition and a specific pillow may not be suitable for all forms of spinal pain, neck or back. Hence the reason for so many different types of cervical or orthopedic pillows available.
According to our research, the top 4 pillows recommended by chiropractors include 3 in our review. These are our #6 (Mediflow Waterflow Pillow), our # 8, (Tri-Core Cervical Support pillow), and our #1 (Snuggle Pedic Shredded Memory Foam pillow.) These are contour pillows other than the water pillow. However, the other 5 we have included in our review are also of benefit. Much depends on the neck and back issue involved, and why a cervical or orthopedic pillow is necessary.
A contour pillow has a raised edge at the bottom where your neck should rest. Many come with two raised edges of different heights, one at the top and one at the bottom. You are best to begin with the higher edge at the bottom, where your neck lies. This type of pillow supports your head in the middle and your neck at the edge and helps keep the seven cervical vertebrae (neck bones) in line with the rest of your spine, so your spinal column is kept straight while you sleep. Our #2 above (Cervical Neck Traction Pillow), #7 (Perform Pillow), and #8 (Tri-Core Cervical Support Pillow) are examples of this type of pillow. Your head is supported in the central part of the pillow, and your neck by the raised section at the bottom. This enables your entire spine to lie straight.
Some orthopedic pillows are shaped such as contour pillows. These generally tend to be stuffed with polyester fiber or microfiber. We have reviewed three of these plus a water-based pillow. The other four are memory foam pillows. When you lie on a memory foam pillow, the foam adopts the shape of your head and neck, and shoulders if relevant. The foam sinks according to the pressure of your body. Your head applies more pressure than your neck, and your spinal cord tends to be supported straight from your head to your coccyx. Polyester fillings do not compress like this and have to be shaped to provide support where required.
No, they shouldn’t. Your shoulders should be lying just below your pillow. The pillow should be lying in such a way that your head is straight with both ears parallel to each other. This helps keep your spine straight all the way down. If your shoulders rested on the pillow, your spine would be bent.m, between a lower central area for the head to rest on. The raised parts are intended to support your neck, to prevent the cervical (neck) vertebrae from remaining unsupported, leading to severe neck pain and potential back pain.
Guide to Orthopedic Pillows – Conclusion
If you acquaint yourself with the information in the Buyer’s Guide, then you should be able to make the correct choice of orthopedic pillow for you and your family. A cervical pillow is a specific type of orthopedic pillow designed to support your neck and keep it in its correct position with reference to your head and lower spine. With an ordinary pillow, your neck (cervical) bones can bend downwards when you sleep and ultimately result in loss of the straightness of your spine. This can lead to severe pain and misalignment of your spine which may be difficult to correct.
Always try a pillow out before buying it wherever possible. However, when you buy online you will usually get around 30 days or more to give it a good test. If you begin to feel pain in your neck or back during this period, or an existing pain is not reduced or eliminated, then return the pillow and try another design.
Review of the Best Orthopedic Pillows
- Snuggle Pedic Bamboo Luxury Pillow
- Cervical Neck Traction Pillow
- UTTU Sandwich Memory Foam Pillow
- ROYAL THERAPY Memory Foam Pillow
- Multifunctional Mem Foam Knee Pillow
- Mediflow Fiber Water Pillow
- Perform Pillow Cervical Neck Pillow
- Core Products Tri-Core Cervical Support
You can get orthopedic pillows for various purposes such as knee pillows, one of which we feature above. These have been constructed to be placed below or between your knees. They can be used to help reduce or eliminate the pain of sciatica, named after the large sciatic nerve. This is the largest nerve in your body, running down from your buttocks, down the back of your thighs and legs to your heels and soles of your feet. Some orthopedic pillows are designed as body pillows, to provide support for your entire body.