While sleep can be a time of relief and relaxation, it’s tense and uncomfortable for those with shoulder pain. Many find shoulder pain is exacerbated at nighttime, so it might be wise to invest in the best pillow for shoulder pain. After all, the wrong pillow can throw your spine out of alignment and fail to support those pain points. To help you on your journey, we’ve created this roundup for the best pillows for shoulder pain in 2023.
Disclaimer: The content on Sleepopolis is meant to be informative in nature, but it shouldn’t take the place of advice or treatment from your physician or medical professional. This review is meant to be an informative guide for those looking to maintain healthy posture while they sleep. User experiences and needs will vary. If you experience lasting pain, soreness, or discomfort while sleeping, it’s always a good idea to seek out a healthcare professional in person.
The Best Pillows for Shoulder Pain 2023
- Best Luxury Pillow – Saatva Latex Pillow
- Best Latex Pillow – Brooklyn Bedding Latex
- Best Pillow for Side Sleepers – Layla Kapok Pillow
- Best Memory Foam Pillow – Lagoon Fox Pillow
- Best Firm Pillow – TEMPUR-Neck Pillow
- Best Hypoallergenic Pillow – Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow
- Best Pillow for Combination Sleepers – Brooklinen Marlow Pillow
- Best Value Pillow – Helix Adjustable Pillow
Our team of sleep specialists tested many pillows on the market, using proprietary analysis and hands-on testing to find the best of the best for our readers. When building our roundup for the best pillows for shoulder pain, we paid special attention to support, pressure relief, durability, and quality of materials.
Pillows with the proper support and sufficient contouring were considered; it’s necessary to have a pillow that aligns the spine while also contouring pain points. The best pillows for shoulder pain are long-lasting and won’t sag after less than a year of use, so we included durable pillows in our roundup. Lastly, we placed an emphasis on pillows featuring quality materials.
For more, we encourage you to check out our Buyer’s Guide at the bottom of the page. There we take a deeper dive into all of these attributes so you can make the most informed purchase possible.
Best Luxury Pillow – Saatva Latex Pillow
Saatva Latex Pillow
A fluffable mix of down-alternative and Talalay latex makes this pillow cozy, cool, and great for combo sleepers.
4.80 / 5Read Full Review
The last thing those with shoulder pain want is a pillow that fails to provide a proper balance of comfort and support. With a luxurious option like the Saatva Latex pillow, this should be the least of your worries. It has a hotel pillow feel that’s comfortable for back and side sleepers alike. An organic cotton cover includes side gussets, maintaining the pillow’s fluff and shape overnight. That way, those with shoulder pain won’t lose the support they get when they first lie down.
Why We Love the Saatva Latex Pillow
- This pillow is machine-washable.
- The outer pillow mimics the feeling of down. It’s also hypoallergenic.
- With a shredded Talalay latex core, sleepers should feel especially cool.
Price: $165–$185, with a 45-night sleep trial and limited one-year warranty.
Read our full Saatva Latex pillow review.
Best Latex Pillow for Shoulder Pain – Brooklyn Bedding Latex
Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex Pillow
Combo sleepers can enjoy light, buoyant support to ease neck and back pain in every position!
4.70 / 5Read Full Review
Brooklyn Bedding’s Talalay Latex Pillow is our favorite latex pillow because of its versatility. This pillow comes in two lofts, so it accommodates a range of sleepers. Side sleepers and some back sleepers will want a higher loft, and stomach sleepers and other back sleepers will want the lower loft. So those suffering with shoulder pain can choose the best option based on their sleeping position. There’s a lot to love in the quality of materials, too; its latex construction creates support, but it also conforms to the neck and head for a neutral spinal alignment.
Why We Love the Brooklyn Bedding Latex Pillow
- This pillow comes with a machine-washable cover.
- Eco-friendly shoppers should love this pillow, which contains sustainably sourced and hypoallergenic materials.
- Talalay latex foam is naturally breathable, making it a nice choice for hot sleepers, too.
Price: $89–$99, with a three-year warranty and 30-night trial.
Read our full Brooklyn Bedding Latex pillow review.
Best Pillow for Side Sleepers – Layla Kapok Pillow
Layla Kapok Pillow
Constructed with shredded foam and natural fibers from a Kapok tree, this pillow is both plush and dense enough for side sleepers.
4.50 / 5Read Full Review
Side sleepers require a loftier pillow, so their ear is lined up with their shoulders. The Layla Kapok is our favorite pillow for side sleepers because it does such a great job at maintaining this alignment. The mix of kapok fibers and foam result in a high-quality construction with a denser feel. This prevents the pillow from sagging and keeps side sleepers’ heads off the mattress and in alignment.
Why We Love the Layla Kapok Pillow
- Back sleepers should feel comfortable with this pillow, but they might have to take out some of the filling first.
