Posted on November 18, 2016 by Core Products
By Brian Acton
Neck pain can be a complicated condition, with a great variety of potential contributing factors. As a result, there’s no one-size-fits all solution.
Because the way we sleep can be a major contributor to our spinal health, Core Products carries many types of pillows designed to promote proper sleeping posture. That variety can cause some confusion about which pillow may be right for you.
With that in mind, I spent a few months home testing seven of Core Product’s most popular pillows to provide my impressions on their shape, size, material and overall comfort. The goal is to help you choose the pillow most likely to give you a good night’s sleep and help maintain proper sleeping posture. Let’s get started!
Side note: I do experience neck pain, but I can’t accurately predict which pillow is best for your specific neck pain – for that reason I’m providing my own impressions, but not recommendations. Your mileage may vary.
Many support pillows are initially uncomfortable and require time for you to adjust when switching from a traditional pillow.
1. The Econo Wave Cervical Pillow
Overview: The Econo Wave is a foam pillow designed to provide support to your neck and promote proper spinal alignment as you sleep.
Shape/Size: Typical of many Core Products pillows, there are raised sections along the long sides of the pillow (known as “lobes”) to support your neck as you sleep. The center of the pillow sits at a lower altitude than the lobe, creating a valley effect for your head.
Impressions: The first night I tried this pillow, I was very uncomfortable. I felt as if the pillow was too flat to provide any reasonable support to my head or neck. My head also felt too close to the mattress.
The next night, I turned the pillow around. Turns out, each lobe is a different size, and what I needed was the thinner lobe to support my neck. Lesson learned: you may need to test options before you land on the right configuration.
After a few nights of adjusting to this pillow’s configuration, I grew to find the positioning comforting. It begins to provide a lulling sense as you drift to sleep.
The Verdict: This is a good option if you prefer foam pillows. As you expect with foam, the memory is great and bounces right back to its original shape, and contours nicely as you move around. Also typical of foam, it tends to retain heat. It’s great for sleeping on your back, but I found it somewhat lacking in the side-sleeping department. The Econo Wave is also very affordable – one of the more budget-friendly options on the list.
2. Therapeutica Sleeping Pillow
Overview: The Therapeutica Sleeping Pillow is a foam pillow designed by an Ergonomic Designer and Doctor of Chiropractic for back or side sleeping. The goal is a stable, comfortable sleep experience with no neck stiffness or soreness in the morning.
Shape/Size: The Therapeutica is the most uniquely shaped product on this list. It’s smaller than a typical pillow and has a cavity in the middle that cradles your head as you sleep on your back. A lift that resembles a ramp supports your neck as your head lies in the cradle. There are also raised sides for side sleeping.
Impressions: Size is very important. The pillow comes in five different sizes based on your shoulder length – there’s a sizing guide on the product page. The first night I tried this pillow, I used a smaller size and was extremely uncomfortable – so much so that I had difficulty falling and staying asleep.
The next night, I switched to the larger size, and the difference was dramatic. In fact, this pillow immediately felt right for back sleeping. The “ramp” that supports your neck feels natural, and your head’s downward angle is very hypnotic. I fell asleep immediately and, throughout my testing, didn’t feel the need to shift around throughout the night, which I typically do.
However, the raised sides for side sleeping were too high for my comfort.
The Verdict: This is fantastic pillow for back sleeping. The shape is unusual but the pillow is obviously well made. I found it very comfortable and woke up every morning with a full range of motion in my neck. The foam material feels very dense and has a great memory. As I mentioned, size is crucial for this pillow – picking the wrong size could ruin the experience, so pay attention when you order.
I found the side-sleeping experience lacking. I’d stick with this pillow primarily for back sleeping. The largest sizes of the Therapeutica are some of the more expensive options on this list.
3. CPAP Pillow
Overview: The CPAP Side Sleeping Pillow is intended for people who use a CPAP machine for their sleep apnea. The pillow is intended to make side sleeping easier.
This pillow is made for CPAP machine users, but Core Products does list neck pain as one condition it can help. Since it’s an extremely popular product for Core Products customers (and I have used a CPAP machine in the past) I included it for my analysis.
Shape/Size: The CPAP pillow is smaller than a traditional pillow, and has a basic rectangular shape with two side panels extending from each side. It comes in varying heights– from 3” to 5” – to accommodate how much lift you want.
Impressions: I no longer use a CPAP machine, but still have the facemask equipment still, so I was able to accurately test the pillow. I put on my CPAP mask as normal and got into a side sleeping position. The placement of the pillow’s side panels allowed me to sleep on my side with the facemask and tube hanging off, as pictured above.
The “hanging” effect works as advertised. It keeps the facemask from pressing into your face and causing discomfort. The material was a nice transition from a traditional memory foam pillow.
For the pillow to work correctly, you have to be in the correct position. I tend to shift and move around in my sleep, and so end up having to readjust to the right position to maintain the pillow’s desired effect. This could cause frequent sleep interruptions.
