National Migraine Centre
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Best pillow position for severe neck pain resulting in migraines?

I've got bad tension and severe neck pain post meningitis. Can't get comfortable at night, have woken up in early hours with a completely numb head and shooting pains down my neck. Dr has prescribed beta blockers and massage voltarol gel. But I just can't seem to get my sleeping position right. I'm a side sleeper and normally have one or two soft pillows angled anround my neck with my arm underneath plus a pillow between my legs.

4 Replies

I chucked out all but one pillow a long time ago and found it helped. But I just can't get to sleep without lying on my stomach for a little while first - which is very bad for my neck, but it helps me relax! Then I can lie on my back and drift off. Unfortunately, I keep waking up on my side and this has really messed up my shoulders and neck again.

I am on beta blockers at the moment too - atenolol 100mg. So far, not that helpful. Am struggling to get up in the mornings. The only advantage is that I fall asleep quite fast. Am hoping a couple more weeks will see things settle down.

Physiotherapy has helped with my neck problems.

Good luck.

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In addition to severe migraines (15+ per month) I have herniated discs & bone spurs in my neck & occipital neuralgia. I have been through a stupid amount of pillows trying to find something that I can lay my head and neck on. I now use a Homedics Squish brand neck pillow that is filled with these foam beads. It's soft, yet molds to my head and neck, and supports everything just right without putting pressure on any tender area. I love the neck pillow version so that I can turn my head and rest my cheek to one side or the other. Under that I have a regular pillows that my shoulders are on, mainly. Good luck, I know it is hell until you find something that works for you.


Like tea-drinker I tend to stick with just one pillow - though I also suffer from sinus related pains and when I feel those coming on I tend to sleep more upright as it helps stop the sinus headache ... probably means the mucus drains a bit rather than collecting.

My mother has problems with degeneration in her neck and I know she uses a sort of neck brace - it's a foam thing not one of those hard collars - whilst she is sleeping ... have noticed some signs myself with my right arm 'going to sleep' whilst the rest of me is sleeping but seem to be able to correct the position - usually by going on to my back for a while - been dealing with carpel tunnel for years by changing position of wrists and only occasionally need to resort to a brace for that.

May be some sort of brace like that might help you - I think mum's was recommended by her doctor - she's also a diabetic so not sure which doctor and what clinic that might have been - she's used it for years.

Another thing I've found useful in dealing with posture related headaches is Alexander technique - which is all about realigning muscles - and doing a little in the day used to help me - may be worth having a look into that as well.

Another suggestion would be looking at your mattress and whether it really is the right one for you as that might be something, rather than just the pillows, that is causing you to get into awkward positions.

Good luck with finding something that works


My headaches came on mainly from improper neck and head alignment when sleeping. I tried a buckwheat pillow and it worked very well to support my head the whole night. I even make and sell them myself now, at


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