Patients with neck problems often ask us about pillows and which is the best type? We don’t give much thought about our pillow unless we have a problem. If you are sleeping on an old pillow, it probably needs to be replaced and if you think your pillow may be contributing to your neck/upper back pain read on…..

What is a good pillow?

We all want to sleep well and wake up rested, pain free and without morning stiffness. A good pillow will help to support your neck and maintain a neutral neck position. The best pillow for you is one that feels comfortable to rest your head on and supports your neck, head and shoulders and does depend on your sleeping position.

How often should you replace your pillow?

Quick answer is approximately every two years. If you think that the average person uses a pillow for 2500 hours a year. Memory foam pillows typically last longer, up to three years. Higher quality pillows will last longer than inexpensive ones.

Try this to see if you may need a new pillow

Place your pillow on your outstretched arm in front of you and if it remains horizontal then it is good but if it flops in the middle, it will no longer offer the support you need. And heavily stained or smelly pillows need replacing.

The size of the pillow is also important. If you lie on your side it should fill the gap between the outside of your upper arm and the side of your face keeping the neck in a neutral position. Some people will need more than one pillow and often a flat underneath pillow and a more supportive pillow on top.

How do you choose a good pillow for YOU?

A bit like our clothing – what fits one person well will not fit another so well. The choices available are vast so we can spend a fortune quite easily…I’m going to try and help here.

Look at the following the help your choice for Filling and Support

Duck or Goose Down is very soft and light and can be made of a combination of down and feathers. No good if you have allergies.

Synthetic or polyester are made from lots of different types of synthetic materials to choose from. This tends to be a less expensive option but the flip side is they generally do not last that long. The GX pillow (see below is a good choice).

Cotton are best if you have allergies and are often firmer than other fillings.

Latex pillows hold their shape well, are supportive and tend to be medium/firm. They are hypoallergenic.

Memory Foam are supportive and can be good for side sleepers but they down side is that they retain body heat and so are warm. They can be quite pricey but generally last longer.

Orthopaedic pillows are contoured to provide extra support. They are generally quite firm and an example of this is the Groove pillow (see below). They may be worth considering if you prefer a firm supportive pillow and especially if you are a back sleeper. I have one you can look at in the clinic.


As with most thing, you will pay for better quality pillows, but it will be a good investment as you use it every day.

Sleep Position

Side Sleepers – Choose a firmer pillow that will fill the gap between you head and shoulder to give you the best alignment.

Stomach sleepers – either a down or a soft, thin pillow works best. Not a good idea to sleep on your stomach if you have neck pain.

Back sleepers – A softer/flatter pillow that is supportive would be best. If it is too high, then you will be stretching your neck as you sleep.

Whist you await your new pillow you could try this DIY tip to see if it helps you….

  • Take a standard towel and fold it across it’s width.
  • Roll it into a ‘tight’ roll (like a baton).
  • Plate roll into your pillowcase along the lower edge.
  • The roll should put slight pressure on your neck when you like on your back.

GX Pillows

GX PillowsWe recommend the GX pillow. It is made of synthetic fibres which feel soft yet supportive and also hypoallergenic. If the pillow is unsuitable for you then you can return it within the month. Use the code XM46. The popular pillow is the suspension pillow and comes in medium-soft and medium firm. It is easy to return and request the other one if you find it not hard/soft enough.

For free delivery and more information go to – just input the code XM64 to get your free delivery.