What Is An Orthopaedic Pillow?

03 August 2022 | 11 Minute Read - Words By Sally
Care For Your Body By Finding Out What An Orthopaedic Pillow is, and If You Need One.

Table of Contents

  1. What Is an Orthopaedic Pillow?
  2. The Benefits of Using an Orthopaedic Pillow
  3. Types of Orthopaedic Pillows
  4. Buyer's Guide: Choosing The Best Orthopaedic Pillow
  5. Get The Sleep You Deserve With Belledorm
  6. FAQs
  7. Final Thoughts

Considering we spend around one-third of our lives in bed, it's important that we are fully supported and comfortable throughout the night.

But, without the correct bedding, getting a good night's sleep can be troublesome, and with the added discomfort of aches and pains, it can prove impossible, at times.

Many people overlook the fact that the correct pillow is just as important as a mattress and duvet - if not more so! Your pillow is responsible for providing support and protection for seven bones in the neck, all of which help hold your head up. If your pillow lacks adequate support and becomes limp and lifeless, the neck can become strained and sore.

If you suffer from pain and discomfort or have certain medical conditions, an orthopaedic pillow could be the perfect addition to your bedroom. They provide massive benefits and come in a wide range of designs for various parts of your body.

And, even if you don't suffer from pain, they can still provide you with a luxurious sleep that you didn't know was possible. Yes, really!

In this article, we will talk through exactly what an orthopaedic pillow is, the fantastic advantages of sleeping with one, the different shapes and sizes, and what you need to consider before making a purchase.


What Is an Orthopaedic Pillow?

An orthopaedic pillow is a pillow that has been specially designed to provide the very best comfort and support to particular parts of the body. Most often, these areas are the head, neck, back and knees, but there are certain types of orthopaedic pillows that can be used in more than one area or the entire body simultaneously.

While normal pillows tend to come in one fixed rectangular shape, orthopaedic pillows have a wide range of shapes and designs. They are specially designed, in fact, so that they can help a wide range of ailments and conditions; no other pillow will be able to provide a similar level of support.

It's not all about medical conditions however, anyone who wants to improve their quality of sleep can opt for an orthopaedic pillow, thanks to the support they provide. This alone can cause you to sleep much more sound with less waking up in the night - plus, much less tossing and turning.

Many orthopaedic pillows (which are also known as therapeutic pillows due to the number of benefits they have) are made from memory foam. Memory foam is a heat-sensitive material that will perfectly mould into your body shape. When it's not being used, it will return to its original shape.

While many orthopaedic pillows are made from memory foam, not all are, but they are some of the most popular options readily available on today's market.

Now you know what exactly an orthopaedic pillow is, let's delve further into the incredible benefits they provide.

The Benefits of Using an Orthopaedic Pillow

If you are considering an orthopaedic pillow but are not quite sure as to the benefits of sleeping with one, we've outlined just some of the amazing advantages of using them below.

Reduces neck pain

Neck pain is a common complaint amongst many of us, and a lot of the time, it has to do with the type of pillow you use. Normal pillows have the habit of becoming limp and flat; thus, they aren't able to give you the full support your neck needs, leading to both neck and shoulder pain.

An orthopaedic pillow, however, adjusts to the shape of your neck and shoulders, allowing you a peaceful night's sleep. So, when you wake up, there'll be no pain.

Improves breathing

While these pillows can help anyone breathe better while they sleep, an orthopaedic pillow is particularly useful for those who suffer from sleep apnea. Anyone who suffers from or knows someone who suffers from this debilitating condition will know just how difficult it can be to get a peaceful night's sleep.

Thankfully, these pillows can align your body for a better sleeping position. They cradle your neck, keeping your head in a natural position, so you won't be as prone to snoring and unknowingly waking yourself up constantly throughout the night.

