Weighted neck pillows are an increasingly popular pillow option that has become a go-to for many people dealing with chronic neck pain. In the past, people suffering from neck discomfort often had to resort to expensive solutions like foam-contoured support pillows or traditional orthopedic pillows. But today, weighted neck pillows offer an attractive, affordable alternative that can provide targeted relief for neck pain and other types of musculoskeletal pain.
As more people look to neck pillows for pain relief, it has raised questions about their effectiveness and safety. Let’s take a look at the potential benefits these pillows can offer along with the limitations for people struggling with chronic neck pain.
In this article, we’ll answer common questions like:
- What is a weighted neck pillow?
- Do weighted neck pillows help with neck pain?
- How can better sleep improve neck pain?
- Should I consult with my doctor before buying a weighted neck pillow?
What is a Weighted Neck Pillow?
Weighted neck pillows can add comfort and support for people suffering from chronic pain in the neck and back. While weighted neck pillows don't necessarily provide medical-grade relief, they can be a great addition to existing treatments or exercises for those who suffer from chronic pain in their neck or back.
These pillows provide pressure to the body's natural pressure points located around the head, shoulders and upper back. This pressure helps relieve tension in the muscles which can lead to better posture and improved relaxation during sleep. In addition, weighted neck pillows may help reduce inflammation in the area by evenly distributing your body weight across the pillow's surface.
Weighted neck pillows come in a variety of shapes, sizes, weights and materials. They are typically filled with small weighted beads that help keep their shape while providing gentle pressure against your body. Some weighted neck pillows are also filled with organic material such as flaxseed or millet that provide additional comfort and relaxation when lying down on them.
Prices typically range anywhere from around $25 to upwards of $100. When shopping for a weighted neck pillow, it is important to consider factors such as shape and weight before purchasing one. Look for a weighted pillow that can fit comfortably between your shoulder blades so that it does not cause any extra discomfort when sleeping or moving around during the day. Additionally, you'll want to make sure that the weight of the pillow is appropriate for your needs; if your pillow is too heavy it could cause extra strain on your muscles leading to further stiffness and pain.
Weighted neck pillow styles include:
Standard contour pillows, which are wavy with a lengthwise indentation for your head;
Neck rolls, which are cylinder-shaped;
D-core, which has a D-shaped indentation in the middle of your head;
and horseshoe-shaped, which wraps around your neck and can be worn during the day.
Ultimately, choosing the right style of weighted neck pillow depends on your sleep position, the cause of your neck pain, and what feels most comfortable to you.
Do Weighted Neck Pillows Help With Neck Pain?
The short answer in most cases is yes—weighted neck pillows are known to provide pressure relief in the soft tissues around the cervical spine region, reducing tension and providing additional support for the neck. Additionally, weighted neck pillows are thought to reduce pain-related inflammation and improve blood flow in the area, potentially resulting in improved overall comfort and a greater range of motion for those dealing with ongoing neck pain.
The primary benefit of using a weighted neck pillow is that it applies mild pressure to the points where your head meets your neck. This can be especially helpful for people who suffer from tension headaches, as the compression helps to alleviate pressure on the head and neck muscles. Weighted neck pillows are also known to offer a more comfortable sleeping experience, as they provide even weight distribution across the cervical spine region.
While research is limited, a 2017 study on the effectiveness of cervical pillows on neck pain and sleep quality in recreational athletes concluded that “the use of an appropriate pillow is a determinant factor in relieving neck pain … [and] promoting deeper stages during sleep.”
Along with providing comfort while sleeping at night, weighted neck pillows have been shown through anecdotal evidence to reduce symptoms associated with other types of chronic pain from tension headaches and fibromyalgia.
Although further research is needed to prove this claim, many people have reported improvements in their neck pain and sleep by using these products regularly throughout their daily routine activities such as sitting at work desks all day long or taking long car rides during vacations where family members may experience fatigue due to extended periods seated without movement breaks periodically throughout their travels. You may also experience relief for mild to moderate neck pain by incorporating massages, heat and ice treatments, stretching and exercise into your regular routine.
Other Ways to Treat Neck Pain
Massages: Massaging muscles and tendons in the neck can increase blood flow, improve circulation and reduce tension. There are numerous massage styles and techniques, it’s okay to try out different techniques until you find the one that works best for your neck pain.
