Pillow Talk

For many, tightness in the neck can be the first sign that a migraine attack is coming; for others, sore muscles in the neck and shoulders can be a trigger. In an ideal world, we spend 7-9 hours a night in bed sleeping. Given all of these factors, pillows can have an enormous impact on the lives of people with migraines.

 

There are hundreds of different styles of pillows out there and finding the one that suits you can be a difficult and important process. Please share what type of pillow you use in the comment section below so we can learn from you.

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.

Comments

View Comments (27)
  • texaseve
    4 weeks ago

    I found Mr. Pillow is good sometimes and other times I prefer a pillow I found at a hotel and ordered online. I have a lot of issues with my neck and degenerative disease with arthritis. I get cortisone and radio frequency which helps tone down the headaches a bit. For temporary relief of a bad one my neurologist gives me a occipital block.
    I have a pillow graveyard also and travel with a round neck support and travel size Mr. Pillow.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    4 weeks ago

    Thanks for your ideas. I’ve never heard of radio frequency? What is that? Also, love the term, “pillow graveyard”- so apt.

    Glad you’re a part of our community! Stay in touch.

  • drdebby
    1 year ago

    For me, a pillow that does not press too much on the back of my head, or too much on my neck is preferable to a pillow that is so firm it gives a lot of pushback. I sleep on my back and found a super-cheap pillow, about $3.00 at Wal-Mart that surprised me by providing just the right support without hurting the occipital or trigeminal nerves. It was big and fat. That’s all I recall, and I have had luck with down and with fake down. A dogbone pillow has been helpful, but now is too firm. A major help is having a small pillow on the left side of my head while I am getting just enough support from the pillow supporting my head while I am on my back. It prevents neck strain when I tend to tilt too far to the left without it.

  • violetflower
    1 year ago

    My

  • GetAChicken
    1 year ago

    A soft squishy (down-filled) pillow is best for me! Memory-foam type I’ve found to be too hard and rigid.

  • byqe41
    1 year ago

    I go on the principle that nerves will be less irritated if the head is in alignment with the spine. I’m a side sleeper, so I have one of those pillows shaped like a wave, but a very low profile one because I’m small. I sleep with the wave under my neck and my head in the hollow. I have no idea if this is helping or hurting, but it feels good!!

  • gingercat
    1 year ago

    Hi Holly – any ideas on where to look to further investigate my question about WHY shoulder and neck muscles tighten at the onset of a migraine? Must have something to do with vascular activity and the brain – but what, exactly? Anyone have any clues? Thanks.

  • Joanna Bodner moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi there gingercat,
    That is a good question! We have quite a few resources on neck pain and migraine and one of the articles that our contributor shares makes mention of “more trigger points in the neck, more tenderness in neck muscles and less range of motion than those without migraine.” You can read the full article here. Here are a few additional resources too although none fully provide a solid answer for as to why!
    https://migraine.com/blog/migraine-symptoms-neck-pain/
    https://migraine.com/migraine-symptoms/neck-pain/

    Thanks for the comment and for the question!
    -Joanna (Migraine.com Team)

  • drdebby
    1 year ago

    Posture is very important for me. If I lean into the computer while I am typing I can just about guarantee a migraine. Ideally, I sit in an office chair with neck support, tilt it back a few degrees, and prop my feet up, sometimes on the side of my bed. I can type a long time in that position without straining my neck. Key is remembering to pull back my shoulders and to be aware of not leaning forward. Sometimes, if I have a lot of typing to do, I can use a heated wrap on my neck and that offers some comfort. It can really help to heal an irritated neck that is causing a migraine.

  • gingercat
    1 year ago

    I’ve tried all sorts of pillows and soft down seems to work best for me. The crucial thing is just having a good, deep, sleep. But what I really want to know is why the neck (and especially for me) upper back/shoulder muscle tightening occurs. I don’t think it has anything to do with pillows or even posture or a bunch of other things that I’ve investigated over the years. I have very specific spots (trigger points?) that get so, so sore. Plus it’s always a toss-up whether the muscle tightening triggers the migraine or if the migraine triggers the muscle tightening. Anyone else out there have a similar experience?

  • Heidi17
    1 year ago

    I use a soft down pillow and roll a face towel about 2 1/2 inches, place the face towel where it will fit comfortably under my neck.

    I had a petite size memory foam neck pillow (left in a hotel) and have never been able to find one with a low enough neck to head ratio.

    Also every night before bed I roll my neck out for about 10 minutes on a 4 inch roller recommended by my PT. I actually went 10 days without a migraine, amazing since I am chronic.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi Heidi17- Thank you for sharing some of your solutions and approaches. I like the sound of rolling out the neck before bed. This sounds very therapeutic and exactly like something my neck is begging for at the end of each day. I’ll have to see if I can find the kind of roller you are referencing. So sorry to hear about you losing what was a favorite pillow! I know what you mean when you speak about the perfect head/neck ratio. Very hard to find. Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • BevThompson
    1 year ago

    Has anyone tried a nerve block in the area of pain such as Novocain?

  • MidrinMan
    1 year ago

    Tempur-pedic from a bed store. FIRM. 3″ on one end. 6″ on the other end. Divet in the middle of the 6″ end. Put head and neck in divet. Store wanted to take money and “order” pillow. I said screw that. Gimme the pillow or lose the sale. They sold me the pillow. It’s that good. I think I paid over $200 for it. That was about three years back. Pillow is still just as firm and perfect as the day I bought it. Quality.

    I have scalene, trapezius and shoulder issues. This pillow “locks in” my neck and head into place and reduces those pain issues. The other pain issues are for another forum.

