Which pillow to choose in case of cervical osteoarthritis? (Physio opinion)

sleep optimized for cervical osteoarthritis thanks to the memory foam pillow

Cervical spondylosis is one of the conditions that could be responsible for your neck pain, and which could push you to get a suitable pillow.

Indeed, this pathology affects more than 7 million French (mostly people over 50). And when we know that we spend more than 1/3 of our life lying down either 25 years of our life, the question that we did not ask ourselves before " do i need to take care of my neck » no longer arises, it is obvious. Whether by opting for a more suitable pillow or any other method aimed at improving the symptoms.

Let me give you a quick reminder of this pathology, then we'll see how to find a pillow/cushion suitable for cervical osteoarthritis, and how to use it well!

Understanding Cervical Osteoarthritis 

Before you start looking for a pillow to relieve your cervical spondylosis, so here is a little reminder about this pathology in order to better understand what it is…

La cervical spine consists of 7 overlapping bones (called vertebrae), numbered from C1 to C7. Between the vertebrae, there are intervertebral discs to absorb shocks and support movements.

Furthermore, each vertebrate is composed of articular facets called “zygapophyseal joints” which connect 2 vertebrae via their posterior arch. Cartilage lines these joints, allowing movement between the vertebrae and avoiding excessive friction.

What is cervical osteoarthritis?

Cervical osteoarthritis (cervicarthrosis) is therefore a cartilage degeneration at the joints of the cervical vertebrae.

Over time this degeneration mainly affects the lower vertebrae (C4-C5, C5-C6, C6-C7), it sits at the level of the discs, the articular facets as well as at the level of the uncus (lateral hooks of the cervical vertebrae, located between the 3rd and 7th cervical vertebra).

Result ? The patient feels severe pain in the neck, stiffness in the neck, as well as migraines in some cases. If a nerve is affected, paresthesias may appear in the upper limb (like ants in hands). It is therefore important to find treatments, especially while sleeping with a pillow designed specifically to reduce the onset and worsening of symptoms.

To know everything about cervical osteoarthritis, see the following article.

What type of pillow to use in case of cervical osteoarthritis?

Here we go, what type of pillow do I need for my cervical osteoarthritis? How to choose it? What to expect? etc

The firmness

The firmness of a pillow refers to its density (soft or firm) and how deep a sleeper's head will sink into the pillow relative to their height. The firmness of the pillow therefore depends directly on the density of the materials that compose it.

In general, a belly sleeper will prefer a soft or soft pillow while a side sleeper will prefer the firmer pillow. Otherwise you will have to test for yourself.

The sleeping position in case of cervical spondylosis (use)

Is there a sleeping position to prioritize when suffering from cervical osteoarthritis, neck pain, headaches, etc.? Let me share some untold facts with you!

Contrary to popular belief, there is not necessarily a "best" sleeping posture properly said. Similarly, there is no contraindicated posture that would be systematically “bad” for the cervical spine.

On the other hand, there are certain postures that reduce the stress on the cervical vertebrae. In the presence of pain, whether due to cervical osteoarthritis or other, I often recommend that my patients opt for a pillow specially designed for the cervical.

Although there is no "perfect" sleeping position, some of these pillows are not ideal for certain types of sleepers.

  • On the window

Some of these pillows will unfortunately not be more suitable for cervical osteoarthritis than a traditional pillow, or even worse! For the position on the belly it is preferable to opt for a light pillow, with shape memory or not, more "classic" soft, breathable and thin, in order to limit the torticollis, neck stiffness on waking and pain due to osteoarthritis.

If you have no preference, avoid sleeping on your stomach, especially in cases of cervical osteoarthritis. This will also promote good breathing because the position on the stomach compresses the rib cage leaving it less amplitude (the same for the trachea).

  • On the back

If you sleep on your back, a memory foam orthopedic pillow with neck support will be very good for your cervical osteoarthritis. It will keep your neck and cervical aligned during your sleep. Its memory foam will take care to follow the curvature your cervical region to limit pressure on the vertebrae. Its shape also makes it warmer than others and strikes the right balance between firmness and comfort.

  • On the side

A wave-shaped memory foam pillow will be ideal. Because its shape makes it possible to marry the curvature of the neck, thus reducing the overloads on the vertebrae. Its shape allows you to use it on the side without concession for your cervical. It is however necessary to take a cushion which has the right height so that it gives you real benefits. It should keep your cervical spine aligned with the rest of the spine.

These pillows are usually of a different height on each side to accommodate the majority. The disadvantage is that your cervical will be a little less well maintained during sleep than with the pillow for sleeping on your back (supports at the level of the neck).

For use, nothing really complicated, however, make sure that a small adaptation time be necessary for some people in order to be really comfortable or comfortable. If the pillow exacerbates your pain, please consult a healthcare professional.

Other details

For the rest it is mainly a question of personal preference, brands, materials (gel, feathers, latex…), colors, etc.

As for “anatomical”, or even “ergonomic”, or “approved” pillows, these are generally the same principles and it is often more about marketing than pillows with specific benefits.


Pillows designed for the cervical spine have many benefits for cervical osteoarthritis, they are just as useful when you suffer from neck pain, headaches, repeated torticollis, and morning aches.

Used properly, these pillows can improve the symptoms of cervical osteoarthritis and optimize our sleep, and thus improve our quality of life and our mood.

Good night, and good recovery!

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