Heat and ice: Heating pads and ice packs are generally a good combination for neck pain relief. You can also try taking a warm shower to relax your neck muscles, reduce pain and increase your range of motion. As a rule of thumb, try not to use or apply either treatment for more than 15 minutes.
Stretching: Moving and stretching can help relieve neck pain from stiff muscles and tension. However, be sure to avoid strenuous activities or movements, which may worsen pain in some instances.
Exercise: Regular exercise can improve neck pain from sleep. A 2020 study found mood and sleep improved when people with chronic neck pain increased their exercise levels. Exercise may even be more effective than other noninvasive treatments like acupuncture, massages or yoga.
How Can Better Sleep Improve Neck Pain?
A good night’s sleep has been shown to improve neck pain in some cases. Neck pain can be attributed to many causes, such as poor posture, stress, injury, or chronic illnesses like fibromyalgia, to name a few. But sleep can play a major role as well.
Weighted neck pillows can be beneficial for people who suffer from neck pain due to poor sleeping habits, disruptive conditions, improper bedding or other factors. They help promote proper alignment of the spine during sleep. As we rest, our body tends to relax and lose alignment, which can lead to pain and tension when we wake up. By applying a consistent amount of pressure across the cervical spine region, weighted neck pillows help to keep your head in a comfortable upright position that reduces stress on the neck.
The weight of the pillow may also create a grounding or calming sensation that aids in relaxing the mind and body, allowing you to better manage your tension levels throughout the night. Additionally, weighted neck pillows are known to promote deeper and more restful sleep, as the pressure may limit movement due to discomfort throughout the night.
When considering which style of neck pillow is best suited to help improve your sleep, remember that your usual sleep position is an important factor.
Best Neck Pillows for Your Sleep Position
Side Sleepers: Use a pillow that provides support to keep your spine aligned such as a contoured pillow, which is higher under your neck than under your head. The pillow should be firm enough to keep your head from sinking into it.
Back Sleepers: Consider using a roll-shaped pillow at your neck. Your neck should be supported but you don’t want your head propped up. Consider a contoured model designed for this position.
Stomach Sleepers: Instead of a weighted neck pillow, you may want to use one that is thin or somewhat flat to keep your spine as straight as possible while laying on your stomach.
On-the-Go Sleepers: If you plan to rest during a flight, car ride, or elsewhere, you should use a horseshoe-shaped pillow. They will help support your neck and keep your head from drooping while sleeping on the go.
Overall, be sure to choose a pillow that supports the natural shape of your cervical spine to provide comfort and pain relief while you sleep.
Should I Consult With My Doctor Before Buying a Weighted Neck Pillow?
It’s always wise to consult your doctor using any type of weighted sleep aid, especially if you are uncertain about its safety or efficacy for managing certain types of chronic pains like lower back pain or sciatica.
There isn’t a lot of research on the effectiveness or risks associated with weighted neck pillows, but prolonged improper use could result in problems such as numbness or tingling sensations due to nerve compression. This may be caused by excessive weight being applied directly onto nerves.
A 2006 review of five studies concluded that there wasn’t enough substantial evidence to recommend weighted neck pillows for chronic neck pain. Still, it’s generally accepted today that weighted neck pillows can offer relief from occasional back or neck pain when used properly. Iit is important to remember that weighted neck pillows should be used in consultation with a health professional when it comes to chronic conditions.
Weighted neck pillows can be useful for those struggling with neck pain. By providing even weight distribution, targeted compression, and increased support in the cervical spine region, these pillows can help alleviate discomfort during sleep, reduce neck pain, and potentially improve mobility and range of motion.
Additionally, the calming pressure of a weighted neck pillow has been found to reduce stress-related tension and promote deeper, more restful sleep. If you’re dealing with neck pain or soreness, investing in a weighted neck pillow is certainly worth considering.
That said, weighted neck pillows' effectiveness has not been studied extensively and there are limitations when it comes to chronic conditions. Though it may provide some added relief from chronic pains when used properly alongside other treatments like massage therapy, chiropractic care and prescribed medicine.
Be sure to consult your doctor to discuss which weighted neck pillow may be best for your neck pain and sleeping habits.