Contour Pillows

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All You Need To Know About Contour Pillows

What is a contour pillow?

Sometimes referred to as ‘neck support pillows’, ‘ergonomic pillows’ or ‘therapeutic pillows’, as the name suggests, ‘contour pillows’ are shaped in a curve to the contour between the shoulder, head and neck.

They have been designed, developed and improved over many years to provide maximum support to the neck and head while keeping the spine in alignment while you sleep; hence providing a therapeutic solution to neck pain.


What is good about contour pillows?

Originally called an ‘orthopaedic pillow’ and cut to shape from a block of PU foam, the design concept of having rounded height next to the shoulder contouring into a dip to cradle the head and then back up again was intended to keep the back, neck and head aligned in a neutral position during sleep, to relieve neck pain.


What are contour pillows made from?

Originally made from Polyurethane foam, the early pillows certainly assisted patients with chronic neck pain, but were never really comfortable enough to suit the average sleeper.

Developed by NASA as the ideal material for the prolonged immobility of astronauts during space travel, memory (or visco) foam was then used for contour pillows, initially being cut to shape. Due to their greatly improved comfort and support, as their popularity soared manufacturers began making contour pillows in moulds – allowing mass production in a variety of sizes and heights to suit various different needs. Memory foam contour pillows are still extremely popular today, with brands like Tempur leading the way.

However, they are not for everybody in that visco foam is a form of polyurethane foam (derived from oil) with added chemicals to increase its viscosity to make it more elastic. It is not a natural product, can have an odour - and sleeps hot.

In parallel, latex contour pillows were being developed by companies like Dunlop in the UK, using a mixture of around 65% natural and 35% synthetic latex – natural latex coming from rubber trees grown in sustainable plantations and the latter is a combination of styrene and butadiene, an oil derivative.

More recently manufacturers have responded to consumer demand for natural products that are completely chemical free and today 100% natural latex contour pillows are readily available, shaped in moulds to a wide range of heights and densities to suit pretty much every need. Natural latex is a perfect material for pillows in that rubber inherently wants to push outwards when compressed providing perfect support, but it is also soft enough to be supremely comfortable, especially when produced via the talalay process.

Which height contour pillow should I choose to relieve neck pain?

Most contour pillows are a little higher on one side than the other. The most popular height that suits most people is 12cm on the high side, 10cm on the low side and 9cm in the middle – and medium density. They are flexible in that you can sleep with either side closest to your shoulder, whichever feels most comfortable. Generally a comfortable feel means the pillow is doing what it is supposed to by way of providing support and keeping your spine in alignment with the neck and head. It is all about posture. Prolonged poor posture while sleeping leads to neck strain which in turn can cause headache, neck pain and even detectable noise when turning the head.

Do contour pillows feel different to normal shape pillows?

A contour pillow can take some getting used to. Generally people try them for the first time because of neck pain, often caused by poor posture from the previous pillow leading to the neck and spine going out of alignment. Realignment & adjustment can take up to 2 weeks, going to sleep on the new contour and switching back to your old pillow during the night if you feel the need, until you are comparatively pain free.

In keeping the spine and neck in alignment, contour pillows also help keep the airways open while breathing and can be a great help with stopping, or reducing, snoring.

How to sleep on a contour pillow

Place the contour pillow on your bed with the flat side down & the highest, curved side facing towards the foot of the bed (and your shoulder). If you find the high side too tall then turn it 180 degrees so the lower curved side is under your shoulder/neck. Do allow a week or 2 for your body to adjust to this new sleep position.