How to choose the Best Pillow for Shoulder Pain Relief and 6 pillow recommendations

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Written by: Alex Savy
Read 23 minLast updated on December 23, 2022

Nagging pain in your shoulders can easily ruin your sleep and wreck your mood, it’s a fact. 

But what if I told you that you could minimize painful sensations or completely get rid of them if you just replace your pillow? Yes, this small bedding accessory — when selected based on your body needs — can do wonders.

So, sit down and check out my reviews of the best pillows for shoulder pain as well as a buying guide below, which will hopefully help you find the perfect fit.

A Quick Preview

TEMPUR-Symphony™ Pillow
Best Overall - Editor’s Choice

TEMPUR-Symphony™ Pillow
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Puffy Pillow

Puffy Pillow
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Saatva Latex Pillow
Best Natural Latex Pillow for Shoulder Pain

Saatva Latex Pillow
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Comfort Classic Pillow by Amerisleep
Best Memory Foam Pillow for Shoulder Pain

Comfort Classic Pillow by Amerisleep
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Nolah Squishy Pillow
Best Cooling Foam Pillow

Nolah Squishy Pillow
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Our Reviews of 6 Best Pillows for Shoulder Pain Relief

Best Overall - Editor's Choice - TEMPUR-Symphony™ Pillow

TEMPUR-Symphony™ Pillow

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  • Made from memory foam to deliver adaptive contouring around the neck and shoulder.
  • Dual-comfort feature has a neck side suited for back sleepers, while the flat side is suited for side and stomach sleepers.
  • It has a soft removable cover that you can also adjust to improve pillow firmness.

Opening the list of best pillows for shoulder pain relief is the Tempur-Symphony pillow, a soft-feel pillow with a cushioning foam core. The Symphony pillow is made from Tempurpedic’s adaptive foam to provide supportive cradling for the neck when sleeping. When the head is positioned correctly, with the neck well cradled on a pillow, pressure is relieved off the shoulder region.

What made the Tempur-Symphony pillow stand out for me was its double-sided design. One side has a contoured shape that would neatly wrap around your neck when you need more cradling. At the same time, the flatter side works better for neck support and when sleeping on a firm mattress. Though I think the Tempurpedic Symphony pillow a little high in the loft, the foam compresses quite well, so you can achieve proper spine alignment using this foam pillow.

Runner Up — Puffy Pillow

Puffy Pillow

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  • adjustable loft to offer more comfort options for different types of sleepers;
  • hypoallergenic, ensuring you don’t come across allergens or dust mites during use if you’re a sensitive sleeper;
  • breathable cover for cooler sleep.

Following closely, the second best pillow to consider for shoulder pain relief is the Puffy pillow. This pillow model uses a shredded foam fill to provide joint cradling for the neck and shoulder when sleeping. This is an adjustable model that comes with shredded memory foam filling and a zippered cover. Thus, sleepers can easily remove the excess foam (or add a bit more) to achieve their perfect loft. I, for instance, found the Puffy to be too tall for me. So I removed some of the foam to create a medium loft ideal for my favorite sleeping style.

Now, even though the height of the Puffy Pillow can change, its feel will remain the same. This model gently cradles the shoulders and adjusts to their shape to deliver proper support. As a result, the Puffy works to reduce tension levels in the shoulders. I felt relief only after a couple of nights, even though I sleep on one side frequently and, thus, apply more pressure to my shoulder.

Best Natural Latex Pillow for Shoulder Pain — Saatva Latex Pillow

Saatva Latex Pillow

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  • The organic cotton cover is breathable and wicks away moisture, keeping you cooler throughout the night;
  • dual-layer construction to achieve a balanced combo of support and padding;
  • natural latex core to promote proper pressure redistribution.

Looking for the best pillow for shoulder pain but don’t want to deal with potential foam off-gassing? Then you might want to consider a natural latex pillow by Saatva. This model is 100% safe even for sensitive sleepers (take it from me, a person who regularly deals with environmental allergies and can’t stand even a bit of chemical smells). Additionally, latex does an excellent job of reducing tension from one’s neck and shoulders. Naturally, less pressure build-up often means less pain too.

Aside from the latex core, the Saatva pillow also uses a layer of microdenier fiber. It’s a type of polyester that is much finer (and thus, more breathable) than regular poly-fiber. This layer of padding is quite thick and cradling. It gives the Saatva pillow a rather balanced feel, offering gentle cushioning for the neck and shoulders. At the same time, it does not compromise the supportive properties of the latex core. Which is probably why the Saatva pillow made me feel super comfortable in all sleep positions.

Best for Side Sleepers with Shoulder Pain — GhostPillow


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  • shredded memory foam filling for effortless thickness adjustments;
  • proprietary Ghost Ice cover for improved air circulation during sleep;
  • close conforming to aid weight redistribution and tension alleviation.