    Getting old sucks.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi BevThompson- Absolutely. I have had nerve blocks to address an intractable severe migraine attack and/or in concert with steroid and/or botox injections. My Migraine specialist uses a numbing agent, I believe novocaine derivative (not sure the name), to inject into my occipital area, and into my scalp. The purpose (and outcome) is to temporarily numb the area. Even though it is an injection, the sensation is a topical one. In other words, it doesn’t take care of the other symptoms of migraine (nausea, light sensitivity, etc). It simply numbs the skin and what feels like the first layer of muscles. And it only lasts a couple of hours (if I’m remembering correctly). That said, I’ve found it greatly relieving and effective in that at that juncture I’m desperate for any window of relief, even if it’s temporary. AND sometimes when in concert with steroid injections, it has done the trick to stop an intractable migraine attack in its tracks. Hope that helps and please let me know if you have any other questions about this. Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • banglada
    1 year ago

    Yes a pillow is very important. I use to get a contour pillow from Walgreens years back. They were made out of regular foam and where inexpensive. I also use to use a bone pillow. Then memory foam became popular and Walgreens no longer carried the regular foam pillows. I tried a few memory foam contour pillows, but they never worked for me. The foam needs to keep its shape for me. I was desperate for the regular foam contour pillow and searched everywhere. I finally found one on ebay, and it worked great. Then it wore out. And my search started again and I found Double Core Pillow on Amazon. It also works great, granted it isn’t inexpensive but I rather pay the price with money than neck pain. I also have a problem of one of my cats stealing my pillow. I know cats don’t like citrus, so I got essential oil of tangerine and put a few dabs on my pillow. Mr. Cornelius has not stolen my pillow since.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Mr. Cornelius? What a great cat name! Thanks for chiming in, banglada. Isn’t it always the way that we find a product we love and the company stops making it? This happens to me way too often. I’m glad you were able to find a comparable pillow to your Walgreens fave at Amazon. Thanks for providing the name for others who might be interested in pursuing it for themselves. My cat also likes to sleep next to my head/face. I’m intrigued with your essential oil idea though I’d have to make sure that scent didn’t trigger a migraine for me. Thanks for sharing your solutions! Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • H
    1 year ago

    I can definitely get migraines from using the wrong kind of pillow. My favorite pillow is actually the “My Pillow.” I like the medium classic version and I have several of them. I have found the key to using the my pillows is to fluff them up in the dryer often so they always stay fluffy. That is what I love about the my pillows. I love that you can wash them and dry them and you can fluff them up if they start to get a little bit too squished down.I must love them because I think I have bought 13 of them! I have given four as gifts and I think I have nine in my house right now of different sizes and levels of firmness until I found the one that I love!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi H! I’m glad you mentioned this kind of pillow. When we posted this article on facebook, many of our community members mentioned that they use this type of pillow and have had great success with it. Still others said that once they washed it, the foam pieces on the inside changed consistency. It’s good to hear that you have had such a solid experience with this type of design. I’ve been tempted to give them a try but when I’ve seen them in the store, I worried they felt a bit soft. Then again, I’m accustomed to these very stiff temperpedic pillows that are nearly hard as rocks. To each his/her own- the most important thing is for us all to find something that provides comfort and relief in the face of the extreme pain of Migraine. Thank you for sharing what works for you- I’m sure it will help guide others. Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • vostie
    1 year ago

    The right pillow really makes a difference for me too. I have tried to switch several times from my tried and true old pillow but cannot. It has loose foam inside which has really broken down over the years. This allows me to really sculpt it into the right shape with support under my neck and a sunken space for my head. I also travel with it most of the time. If I end up at a hotel without my pillow, I roll up a soft towel or a few washcloths or use a small pillow from the sitting area to support my neck as most hotel pillows are too high and place my neck out of alignment with my spine. I have tried a special neck tempurpedic pillow but it raised my head up too far and dod not properly support my neck…so the old pillow (encased in a good quality dust mite cover) will continue to be my favorite.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi vostie! Thanks for sharing your story- and you are not alone in holding onto “the perfect pillow” once you have found it because it can be so hard to find. Like you, my sister sleeps with the same pillow that she has used for years because she simply can’t find anything better. The way it perfectly molds to your head and neck is the perfect description of the kind of pillow for which we all are searching. I hope it stays in good shape for you forever! Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team)

  • Silversun
    1 year ago

    My migraines emanate from my neck in a vascular fashion on the left side. I was originally misdiagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and I was eventually referred to a neurologist. But on to the pillow talk.
    I slept on a Tempurpedic mattress for several years, but I simply could not adjust to the Tempurpedic pillow at all. I usually sleep with two medium firm artificial down pillows, one against the head board and the other under my head. Even so, I must have a fist strategically placed under the pillow to support my head just so while lying on my left side (the side the migraine pain creeps up my neck from). I usually take my own pillows while travelling, because it can be a real crapshoot in hotels and even as a guest at relatives. I realize this reply has been more about my personal aspects rather than about pillows in general, but I hope it provides some info. Peace and harmony.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi Silversun- Thanks so much for sharing your insights. Your story shows the importance of pillows when it comes to migraine and related pain. It really is a personal journey and there is obviously no one-size-fits-all when it comes to pillows. Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • Still Smiling
    1 year ago

    I frequently have neck pain, and I’m already aware of the connection between a sore neck and a migraine, but I never considered my pillow to be a cause/trigger! :O Now, I’m looking into a new one…

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi Still Smiling! There was a lot of talk on our facebook page in response to this article. If you want to check out some ideas about different types of pillows to start with, you might want to look there. Please let us know if you find something that works for you. Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team)

  • mferrer
    1 year ago

    Yes_matter_a_great_deal.-I_got_mine_from_the_Number_Store.They_let_you_test_them_out.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Great tip, mferrer- Thanks so much! Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team)

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