- The Kapok filling gives the pillow a fluffy, down feel without sacrificing support.
- The cover’s CuTEC copper yarn and kapok fill promote cooling.
Price: $109–$129, with a 120-night sleep trial and five-year warranty.
Read our full Layla Kapok pillow review.
Best Memory Foam Pillow – Lagoon Fox Pillow
Lagoon Fox Pillow
This adjustable pillow allows you to add or subtract the fill until you find the right height and firmness level.Read Full Review
Some who have shoulder pain find that a memory foam pillow is just what they need. In addition to providing a comfortable, slow-sinking feeling, the material contours to the head and neck, which encourages spinal alignment. You’ll get all this and more in the Lagoon Fox, an adjustable pillow with shredded memory foam filling and a medium firmness.
Why We Love the Lagoon Fox Pillow
- You can add or remove the filling until you have a pillow that’s most comfortable for your shoulder pain.
- Since the memory foam is shredded, there’s space for air to flow through the pillow and help you sleep cool.
- When fully stuffed, we found the Lagoon Fox pillow to be a good match for back sleepers and side sleepers.
Price: $120–$140, with a 100-night trial and five-year warranty.
Read our full Lagoon Pillows review, which has info on the Fox and several of the brand’s other pillows.
Best Firm Pillow – TEMPUR-Neck Pillow
The TEMPUR-Neck is a molded memory foam pillow with an ergonomic shape designed to follow the natural curvature of the body.
3.90 / 5Read Full Review
If you want the sinkage of memory foam but want something a little firmer, check out the TEMPUR-Neck pillow. Side sleepers should love the firmer feel of this pillow. The firmer nature helps maintain the pillow’s shape overnight. This, combined with a higher loft keeps the ears in line with the shoulders. Back sleepers should find a lot to love in its ergonomic shape. Stomach sleepers, however, should look for something different; they need a softer feel and lower loft.
Why We Love the TEMPUR-Neck Pillow
- It comes in three sizes: small, medium and large. This allows you to select the loft that matches your needs.
- The cover is hypoallergenic, removable, and machine-washable.
- The proprietary memory foam is molded into a wave-like shape, supporting the body’s natural curve.
Price: $119–$159, with a five-year warranty and free shipping.
Read our full TEMPUR-Neck pillow review.
Best Hypoallergenic Pillow – Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow
Eli & Elm Side-Sleeper Pillow
The Eli & Elm side sleeper pillow is one of the best pillows for side sleepers. It’s constructed in a unique u-shape to support side sleepers’ heads and necks and reduce shoulder pain.
4.30 / 5Read Full Review
If you’re already dealing with shoulder pain, you’re not going to want to deal with allergies on top of it. You’re unlikely to experience either with the Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow. It has a unique U-shape that helps prevent shoulder pain, and its materials are hypoallergenic.
Why We Love the Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow
- The U-shape cradles the neck and shoulders, offering a lot of pressure relief to folks who experience shoulder pain.
- The pillow is antimicrobial, mildew-proof, and dust mite-resistant, so it’s unlikely to aggravate anyone’s allergies.
- Per its name, its shape is a great match for side sleepers, although it should also be comfortable for back sleepers.
Price: $125–$145, with a 45-day return policy.
Read our full Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow review.
Best Pillow for Combination Sleepers – Brooklinen Marlow Pillow
Brooklinen Marlow Pillow
The Marlow pillow from Brooklinen is filled with shredded foam and polyester fiber fill and uses a zippered design to offer an adjustable feel.
4.20 / 5Read Full Review
One of the finest pillows for shoulder pain is the Brooklinen Marlow pillow. Its memory foam is gel-infused for maximum cooling, and its polyester fiber provides support. This also makes the pillow a fantastic choice for combination sleepers. Because combo sleepers switch positions throughout the night, they may need to try out several different pillow heights and firmnesses to see what works best for them. Additionally, this pillow is adjustable, with zippers on the sides which can be zipped or unzipped to alter the firmness. The adjustability allows sleepers to choose their own comfort level.
Why We Love the Brooklinen Marlow Pillow
- It’s hypoallergenic and 100 percent vegan.
- There’s an 80/20 ratio of memory foam and polyester fiber, giving a balance of comfort and support.
- The Brooklinen Marlow pillow comes at a value price.
Price: $65–$85, with a 365-night sleep trial.
Read our full Brooklinen Marlow Pillow review.
Best Value Pillow – Helix Adjustable Pillow
Helix Adjustable Pillow
The Helix Adjustable Pillow is made with a removable support insert layer so you can adjust the height of the pillow and find your most comfortable loft.