Seamlessly adjusts to your body shape

Regardless of what position you find it favourable to sleep in, there's a pillow that will allow you to maintain this position while getting a better night's slumber than ever. As we briefly mentioned earlier, these pillows will adjust and align to the natural curvature of whichever part of your body you are using it on, whether it be your head, knees or even your full body.

Enhancing this natural alignment is important in giving maximum support while providing complete comfort at the same time. Many of these pillows can help in maintaining or encouraging a straight spine, which will lead to less stiffness in your back almost immediately.

Allows for a full night's sleep

Is there anything worse than tossing and turning at night because you can't get comfortable? Interrupted sleep can not only leave you feeling less productive the next day but it has also been linked to stress and anxiety as well as playing havoc with your immune system.

With an orthopaedic pillow, whether a memory foam pillow, knee pillow, cervical pillow, or any other you decide to use, you can be sure you'll be getting a much better night's rest than you might be otherwise used to.

Not only do they provide excellent relief for stiff and painful joints, but they also help to keep motion disruption to a minimum, meaning you are much less likely to be rolling around trying to find the comfiest sleeping position.

Minimises dust mites

Dust mites are, unfortunately, all too common in UK beds. But with orthopaedic pillows, these pesky little things can't survive, making your bed much more hygienic.

You might think dust mites are not only inevitable but largely harmless. Sadly, you'd be wrong. They can lead to a runny nose and skin complaints. And, if you are prone to allergies or asthma, they can make life that bit harder too.

Maintain posture

If your posture is a little off, whether it's from being coupled up at your desk in the office all day or hunching over while watching TV, an orthopaedic pillow can encourage your posture to realign as you sleep. This means fewer back aches and niggling pains when you jump out of bed in the morning. Good posture, after all, is vital for your health.

Comfort to the max

An orthopaedic pillow can provide unparalleled comfort, helping you feel safe and secure as your body or joints are hugged and supported, freeing you of those uncomfortable aches and pains.

It's not just pain, though; these pillows can actually help you to fall asleep faster due to how they support you - and they can also prevent a lot of heat build-up at night, so if you sleep warm, these pillows could also be an excellent option for you.


Types of Orthopaedic Pillows

There's a lot of choice on the market when it comes to these pillows, but fear not: we've provided a handy guide below for each of the main types and how you can use them to get the sleep of your dreams!

Cervical pillow

A cervical pillow, also known as a contour pillow, is one of the most popular choices of orthopaedic pillows. It has a curved design that makes it especially adaptable to the contours and curves of the head, neck, spine and back when you sleep.

A contour pillow is an excellent choice for a wide range of ailments and health difficulties including snoring, sleep apnea, neck pain, back pain and much more.

One of the main draws of these types of pillows is that they provide ergonomic support regardless of your sleeping position, making them ideal for back, side and stomach sleepers too. They also allow for safe weight distribution which can bring relief to different parts of the body.

Neck Pillow

Neck pillows, sometimes more commonly known as travel pillows, are most often used during long bus and plane journeys. Shaped similar to a horseshoe, the pillow is specially designed to curl around the neck, keeping the head supported while allowing for a certain amount of movement while seated.

A neck pillow is perfect for travel, or for those who have mobility issues. When the head rests against the back of a chair, it does not receive the proper support which so often leads to preventable pain and stiffness. These, however, provide fantastic neck support.

The great thing about neck pillows is their price; they are some of the cheapest orthopedically designed pillows on the market. And, if you are using one on the move, you won't look out of place because so many people use them to feel the truly impressive benefits they can provide to your neck and head.

These pillows should be able to fit around the back of the neck and conform to the shape of your body as well as your seated position. It will allow you to keep your head and neck straighter than you otherwise would if you were resting against the back of a chair. The pillows also subtly improve your spinal position, therefore, creating a much more beneficial posture.

It's important to note that sometimes this type of neck pillow will be called a cervical pillow; however this term is incorrect. As we explained a little earlier, although they have a similar shape, a cervical-type pillow is used for lying down. A neck pillow, however, will only be used when in a seated position.


