Different types of pillows, moons, and stars

Can The Right Pillow Help Curb Migraines?

My migraines almost always seem to have a cervicogenic source - meaning they are related to issues/pain in my neck (and jaw). As such, I have found that anything that stresses my neck/cervical spine area also will almost inevitably trigger a headache that evolves into a migraine.

One of my common neck triggers

One of these common neck triggers for me is my sleeping position. I'll often notice if my neck was at a weird angle while I slept - or my head was either propped up too high or, conversely, too flat and didn't have the right support beneath it - that I would get a terrible migraine later that day after waking up. Likewise, if I already had a migraine close to bedtime, it would be exacerbated by improper neck support, making it impossible to sleep.

What pillow should I use?

So I have spent a lot of time researching pillow options and have also invested in several types of pillows. Sometimes what works one night may not work another. Sometimes I need more neck support and sometimes less - so I have pillows of different thicknesses and materials.

Does a body pillow work?

Since I also have low back/hip problems and pain, I have a body pillow that I sometimes use. However, while the body pillow usually does help with hip and back pain, I find the way it props my shoulders higher strains my neck (also, the top of the body pillow often isn't enough support for my neck on its own, but I find adding another pillow actually tilts my neck too upright, which also causes pain). So recently, I got an adjustable bed, which is usually more effective than a body pillow.

Do head pillows work?

Getting back to head pillows: I know for some, cervical pillows have helped. But they actually aggravate my pain. I have a memory foam pillow, which sometimes helps and sometimes does not (memory foam can get stiff in cold weather, which is part of the problem).

What does a latex pillow do for me?

My favorite pillow that has helped me the most with neck pain that is the only one that I can sleep with when I have a very bad migraine is a pure latex "low loft" pillow (low loft is less thick/fluffy than "high loft" - and while high loft is usually recommended for back sleepers like me, I find it's too much for my sensitive neck). I like latex because it offers cushiony support like memory foam, but unlike memory foam, has more "give" while also not sinking in and getting stiff the way memory foam can. Latex is also a natural material and so usually not chemical-laden, which is a nice plus too. I find my headaches resolve when I use the latex pillow at night.

What issues do I have with latex pillows?

One drawback of the latex pillow is that even the low loft is a little thick for sleeping at an upright angle. So while it feels great when I am sleeping flat from my shoulders up, I find when I adjust the top part of my bed to be inclined (which sometimes I need because it reduces pressure on my low back and also helps with reflux), the latex pillow no longer works as well. At a slight incline, it still works, but anything more than that, I often have to switch to one of my flatter standard cotton pillows.

How about flat cotton pillows?

Luckily, unless I am already in an active migraine/neck pain flare, I find my neck is comfortable with the flatter cotton pillows on the incline (but not sleeping flat), and this does not trigger neck pain. This is why I always have several pillows in the bed with me to experiment with and switch them up depending on what I may need in a given night (and sometimes even within a single night that needs changes).

Does a travel neck pillow work?

As a final bonus, I also do have one of those travel neck pillows (made of memory foam) that I also sometimes use that is helpful...both when I am reading/typing on an incline, or sometimes even sleeping. But I don't use it often for sleeping, and sometimes it can slip my neck into the wrong position.

Do you have a favorite pillow that you find gives you relief when you have migraines? Or one that ever made it worse? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section below.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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