Shoulder pain makes it harder to sleep deeply and comfortably, especially when side sleeping. Whether it’s a chronic issue or you’re recovering from an injury, you should address shoulder pain and find ways to alleviate it so you get a good night’s rest. Here, I’ll list down the best pillows for shoulder pain, recommended by experts and consumers.
Pillows for Shoulder Pain: A Buying Guide
Sleeping with Shoulder Pain
What is shoulder pain?
Shoulder pain involves soreness, twinging aches, and discomfort in the shoulder joint which is made up of the collarbone, scapula and humerus. Since shoulder pain is a common ailment, the causes vary. Here are the common causes of shoulder pain.
- Spinal Issues
The muscles in your upper body are connected to your spine. When the muscles around your spine are in pain or contracted, you will also feel it in nearby muscles and joints.
Your shoulder pain may be caused by the sudden, involuntary movement in your shoulder muscles. This results in stiffness and cramping.
- Frozen shoulder
Adhesive capsulitis, also known as frozen shoulder, is a chronic condition characterized by stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. When the shoulder “freezes”, the joint has a reduced range of motion.
- Poor Spinal Alignment
When your spine is misaligned when you sleep, it puts your back and shoulders under pressure because your weight isn’t evenly distributed, especially if you twist in odd positions.
Can pillows cause shoulder pain?
Definitely. Sleeping with a pillow that doesn’t adequately support you leads to pain. Side sleepers are vulnerable to shoulder pain because their shoulders bear most of their upper body weight in their sleeping position. Because of undue stress, tension can arise in the joints and muscles. Whatever your sleeping position is, you need to choose one that will cradle your head, neck and shoulders and promote a neutral spinal alignment.
What are the advantages/benefits of pillows for shoulder pain?
Shoulder pain cases vary so there’s no one pillow that will soothe everyone. There are pillows for shoulder pain that look like your average pillow but offer more support for the neck and shoulder. There are also special variants that are wedge-shaped. Body pillows can also ease shoulder pain.
A pillow for shoulder pain encourages good sleeping posture. That means there’s a straight line from the head to the feet, the spine is properly aligned, and the pressure points are relieved.
An important consideration for side sleepers is that their pillow should fill the gap between the head, neck, and shoulders. Side sleepers should avoid placing their hand under their head or pillow. Back sleepers with shoulder pain may benefit from using a pillow to support their arms. They can use a small pillow for each side.
How to Choose the Best Pillow for Shoulder Pain
I cannot emphasize enough how important your sleep position is when considering a pillow for shoulder pain. The best pillow will support a neutral curve in the spine. When you have shoulder pain, look for a pillow that address the ache in your neck, back and shoulder.
Back and stomach sleepers need a pillow of a relatively low loft that cushions the neck and upper back. Neck support is also a priority and the pillow shouldn’t be too flat or too high, which may push the head in unnatural angles.
A side sleeper pillow needs to be high enough to fill in the space between the mattress and neck, and the gaps between the head and shoulders. This allows the neck and shoulders to rest completely and offers pain relief for a sore shoulder.
Type of Pain
If you have chronic pain, a pillow is not enough to ease your discomfort. You should consult a doctor about long term solutions to your shoulder pain. If you’re having a mild, temporary pain, pillows can provide relief.
Those who suffer from osteoarthritis and other disabilities should work with their medical practitioner for treatment. The right pillows can help you rest better but it won’t address the issue totally.
People who have been injured can sleep uneasy due to shoulder pain. They need shoulder support and stabilization to aid recovery. Aside from communicating with your therapist or doctor, you should look for a pillow with support and padding to prevent impeding your recovery.
Loft refers to the profile or thickness of a pillow. It’s correlated to support. Side sleepers need a higher loft pillow to maintain a straight spine and to relieve tension in the shoulders, backs, and hips. Back and stomach sleepers don’t need that much loft as their head needs to stay in proper alignment when lying face up or down.
There’s no right firmness for pillows for shoulder pain. It’s highly subjective. For example, a firm pillow will be satisfying to an individual but too uncomfortable for someone who prefers to sink into their pillow.
Since we’re addressing the needs of people with shoulder pain, a relatively firm pillow is recommended to soothe aches and tension. However, a pillow that’s too firm is counterproductive because it can lead to more pressure buildup, creating shoulder and neck pain.
Pressure relieving pillows cradle the head and neck without too much sinkage. If you have narrow shoulders and a small head, you’ll be happier with a soft pillow. If you have broad shoulders and a larger head, you’ll need a firm pillow for maximum pressure relief.
Pillows for shoulder pain come in all shapes and sizes, commonly a neck pillow with orthopedic contours. Wedge pillows raise the head and neck away from the mattress. A body pillow can support side sleeping to reduce shoulder and neck pain.
