The City Mattress Blog


Orthopedic Pillows: What are They and Who Needs One?


Woman in pink & grey plaid sleepwear sleeps on orthopedic pillow

“Orthopedic” is a term that means a product which supports joints, bones, and your body overall. It is commonly used to talk about mattresses that help with spinal alignment and recovery from joint or back issues. If you regularly have back pain or wake up with other aches, you may be told by your doctor, chiropractor, or other medical professional to look into an orthopedic mattress. Mattresses aren’t the only thing that can be orthopedic, though. You find relief with an orthopedic pillow too!

What is an Orthopedic Pillow?

The simple definition is that an orthopedic pillow is a pillow designed to correct a person’s body positioning as they are lying in bed. Its design conforms to orthopedic guidelines to ensure the right placement and support of one or more specific parts of the body to provide safe and healthy rest to the sleeper. Essentially, what this means is that they are used to naturally correct your posture and spinal alignment while you sleep. Unnatural bends and twists in your neck and back can cause muscle strains and put pressure on nerves and discs. Your spine is best off when it’s straight. An orthopedic pillow reduces pressure on your spine and neck, meaning your body can get the rest it needs to truly repair and rejuvenate.

Your 4 Main Options When it Comes to an Orthopedic Pillow

As you can tell from the explanation above, what constitutes an orthopedic pillow is a pretty broad range. An orthopedic pillow is any pillow designed to keep your head, neck, shoulders, and spine aligned all night long. This means there’s several different kinds of orthopedic pillows. The most common include these:

Contour pillow

If you already have a memory foam mattress that you adore sleeping on, you’ll probably love a contour pillow just as much. Your pillow’s job is to support your head and neck. It, ideally, keeps your body in what’s called a neutral sleeping position. Contour pillows do this exceptionally well. One popular option is the Malouf Shoulder Gel Dough + Z Pillow. Gel-infused Dough memory foam cradles the head and neck to relieve pressure, while a layer of liquid Z™ Gel captures and distributes heat for a comfortable sleep temperature.

Lumbar pillow

Your lumbar region is the medical term for your lower back. The lumbar region is generally the five vertebrae in the lower spine. “Lumbar support” can refer to anything that provides extra support to this lumbar region. You can get a lumbar support pillow that is great for the couch, car, work chair, and even bed! We recommend the Soft-Tex Conforming Memory Foam Lumbar Support Pillow. If you’re looking for a great lumbar support pillow, this is it!

Body pillow

Remember, any pillow that keeps your spinal alignment in neutral is an orthopedic pillow. The ergonomic, u-shaped Malouf Horseshoe Body Pillow is designed to relieve sleep discomfort. The wrap-around shape cradles both sides of your body to offer support without you needing extra pillows

Neck pillow

What about if you’re sleeping sitting up, like in a plane, train, or car? You’ll need a travel orthopedic neck pillow! If you fall asleep sitting up without a supportive pillow, you’ll regret it as soon as you wake up. Neck pain, sore shoulders, and an achy back are going to ruin your trip before it even begins! A travel orthopedic neck pillow, on the other hand, supports your neck, shoulders, head, and spine in the correct position no matter what position you fall asleep in.

The Best Orthopedic Pillow Based on Sleep Positions

Exactly which pillow type is right for you is a personal preference, but it’s also very dependent on how you sleep. Everyone has a sleep position they prefer, which means their head, neck, and spine stay in the same position all night, every night. We recommend shopping for a new pillow based on which position you find most comfortable.

Side sleeping

Side sleeping is typically recommended by those in the medical profession because it puts the least strain on your back. We carry pillows made specifically for side sleepers from brands you already know and trust, like Tempur-Pedic. Sleep and Beyond’s myDual® Natural Wool Side Sleeper Pillow not only has an adjustable loft, so you choose how thick or thin it is, it also has a special spot cut out for your shoulder. Thoughtfully created to include this ergonomic contour, this hypoallergenic pillow flawlessly supports your neck, shoulders, and spine.

Back sleeping

Those who sleep on their back should be looking for a supportive pillow that will hold their head and neck in place. If this is your preferred sleeping position, you will do best on an orthopedic pillow between three and five inches thick. This way, you will maintain spinal alignment. Medium is the ideal option to support you in your preferred sleeping position. Many doctors recommend you also get an orthopedic knee pillow. Doing so will keep your legs slightly elevated and your spine in the right position. Sleeping on your back without an orthopedic leg pillow can put too much pressure on your spine.

Stomach sleeping

If you like to sleep on your stomach, your neck spends all night twisted to the side. That makes it really important to find an orthopedic pillow you like. Stomach sleepers need a thin, yet supportive pillow. The Malouf Gel Microfiber + Gel Dough pillow adds the comfort and support of memory foam to the plushness of gel-coated fibers. You may instead prefer the fluffy, softness of the Down Décor LanaDown Pillow.

Who Should Get an Orthopedic Pillow?

An orthopedic neck pillow provides the comfort and support needed by those suffering from neck aches and pains, as well as joint problems. This additional support helps improve your posture while you sleep, reducing the odds of any type of pain waking you up throughout the night and aches being present in the morning. While orthopedic pillows are often recommended by medical professionals to those who have chronic neck pain, it’s hard to think of someone who would not benefit from cradling comfort and support. 

We have many pillows at City Mattress that will support your head, neck, and spinal alignment while you sleep. When your body is in the proper position all night long, held in the right posture by a great orthopedic pillow, you will wake up free of the aches and soreness that has plagued you in the past.