4.30 / 5
It’s difficult to find a pillow with high-quality materials at a reasonable price point. This task becomes even more difficult when factoring in a product that helps with shoulder pain. Look no further than the Helix Adjustable pillow. It’s made of a gel microfiber fill that’s customizable, so it should work for most sleeping positions. We recommend its removable insert for side or back sleepers looking for a higher loft. This customizability and emphasis on supportive material makes this a great option for shoulder pain.
Why We Love the Helix Adjustable Pillow
- The proprietary gel fiber on the cover should feel comfy as soon as you lay your head down.
- The outside pillow is 100 percent machine-washable.
- The breathable cotton cover and gel microfiber fill means you shouldn’t sleep hot on this pillow.
Price: $85–$99, with a 100-night sleep trial and limited one-year warranty.
Our full Helix Adjustable pillow review is coming soon!
About Shoulder Pain
What Makes up the Shoulder?
The National Institute of Health states that the shoulder consists of the clavicle (known as the collarbone), the humerus (known as the upper arm bone), and the scapula (known as the shoulder blade).
What Causes Shoulder Pain?
While shoulder pain can be caused by a bad mattress and worsened with a bad pillow, there are a number of other causes:
- General injury or overexertion
- Pinched nerves
- Rotator cuff tendinitis or injury
- Frozen shoulder (stiffness of muscles/tendons/ligaments)
Can a Bad Pillow Cause Shoulder Pain?
It’s crucial to find the proper pillow for your shoulder pain. More shoulder pain can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. Consequently, worse sleep can lead to increased shoulder pain. That’s why improving your sleep quality is paramount.
How to Choose the Best Pillow Material for Shoulder Pain
Latex is one of the best materials for shoulder pain because it provides lots of durability. Pillows utilizing latex should be able to maintain their shape. Those with shoulder pain should rest easy knowing they’ll receive the same amount of support throughout the night. Still, latex provides some light contouring. This material works great for those in search of a firmer feel, such as side sleepers. And because it’s responsive and bouncy, combination sleepers should also feel comfortable changing positions at night. Latex is a naturally cooling material, so hot sleepers should have a restful sleep.
Memory foam offers a unique and slow-sinking feeling that many look for in toppers, mattresses, and (of course) pillows. This material is popular for those in search of pressure relief and contouring. In the case of pillows, the foam molds around the neck and shoulders, cradling those pressure points. For shoulder pain specifically, a pillow with a block of foam rather than shredded foam should better maintain the pillow’s shape and allow for the right support. Foam pillows with the inclusion of polyfoam or latex can add support.
For more information, check out our article: Latex vs Memory Foam.
Down / Down Alternative
The construction of down and down alternative pillows isn’t beneficial to those with shoulder pain. The material doesn’t maintain its shape well overnight, resulting in a lack of support. We suggest sticking with memory foam and latex options.
The Best Sleeping Position for Shoulder Pain
Side sleeping isn’t an ideal sleeping position for those with shoulder pain. When you sleep on your side, you’re putting the most pressure on your hips and, well, shoulders. This can worsen or even cause shoulder pain, especially when paired with a bad mattress.
If you must sleep on your side, make sure you’re sleeping on the side without the pain. Additionally, purchasing a mattress that cradles and supports your body, or investing in a good mattress topper, can help alleviate some of the pressure.
Remember to select the best mattress for side-sleeping, and a pillow ideal for shoulder pain. Side sleepers will want a firmer pillow for additional support, as well as a higher loft to keep the ears in line with the shoulders.
Back-sleeping is the ideal sleeping position for those with shoulder pain. It allows for a more even weight distribution across the mattress, so it puts the least amount of stress on the shoulders.
Back sleepers should remember that the best pillow is going to keep their chin and their breastbone lined up. Ergonomic pillows can further support spinal alignment.
For additional comfort, try to sleep with your arms in a downward position, and not above your head. This alleviates some unneeded tension from the shoulders.
Stomach-sleeping isn’t recommended for shoulder pain. Often, stomach sleepers rest their arms above their heads or beneath their pillows, putting unnecessary strain on the shoulders.
If you must stomach sleep, it’s recommended you find a pillow under three inches tall. The lower loft keeps the head in a neutral position, aligning it with the rest of the body. Stomach sleepers can also go pillowless if it’s best for their comfort.
Other Pillow Positions
Sleep with an Arm Propped on a Pillow (Back Sleepers)
For back-sleeping in particular, elevating your arm can relieve pressure from an injured or uncomfortable shoulder.
Put a Small Pillow or Rolled Hand Towel Between Your Shoulder Blades
This can be great for both shoulders at once. Placing a pillow or towel under the pained shoulder while back-sleeping can provide some extra support.
Buying a Pillow for Shoulder Pain
Sleep Trial and Warranty
When buying a pillow for pain relief, you’ll want to ensure the company offers good sleep trials and warranties. This allows you more time to determine if the pillow chosen is the best for your specific type of pain.