How Do You Arrange Pillows for Shoulder Pain?
Don’t sleep on the side of the shoulder that’s hurting until the pain subsides. To prevent shifting onto the side of your bad shoulder, place a pillow on that side so you don’t roll over.
Another tip is to avoid putting your hand under your head or pillow. Back sleepers can place a pillow under their arms to reduce pain when sleeping. You can use one pillow under each arm or out to the side. You may also use a pillow beneath your shoulder blade and another under your arm.
Do not position your arm in a right angle to your body. Keep it low and close to you, preferably below 75 degrees.
Side sleepers are advised to not to keep their arm at a right angle to their body as well, but it shouldn’t lay flat underneath them either, because it will exacerbate shoulder pain. When side sleeping, you can also use a pillow underneath their upper arm.
Stomach sleeping is not recommended for people with shoulder pain. For the time being, switch to back or side sleeping to avoid adding stress to the shoulders. Alternatively, stomach sleepers can use a pillow or body pillow to support the shoulder joint.
The 5 Best Pillows for Shoulder Pain: Top Picks for Back and Side Sleepers
EPABO Contour Memory Foam Pillow Orthopedic Sleeping Pillows
The strategic indentation of this contoured pillow allows the neck to settle comfortably in the pillow while relieving pressure points around the shoulder, so it makes our list for best pillows for neck and shoulder pain.
Available in standard and two Queen sizes, the Epabo memory foam pillow has a loft of between 4 to 5 inches at its highest. This is enough height to comfortably prop up the head when sleeping on your back. It also fills in the gap between the head and shoulders, great for side sleepers who need some loft.
If at any point you feel that the loft is too high, you can unzip the bottom of the pillow and remove a piece of memory foam fill that’s 0.8-inch thick.
The ergonomic design of this contour pillow promotes a healthy spinal alignment for back and side sleepers. The pillow is also quite dense, with 20 percent more memory foam than pillows in this price range, so it won’t flatten after several uses.
In terms of feel, this pillow is more supportive and firm than it is plush, so if you’re looking for memory foam with lots of sink, this may not be the right pillow for you. It is just the right firmness if you have shoulder pain and sleep on your side and back.
This comes with a rayon-polyester blend machine washable pillowcase that’s hypoallergenic, chemical-free and mite-resistant.
Due to its shape, this isn’t the best pillow for stomach sleepers with shoulder pain. For back and side sleepers though, this contoured neck pillow offers great value for a reasonable price.
- Contoured foam pillow that cradles the head and neck
- Good pressure relief for the shoulders
- Has a loft of 4 to 5 inches and is adjustable
- Dense and durable memory foam pillow
- Gives lots of support for shoulder pain
- Hypoallergenic and machine washable pillow cover
- Not for sleepers with shoulder pain looking for a plush pillow
- Not for stomach sleepers
UTTU Sandwich Pillow, Adjustable Memory Foam Pillow
Made with UTTU’s proprietary Dynamic Foam, this adjustable pillow won’t sag or harden even in extreme weather, ensuring you get the same pressure-relieving support night after night. This is one of the best pillows for durable support and pain relief for a bad shoulder.
The pillow has an adjustable loft and zippered cover. At its full height, the pillow is 4.7 inches and 3.9 inches (high and low contours, respectively) and 3.5 inchest and 2.8 inches at its lowest, with the middle foam layer removed.
The orthopedic and contoured design of the pillow helps ease neck and shoulder pain and lifts the head to an optimum height for better spinal alignment. It also cushions pressure points on the back and side, depending on your sleep position.
Since it’s made of memory foam, the pillow contours to the natural curve of the head, neck and shoulders so you get pain relief as you sleep on your side and back.
The moisture-wicking removable and machine washable bamboo cover keeps you cool as you sleep. Do not launder the pillow core.
Due to its orthopedic contours, this pillow isn’t for stomach sleepers with shoulder pain. It also comes in one size, despite its adjustability, so if the highest loft isn’t enough for you, you won’t be able to size up.
- Made of dynamic foam, UTTU’s own memory foam that doesn’t harden in cold conditions
- Has a removable memory foam layer to change the pillow loft
- Improves spinal alignment and relieves pressure points
- Closely conforms to the spine and head
- Has a cooling and machine washable bamboo cover
- Not for stomach sleepers with shoulder pain
- Available in only one size
Mkicesky Memory Foam Pillow for Sleeping
This contoured pillow is one of the best pillows for sleepers of all sizes. It has a patented ergonomic design featuring high and low contours and an indented cradle for the head and neck.