Coming in as the best pillow option for side sleepers with shoulder pain is the GhostPillow. It’s a customizable high-loft pillow filled with gel memory foam shreds to provide localized comfort around the shoulder joint. This model is adjustable, which means it can work for pretty much any sleeping style. You can tailor the GhostPillow to your specific needs by unzipping the cover and either adding or removing the shredded filling. And here’s the best part: the memory foam bits are super adaptive. They can cradle your shoulders and redistribute the pressure, thus reducing the pain levels.

Another characteristic I really appreciate is the cover material. The GhostPillow feels so cool to the touch that I didn’t even want to put a pillow cover on. Combined with the breathable filling, it makes the GhostPillow suited for hot sleepers seeking something temperature-neutral.

Ghostpillow On a Mattress

Best Memory Foam Pillow for Shoulder Pain — Comfort Classic Pillow by Amerisleep

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  • open-cell Bio-Pur filling for increased breathability and cooler sleep;
  • medium loft to accommodate a wider range of sleepers;
  • zippered cover for easy cleaning.

I would like to start this review of the best pillows for shoulder pain with the Comfort Classic Pillow by Amerisleep, and there are more than enough reasons for this choice. First of all, this model delivers targeted support thanks to its adaptive filling material. As a result, the Comfort Classic can contour the curves of one’s neck and shoulders. This leads to reduced tension and consequently, less pain. I tested the Amerisleep pillow sleeping on one side and the back, and I felt pressure-free all through the night. This proves that my neck and shoulders were properly supported.

I was also surprised that this pillow did not make me sleep warmer than usual. That’s the trick Amerisleep’s Bio-Pur filling does. This plant-based foam is very breathable thanks to its open-cell structure. As a result, it allows for proper air circulation and cooler sleep. Chances are, you won’t have to flip this pillow to sleep on the colder side.

Best Cooling Foam Pillow — Nolah Squishy Pillow

Nolah Squishy Pillow

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  • shredded memory foam filling that feels super adaptive but doesn’t cause overheating;
  • breathable bamboo cover for enhanced cooling;
  • sturdy construction but affordable price, offers excellent value for money.

The best pillow for shoulder pain has to relieve pressure effectively, and the Nolah fits this description perfectly. However, what sets this model apart is its ability to reduce tension and prevent overheating while doing so. The Nolah uses adaptive foam that helps with pressure redistribution, but the filling is shredded and breathable. The cover is breathable too, which contributes to temperature regulation. It even feels cool to the touch, which pleasantly surprised me (I didn’t even want to use a pillowcase). 

I also appreciate how this pillow by Nolah feels. It adapts to the shape of the head, neck, and shoulders but doesn’t feel overly squishy. Instead, the Nolah hugs the curves while providing decent support. It felt somewhat resilient to me, keeping my head and neck aligned and, thus, preventing tension build-up.

Our Methodology - Why I Picked These Pillows

The best pillows for shoulder pain typically have high conformity, are slow-adaptive to provide pressure relief on the neck and shoulders, and are supportive enough to promote spinal alignment.

In my reviewing techniques, I have checked pillows' inner materials, seeing their make and density, and if it’s suitable to help alleviate shoulder pain. I then test the pillows with a series of compression tests, as well as lying down on them in different sleeping positions, seeing how well they adapt to my head and neck, and how comfortable I am. Loft and firmness are also checked, as I need to know if a pillow will work for a combination sleeper as well as a sleeper who stays in one position all night. 

Why Does Shoulder Pain Appear?

Before we dive into the details of choosing the right pillow for shoulder pain, let’s try to understand this condition a bit better and see why a simple change of a pillow might help you deal with it.

The shoulder is a complex yet very fragile joint. If one of the numerous tendons and deep muscles, that support the shoulder joint, gets inflamed or injured, painful sensations and limited mobility may be experienced.

Now, all the causes of shoulder pain can be divided into two large groups: medical and non-medical. 

Medical causes include:

  • tendinitis;
  • tendon tears;
  • Impingement and Instability;
  • joint dislocation;
  • swollen bursa sacs;
  • Arthritis;
  • spinal cord injuries.

Also, if you have problems in the cervical spine, the pain may spread into your shoulders.

Most of the medical causes result in chronic shoulder pain and require doctor supervision.

Non-medical causes are typically connected to such things as:

  • Posture problems. According to Bulas (2022) from the Buffalo Rehab Group, continuous spine misalignment during daily activities may cause some nerves in the cervical and chest regions to get squeezed. These nerves go through the upper body, so when they become pinched, you may start to experience shoulder and arm pain.
  • Repetitive actions and shoulder joint load. If you work with your hands, your shoulders might get overly tired and start to hurt. An older study in 2002 suggests that workplace repetitive actions are highly intercorrelated with shoulder pain.
  • Unsuitable mattress or pillow. When your pillow and mattress don’t support your body properly, your shoulders may go out of alignment, which might lead to pain and stiffness.