Sleep trials are set periods of time where customers can test out a product. If you purchase a pillow with a 120-night sleep trial, it means you have 120 nights to sleep on the pillow and determine if it’s a good fit. During this time, you can return the product risk-free if you decide it’s not for you.
Warranties, like sleep trials, vary from company to company. That’s why it’s so important to stay updated on company policies. Warranties cover pillows that are broken, damaged, or faulty as a result of manufacturing. That way, you don’t have to worry about paying for a pillow that has a defect.
The more expensive price point is not surprising for good pillows for shoulder pain. After all, it’s important these products have quality, durable materials to resist sagging and early wear. Such pillows should cost sleepers about $100.
Best Time to Buy a Pillow
Like mattresses, the best time to buy a pillow is probably going to be during holiday sales. Some of the biggest price slashes occur during President’s Day (February), Memorial Day (May), Labor Day (September), Thanksgiving / Black Friday (November), and Christmas (December).
Coupons and Deals
At Sleepopolis, we have a Coupons & Promo Codes page for budget-conscious shoppers.
How to Care for Your Pillow
When to Replace Your Pillow
It’s recommended that you replace your pillow every two years. If you have shoulder pain, you might need to replace your pillow sooner. This is especially true if there are noticeable signs of wear. Some examples include if the pillow yellows (presence of allergens), if it’s sagging or has lumps, or if the pillow doesn’t spring back into shape after folding in half. Of course, if you’re feeling pain or discomfort in the night, this is another sign you might need to replace your pillow.
How to Clean Your Pillow
Before cleaning your pillow, we recommend checking the product’s tag, consulting the manufacturer, or looking on the company website. Different companies use different materials, so there’s no one-size-fits-all cleaning process.
It’s best to wash your whole pillow biannually or quarterly. Before machine-washing, we recommend dusting or vacuuming your pillow to remove any dust or larger dirt particles. Using mild detergent, you should be able to wash your pillow with a machine. Some pillows are machine-wash safe (most down, down alternative, and polyester pillows) and others are not (those using primarily latex, memory foam, buckwheat). Pillows that aren’t machine-wash safe can be spot-cleaned with a towel and mild detergent.
Most pillows can go in the dryer for an hour on moderate heat. Down, feather, and down alternative pillows can be dried with a “air dry” or “air fluff” cycle. Pro tip: to help your pillows get extra fluff, throw a few tennis balls in the dryer.
Other Ways to Alleviate Shoulder Pain
Purchase a New Mattress
That’s right, sometimes the culprit is the mattress. If you’re sleeping on a mattress that sags or fails to provide adequate comfort and support, it’s time to buy a new one. For more, check out our roundup for the best mattress for shoulder pain.
Invest in a Topper
If purchasing a new mattress isn’t in the cards at the moment, try a mattress topper. It can change the feel of a mattress to get softer or firmer. This provides a bit more pressure relief or support, depending on your pain needs. Check out our roundup for the best mattress toppers for more info.
Switch to Back-Sleeping
Back sleeping is by far the best sleeping position for those experiencing shoulder pain. It puts the least amount of pressure on the shoulders. If you can, we recommend switching to this sleeping position. To get you started on your switch, check out our roundup of the best pillows for back sleeping or the best mattresses for back sleeping.
Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
Lack of sleep and shoulder pain can easily become a vicious cycle. Sleep is crucial for healing the body, but if your shoulder pain is keeping you awake, it only worsens your condition. One of our favorite resources for this is our 30-day plan on how to improve your sleep hygiene.
What type of pillow is best for shoulder pain?
The best pillow for you depends on your preferences and needs. However, if you’re not sure, we recommend you give the Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex Pillow a try. It suits many back, side, and stomach sleepers. Its cooling properties and simple cleaning process make it stand out among the rest.
How do I stop my shoulder from hurting when I sleep on my side?
If you aren’t able to transition to back sleeping, the ideal sleeping position for those with shoulder pain, there are a couple of things you can do to help ease discomfort. Ensure you’re sleeping on the side that’s not giving you pain. Avoid keeping your arm under your pillow while sleeping, and avoid sleeping with your arms above your head. Purchasing a new, lofty pillow or even going so far as to purchase a new mattress can be a real game-changer.
Should shoulders be on a pillow when sleeping?
No, your shoulders shouldn’t be on a pillow when sleeping. Your shoulders should lie just below the pillow. That way, your head and neck can receive proper support.
Why does my shoulder ache at night in bed?
If your shoulder pain worsens in bed, it might be time to purchase a new mattress or pillow. A mattress without the proper support or pressure relief can contribute to shoulder pain. The same goes for a pillow; if your spine is misaligned and if your head is improperly supported, shoulder pain can worsen.