What makes this a suitable pillow for shoulder pain is the designated shoulder area which prevents the shoulders from compressing if you sleep on your side. The hollowed out center relieves tension from the head. There’s also soft facial area that’s great for side sleepers who need support in the shoulders but want cushioning for the sides of the face.
The pillow has a CertiPUR-US certified memory foam fill and a fixed loft. This variant is 5.12 inches at the elevated contour and 3.93 inches at the low contour. There are also other sizes available, in case you have a broader or narrower head and shoulder than average.
This is a medium firm pillow, which is best for pressure relief for neck and shoulder pain. The memory foam won’t harden even when it’s extremely cold which guarantees its durability for the long haul. The pillow also comes with a 100-night trial, in case you’re unsure.
A caveat with the pillow’s design is that it’s not made for stomach sleeping. It isn’t a wise choice for hot sleepers either because it sleeps a bit warmer than a regular pillow.
- A contoured memory foam pillow with a unique ergonomic design
- Relieves shoulder pain and stiffness
- The medium firmness gives pressure relief for neck and shoulder pain
- Made of CertiPUR-US certified memory foam
- Available in many sizes, comes with a 100-night trial
- Not for stomach sleepers
- Not for hot sleepers
Cushy Form Bed Wedge Pillow
If you’re looking for a wedge pillow for shoulder pain to help correct your sleeping posture, this one by Cushy Form is a good deal.
This is made of soft yet supportive memory foam with a loft of 12 inches when laid flat on its side. The medically designed pillow is multipurpose, good for reading and leg elevation. It works to alleviate shoulder pain by reclining the body, thereby placing pressure off the area.
The slope of the wedge pillow gives added support to the back and shoulders so they don’t bear as much weight. The elevated head position helps you sleep deeper and corrects your spinal alignment.
Because the wedge pillow is made of high density memory foam, it holds its shape without flattening or sagging. At the same time, it molds to the body which releases pressure points in the head, neck, and shoulders.
Cushy Form provides a 100 percent money back guarantee, if you have any doubts about buying. When supplemented with other pillows, this pillow will definitely soothe any nagging shoulder pain so you get better sleep.
A disadvantage with this wedge pillow is its long breaking in period. It can take up to 2 weeks to get used to it and the pillow may feel too firm initially, so it’s not for immediate use.
- A 12-inch memory foam wedge pillow that elevates the head, good for shoulder injuries
- Has various functions and can be used for the legs and back
- Encourages proper sleep posture
- Made of high density memory foam that eases pressure points
- Comes with a 100 percent money back guarantee
- The pillow will take at least 2 weeks to break in
Coisum Back Sleeper Cervical Pillow
This orthopedic pillow may look funky and uncomfortable but once you try it out, you’ll see why it’s so well-loved.
The design prevents shoulder compression, stiffness or tingling. It has a space for your arm to latch on to so your shoulders don’t have to hunch. The depression in the center keeps your head in place and prevents neck pain.
The pillow is specially designed for back and side sleepers. One side of the pillow is more elevated than the other. Back sleepers can sleep on the higher side to better support the cervical spine. Both back and side sleepers can use the side cutouts to rest their arms in.
The high density CertiPUR-US certified memory foam has slow responsiveness and contours closely to the head and neck. It has good pressure relief and feels medium firm, which is just right for alleviating shoulder soreness and twinges.
One thing to note is this pillow does get hard when exposed to cold temperatures so it may firm up significantly and be less comfortable. This pillow doesn’t have much plushness to it, so if you’re expecting a traditional soft pillow, this might disappoint. However, it has proven effective for shoulder issues in sleepers of all weights and sizes so it’s worth giving it a shot.
- An ergonomic design with two lofts and shoulder cutouts
- Cradles the head and shoulders and allows the arm to rest
- Best for side and back sleepers
- Made of CertiPUR-US certified memory foam with firm support
- Closely contours the head and neck and provides pressure relief
- Firms up in cold conditions which affects it comfort
- Doesn’t have the traditional plush memory foam feel
These are the top-rated picks for the best pillows for shoulder pain. Whether you’re a back or side sleeper, you’ll find something that will suit your unique needs. All these pillows will give maximum support for your neck, cradle your head and reduce pressure in the shoulder joint. You’ll be sleeping like a baby in no time.
That being said, my favorite is the Mkiceszky Pillow.
When it comes to versatility, it’s the one to beat. It has a unique contoured design that will soothe shoulder tension and neck pain.
Though it’s not adjustable, it comes in several sizes so it will suit all weights and shoulder widths. It’s even made of premium materials with CertiPUR-US certifications.
This is the best back and side sleeper pillow for relief in the shoulders because it has a medium firm feel, which cushions as it supports. And if you’re not convinced, you can try it out risk-free for 100 nights.
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