"Even if you think a non-medical cause might be causing your shoulder pain, we recommend asking your doctor about it. They may be able to rule out medical causes and recommend pain remedies." says Debra Henline Sullivan, PhD, MSN, RN, CNE, COI. 

Does Your Sleep Position Affect Shoulder Pain?

The way you sleep can either give you the best shut-eye in your life or turn you into an aching and grumpy human being. When it comes to choosing a good pillow for shoulder pain relief, your sleeping position should be the first thing to consider.

So, let me briefly explain to you how each sleeping position affects your shoulders:

  • Back sleeping. This sleeping position is considered the healthiest for your spine, as it helps maintain proper alignment and relax all the muscles. Speaking of shoulder pain, sleeping in the supine position on a slightly elevated surface — say, by using a wedge-shaped pillow — may decrease the pressure on the scapulae and reduce shoulder pain, even if they are caused by arthritis or another chronic condition. The optimal firmness level for back sleepers with shoulder pain is medium.
  • Side sleeping. There’s a hypothesis that the lateral sleeping position is the most detrimental to your shoulders. When you sleep on your side, you literally put your body weight on the shoulder. And if you’re a large sleeper — or, if your mattress is on the firmer side — your shoulder will have to withstand even more pressure. The good news is, if you choose a thick and firm pillow, the impact of the body weight on your shoulder belt will decrease, helping you sleep comfortably. Note that the width of your shoulder’s matters — your pillow should fill the space between your head and the mattress surface completely.
  • Stomach sleeping. This position has a highly negative impact on your lower back and neck. Since overstrained neck muscles and pinched nerves in the cervical spine may indirectly affect shoulders, it’s better to avoid stomach sleeping at all. If you can’t do so, at least use a thin and moldable pillow to ensure that your neck won’t be awkwardly curved.

Mixed sleepers can monitor what sleeping positions they choose more often and choose the pillow based on that.


Best and Worst Types of Pillows for Shoulder Pain Reviewed

Most of the manufacturers today update their pillow line-up from time to time, which can turn the process of finding the best pillow for shoulder pain into a daunting task.

I’ve got a pro tip for you.

Start with defining the materials!

That’s what never changes. Here are the most common materials used in pillows, listed starting from the one that works for shoulder pain most effectively:

  • Solid latex. A solid chunk of latex may offer the right amount of comfort and support for your head and neck, and it’s actually claimed the best pillow for neck and scapular pain relief, according to a recent study.
  • Solid memory foam. Solid memory foam is cradling and comfortable. Such pillows are particularly great for those sleeping on the side. Although most of them have a fixed height, some models come with removable inserts, which allows you to adjust the loft for your comfort.
  • Memory foam shreds. Standard viscoelastic or gel-infused shredded foam is the most popular filling for pillows. There are several reasons for that: this material has all the advantages of the standard memory foam, such as pressure relief and moldability, but it won’t disappoint you with poor thermoregulation. Also, shredded memory foam is fluffier and can adjust to your head shape better than the solid foam chunk.
  • Latex shreds. Very similar to the previous material, latex shreds can be made either from natural latex or latex blends. The latter is not so different from the standard memory foam and has roughly the same features and downsides. Natural latex shreds, on the other hand, can offer you much cooler sleep, as well as better durability and moldability, which could be a plus for individuals with chronic shoulder pain or those who are prone to hot sleeping.
  • Buckwheat hulls. Odorless, hypoallergenic, and breathable, buckwheat hulls can mold to your head and neck and give you great pain relief. It may take time to get used to their specific feel, as the hulls may seem a bit too rigid at first. Not everyone likes this.
  • Natural down and fiberfill down alternatives. Natural and synthetic down pillows are incredibly lightweight and fluffy. They create a soft cocoon around your head and neck, adapting to your body temperature so that you wouldn’t sleep hot. However, studies found that feather and down pillows might be the least effective for users with shoulder and neck pain because they’re too soft and moldable and may not provide the needed support.

Bottom line?

I’d recommend you go for shredded memory foam or latex. You will be able to easily fluff such a pillow and adjust it to get the comfort and shoulder pain relief you want.

Things to Consider When Shopping for a Suitable Pillow for Shoulder Pain

Finally, let’s add some final touches to the idea of your perfect pillow, which you have probably formed in your mind by now. 