Body Pillow

A body pillow, like the name suggests, gives support to the whole of the body, thanks to its long and curvy design. These are a great option for just about anyone, but they are especially favoured by pregnant women who need extra support in a variety of sleeping positions, although they are best for those that sleep predominantly on their side.

Because of the calming yet sizable support they give, a body pillow is great if you have an injury that you don't want to accidentally lie on during the night. The pillow can be quickly and easily put in place before you drift off and it will protect you from turning into a position that you would rather avoid.

They can come in a range of sizes and shapes, but they are most commonly larger type pillows, which are great if you have a big bed or sleep alone. Those who sleep with their partners may find it a tight situation, particularly if their bed is on the smaller side.

A body pillow is also for hugging or cuddling. Simply wrap your arms and legs around the pillow to take pressure off your body and drift off into a peaceful sleep.

Knee Pillow

A knee pillow (or a leg pillow as it is sometimes referred to) is shaped like an hourglass and is centred either under the knee or between the legs to protect the spine and keep it straight and well-aligned. This is very useful if you suffer from lower back pain, and it can also eliminate friction between the legs.

A knee pillow can also work well in relieving the discomfort associated with sciatica. Not only this, but it can be extremely effective in promoting improved blood flow throughout the legs.

Many consider a pillow of this type to be the best orthopaedic pillow for those that have difficulty with back pain and usually sleep on their side.

While you can, in theory, use them in other sleeping positions, such as lying on your back, you won't get the adequate relief required, so if this pillow sounds like something you need, consider training yourself to sleep on your side to start off with.

Lumbar Pillow

A lumbar pillow is shaped like a half-moon and is specially designed to support either the legs or the lower back. It has the benefit of providing support when you are sitting. It can elevate the legs, providing relief from tired or swollen limbs and it can also be used on the back of the neck, too.

Wedge Pillow

A wedge pillow is another type of orthopaedic pillow that can be used on just about any part of the body, making it a versatile and highly popular option of therapeutic pillow.

Use it to support the legs, feet, ankles, upper, middle and lower back, head, neck, spine, pregnant tummy; you name it, the wedge pillow covers practically every part of the body, so they are great if you have shifting pain or arthritis in more than one location.

A wedge pillow is also particularly good at supporting the head and, therefore, can provide a lot of relief from respiratory distress, heavy snoring and sleep apnea. Also, if you suffer from acid reflux or night-time indigestion, a wedge pillow can be really beneficial in taking away some of the nasty symptoms that can make falling asleep so troublesome at times.

These pillows aren't just great for use when lying down; they also make for useful support when in a sitting position. Whether you are reading, watching TV or just taking 10 minutes to recharge your batteries, these pillows will provide ample support. It saves using an uncomfortable headboard or normal pillow that will require constant readjusting.


Buyer's Guide: Choosing The Best Orthopaedic Pillow

Given the huge amount of choice out there, it can be confusing deciding what pillow you might need. Below, we've created a buyer's guide full of the top things to consider when making a purchase on a brand-new orthopaedic pillow.


Orthopaedic pillows tend to be more expensive than regular pillows, and while it might be tempting to purchase a therapeutic pillow on the lower end of the price scale, you might have to compromise on quality. Those more premium options will generally go the distance and improve your sleep quality much more.

However, always make sure that you shop within your budget.

Sleep position

Certain types of orthopaedic pillows are designed to only be used in certain sleep positions, while others can be adapted for just about any sleeping style. For example, side sleeping is the most common sleeping position and there are lots of these pillows that can be used in this position, whereas if you are a back sleeper, for example, the best and most popular option is generally a wedge pillow.


If you want a pillow for general aches and pains (e.g. neck pain), think about what type of orthopaedic pillows are designed to encompass this particular area. This is really important - don't come back with the incorrect pillow because you didn't do your research.