The Verdict: The comfort factor and material is nice – this is a well-made product. It’s also great for those who prefer firm pillows. The pillow works as intended – allowing for comfortable side sleeping with a CPAP facemask – but does require frequent readjustment for restless sleepers.
The pillow comes in 3”, 4”, and 5” thickness. That 2” can make a huge difference in your experience, so try and anticipate the right thickness for you. The pillow is also reasonably priced for a specialty product.
4. Double Core Pillow
Overview: The Double Core Pillow is a foam pillow that lets you choose – and adjust on the fly – the level of neck support you need.
Shape/Size: The Double Core is similar to the first pillow on this list, the Econo Wave, in shape, size, and material. It's the size and shape of a traditional pillow, but with two lobes that support the neck. The twist is the interchangeable “core” system: foam cylinders fit into the lobes via a clever latching system. You can swap cores for varying levels of neck support. The pillow comes with four, ranging from gentle to extra-firm support.
Impressions: Of this list, the Double Core Pillow has the most customizable options. The cores allow you to choose your level of neck support, but can also be used as part of a neck support program, in which you move through different configurations and support levels over time as you adjust to the pillow (instructions are included).
I tested each of the four cores to varying degrees of success. I found that I preferred the firmer cores that fully supported my neck. But no matter your preference, you’ll have an option. If you wish to work through the program, which takes you from the softest to firmest core, you can do that as well.
The Verdict: If you want the flexibility to choose your level of neck support on the fly, this is the pillow for you. The system that lets you switch out the core is clever but very easy to use, and the instructions for working through the support program are easy to understand.
Those who prefer soft pillows may have difficulty adjusting to neck support pillows. This pillow lets you gradually adjust. I personally found the firmest level of support the most comfortable. The price is pretty affordable for all the moving parts that are included.
5. Tri-Core Cervical Pillow
Overview: Core Products most popular fiber support pillow, the Tri-Core Cervical Pillow “provides better support and lasts longer than traditional pillows.”
Shape/Size: The Tri-Core pillow comes in a few different sizes and firmness levels (standard or gentle). Two rolls on top and bottom support differently sizes of people, and lobes on the side support side sleeping. A trapezoid-shaped depression in the center is designed to cradle the head as the neck roll supports the neck.
Impressions: This is my favorite pillow on the list. It’s easy to see why it’s Core Products’ most popular pillow. This pillow immediately felt comfortable. The divot in the center of the pillow was perfectly shaped to cradle my head as I slept on my back, which created a very relaxing effect.
The side panels felt a bit odd when trying to sleep on my side, but this is a common issue I had across all pillows.
The Verdict: The Tri-Core is made using top grade virgin polyester fiber, and is designed to stay resilient over long periods of usage. It shows. The most comfortable option on the list, the easiest to adjust to, and the closest to the pillow types I like (thick and supportive). It still provided great neck support and I woke up feeling refreshed after sleeping on this pillow.
6. The D-Core Cervical Support Pillow
Overview: The D-Core Cervical Pillow is similar to the Tri-Core. It’s a fiber pillow the size of a traditional pillow, designed to relieve headaches, neck spasms, arthritis, and snoring.
Shape/Size: The center depression for the head is D-shaped. Bottom lobes support the neck, and raised edges surround each side of the pillow.
Impressions: Much like the Tri-Core, I easily adjusted to the D-Core. It felt like a normal pillow, but left my neck supported and relaxed in the morning. The D-shaped divot creates a soothing effect.
Also like the Tri-Core, I did not find the side panels quite as comfortable for side sleeping. The material is slightly less comfortable (but not dramatically so) than the Tri-Core, especially for someone who appreciates firm pillows.
The Verdict: Another great option that is comfortable, similar to a traditional pillow, and easy to adjust to. This pillow is among the firmest I’ve tested, and feels denser. The price is quite economical and is a great alternative to the Tri-Core.
7. The CervAlign Pillow
Overview: Last on our list is the CervAlign Cervical Pillow, a softer fiber pillow that works as a neck support pillow and also functions as a conventional pillow.
Shape/Size: The Cerv-Align is available in multiple sizes depending on the level of support needed for your neck. Its bottom curve shape is suited for both back and side sleeping, and it’s divot for the head is not as well defined as the Tri-Core or D-Core. The pillow’s sides both have raised sections for side sleeping.
Impressions: This pillow has much more give to it than some of the other foam or fiber options. It’s very breathable and cool, and the material has more of a “downy” effect. This pillow has more give to it, and is definitely a good choice for those who prefer a softer pillow experience.
Even though I prefer firmer pillows, I have to say the lightness of this pillow feels great against the skin. This pillow is my favorite option for side sleeping. The firmer pillows tended to raise my head too high when sleeping on my side. With the CervAlign, I feel comfortable sleeping on my side and my neck is still well supported.
The Verdict: This is a light and breathable neck support pillow best suited for people who like a softer sleeping experience. It’s also the most comfortable pillow I’ve found for sleeping on my side. Though I’d likely choose a firmer pillow, this was pretty comfortable and gave me a decent night’s sleep.