Here are a few more things you should consider tailoring your choice to your sleeping needs:

  • Adjustable loft. Pillows with the regulated height and firmness level are the best, in my opinion. You can adjust them to any sleeping preferences in minutes, which lowers the chances of waking up with shoulder pain. 
  • Gusset. A gusset is a piece of fabric around the perimeter that allows you to make the pillow higher. This may result in better pain relief for side sleepers who are more prone to experiencing shoulder pain. Pillows with a gusset can also distribute your head’s weight better. Aside from that, they often come with an adjustable height. You may want to choose models with mesh gussets for additional air circulation during sleep.
  • Firmness. Now, I have mentioned how your sleep position could be connected with your pillow’s firmness level earlier. But let’s sum it up. Side sleepers typically need a firmer pillow that won’t give in under their head’s weight, causing misalignment. Stomach sleepers benefit the most from a thin, soft pillow that won’t create awkward curves in their neck, thus straining shoulder muscles. Back sleepers are recommended to use medium firmness to keep their shoulders relaxed.
  • Thermoregulation. Low temperatures make sleep more restorative, which can help you heal faster and reduce shoulder pain, especially if it was caused by an injury. Give your preference to natural materials or choose gel-infused synthetic foams that have a better cooling effect than non-infused ones.
  • Pressure relief. When it comes to shoulder pain, one of the sleepers’ priorities should be pressure alleviation. After all, when there’s no tension build-up, the pain levels may drop as well. Pressure-relieving pillows for shoulder pain should be able to gently cradle the head, neck, and shoulders while allowing the tension to spread out evenly. In this case, memory foam and latex models usually perform the best.
  • Size. The size of the pillow can play a crucial role for active and combination sleepers. Such users typically require larger pillows in order to enjoy proper support. After all, moving around during sleep can mean that sometimes one’s head, neck, and shoulders can end up on the edge of the pillow (or even on the mattress). And that could lead to misalignment and thus, aggravated shoulder pain.
  • Pillow shape. Mainly, pillows can be divided into two categories: regular (flat) and curved (often called orthopedic). Traditional pillows lie flat on the mattress and have an even form. Curved models, as the name suggests, have a particular contoured shape. In many cases, they have one raised edge to support the neck curve. Now, for shoulder pain sufferers, it is crucial to maintain a healthy alignment during sleep to reduce pressure and pain. And curved pillows can often create improved conditions for a neutral alignment, especially when sleeping on the back (as the pillow has to fill in the neck curve). Regular pillows might also do the trick, but users often have to shape them with their hands to achieve the needed support levels.
  • Washability. Being able to wash one’s pillow regularly is vital for allergy sufferers and users who apply pain-relieving creams before sleep. If that’s the case, shoppers need to look for pillows filled with fiberfill, down, feathers, or cotton fibers. Some other pillow types might be washable too, but it’s essential to check the manufacturer’s instructions first (to avoid damaging the material).


What type of pillow is best for shoulder pain?

Specialists recommend cervical pillows made of cradling materials, such as memory foam or latex to relieve shoulder pain.

Can a pillow cause shoulder pain?

Yes, if it doesn’t suit your sleeping style or body type. For instance, if the pillow is too firm, it can cause extra pressure on the shoulders, which often leads to pain. And an overly soft pillow could cause misalignment. This, in its turn, may also affect the pressure build-up in the shoulder.

What is the most important consideration when it comes to choosing a pillow for shoulder pain?

The right combination of support and pressure relief is the most crucial aspect. A good pillow for shoulder pain has to correspond with your sleeping style (in terms of firmness). At the same time, it also has to redistribute the tension evenly by adapting to the shape of your body.


A properly chosen pillow may help you significantly reduce or completely alleviate shoulder pain and bring back painless sleep into your life. 

To make the most of your purchase, make sure to choose a pillow made of latex or memory foam, preferably with solid filling, or the one with an adjustable loft. Cooling gel infusions and a breathable cover will also improve your sleeping experience.

For me, the Tempur-Symphony pillow offers the most value. This pillow comes with an inner memory foam filling with a two-sided design, in which the contour side adjusts around the neck and cradles the muscles and joints. This helps relax the shoulder and surrounding pressure points while relieving muscle pain.

How about you? Have you picked your personal favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments below!



Hviid Andersen, J., Kaergaard, A., Frost, P., Frolund Thomsen, J., Peter Bonde, J., Fallentin, N., Borg, V., & Mikkelsen, S. (2002). Physical, psychosocial, and individual risk factors for nect/shoulder pain with pressure tenderness in themucsles among workers perfoming monotonous, repetive work. Spine 27(6), 660-667.,_Psychosocial,_and_Individual_Risk.17.aspx

Bulas, M. (2020). Is posture the cause of your shoulder pain?

OrthoInfo (n.d.). Shoulder pain and common shoulder problems.

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