These pillows are designed to provide superior support to the entire body or simply one or two areas. If you have any specialist illnesses or conditions where you believe you could benefit from an orthopaedic pillow or two, speak to your doctor who will be able to advise on the very best one for you based on your medical history.


Orthopaedic pillows come in a variety of materials, but by far the most common choice of material is memory foam. A memory foam pillow is soft and supportive, perfectly blends into your body's curvature, and will quickly mould into the perfect shape.

Then there's also latex to consider, which is an excellent option for those who suffer from allergies. Like memory foam pillows, they will quickly adapt to your shape and hold the area needing the extra support in place while also being comfortable.


Pillows, including memory pillows, attract a lot of dust and can become dirty and unhygienic if they aren't properly cleaned and maintained. When choosing a brand-new pillow, decide on one that's easy to clean (remember that certain types of memory foam pillow will require hand washing).

Ensure you wash your pillows regularly - at least once every two months, as well as vacuuming them monthly to get rid of dust.

Consider an orthopaedic mattress

If you suffer from aches and pains for whatever reason, you should consider pairing up your orthopaedic pillows with an orthopaedic mattress for maximum comfort and freedom from discomfort.

A mattress of this type will distribute your weight much more evenly, so any pressure points on your body are relieved of unnecessary extra weight. It protects your spine too.

Get The Sleep You Deserve With Belledorm

Having been first established over 40 years ago, we at Belledorm have been helping tens of thousands of people get the best night's sleep possible.

We believe that a good night's sleep shouldn't cost the earth; that's why all our products are competitively priced, in order to make them accessible to everyone. And, our attention to detail is unparalleled, so, if you need to kit out your bedroom with the very latest and best orthopaedic pillows, look no further than us.


How long will an orthopaedic pillow last?

How long these pillows will last depends on a few factors, but the good news is that they don't need to be replaced as often as regular pillows. If you look after them, the best orthopaedic pillows can last for a long time - sometimes as long as 10 years - with the right care, that is.

How do I choose the best orthopedically designed pillow for me?

Think about your sleeping position and also exactly what you require of a new pillow. Then you can start by looking at pillows that you can comfortably afford that can also provide you with the support and comfort that's unique to you.

How will I know when I need to replace an orthopaedic pillow?

While these pillows can go for miles, like any other pillow type, they have a shelf life. You'll know exactly when you will need to replace them as you will feel the support becoming less as the elastic within the pillow begins to diminish.

Are there any drawbacks from using these pillows?

There are no drawbacks to using orthopaedic pillows! In fact, these pillows are a serious investment towards your health and wellbeing, providing unparalleled support and comfort that is so vital for a wonderful night's sleep.

Should shoulders be resting on a pillow when sleeping?

Ideally, no. Resting your shoulders on the pillow, although comfortable at the time, can cause some pretty horrific pain the next morning! It will also likely disrupt your sleep quality and overall comfort throughout the night as you wake up numb or with pins and needles.

If you don't necessarily fall asleep in this position but do wake up in it, consider an orthopaedic pillow that can provide support and firmly but gently hold you in a comfortable position.

Should you sleep with a pillow between your legs?

There are a whole host of benefits to sleeping with a pillow placed between your legs. It can help blood flow through the vena cava, alleviates pressure on the back, reduces neck pain, keeps the spine aligned and can even minimise sleep apnea.

Final Thoughts

While, at first, it may be confusing as to which type of pillow you require for your needs, we hope this definitive guide has been helpful in allowing you to make an informed choice regarding which is the right orthopaedic pillow for you.

Whether it's neck and shoulder pain, back stiffness or any other troublesome ailment that keeps you awake at night, these therapeutic pillows could be the answer you've been looking for.

The most popular orthopaedic pillows provide unparalleled support, help with relieving pressure on sore joints, promote better posture and will allow you to have an unbeatable night's sleep.

Keep in mind your budget, the material of the pillow (i.e. memory foam or latex), what type of support you need and your sleep position when purchasing and you'll have no trouble in finding the brand-new pillow of your dreams.

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