Have you found that the way you sleep or sit can sometimes cause or worsen your neck pain? A simple rolled towel can help support your cervical spine and reduce neck pain. Here’s how.

Find a small, hand-sized bath towel and fold it length-wise in half. Roll it up firmly so it has a diameter of 3 to 5 inches, and use rubber bands or duct tape to hold it tightly together. Now you can use it in a couple different ways.


1. Tuck a rolled towel inside your pillowcase before you sleep.

Place a rolled towel between your pillowcase and pillow.

  • If you sleep on your back, position the towel underneath your neck when you lay your head on the pillow.
  • If you sleep on your side, position the towel so it fills the natural empty space between your neck and the pillow.

See Best Pillows for Different Sleeping Positions

Sleeping without proper support for your neck can place extra stress on your cervical spine’s joints, discs, and soft tissues. With the rolled towel in place, your neck is better supported and aligned with the rest of your spine. Just remember to avoid using too large of a towel. If the towel is too high, it may overextend your neck and worsen pain.

See Neck Strain: Causes and Remedies

A pillow with the right thickness or height also helps support your head and neck correctly. Use one that doesn’t cause your head to excessively tilt up or down. And remember, choosing the correct-sized pillow and rolled towel arrangement is ultimately a matter of personal preference, so let comfort guide you. You may have to experiment with different sized towels and pillows until you find the most comfortable combination for you.

See Pillow Support and Comfort

2. Slip a rolled towel behind your lower back for prolonged sitting.

You can also try using a rolled towel to better support your lower back, which can influence your entire spine and posture, including the neck. Put a rolled towel behind the small of your back whenever you plan to sit for an extended period, such as when you:

  • Drive in a car.
  • Work at a desk.
  • Relax on a couch or in a soft chair.

See Ten Tips for Improving Posture and Ergonomics


The towel fills the natural empty space that forms when your upper body is upright and prevents your lower back from rounding outwards or slumping. When your lower back is rounded, it’s difficult to keep your neck aligned above your shoulders as it promotes forward head posture. The muscles that support your neck and head become tired, and your neck droops forward. This angle puts more stress on your joints, discs, and overstretched ligaments, causing or worsening neck and upper back pain. Again, experiment with different sized rolled towels to find the best fit for you.

See Forward Head Posture’s Effect on Neck Muscles

If you suspect your neck pain is caused by postural stress, use a rolled towel in these two ways. Over time you may find it reduces your neck pain and brings you relief.

Learn more:

Treatment for Neck Pain

Video: 6 Tips to Improve Posture While Sitting

Dr. Steven Yeomans is a chiropractor and partner at the Yeomans-Edinger Chiropractic Center. He is board certified by the Academy of Chiropractic Orthopedists and has over 40 years of experience using chiropractic manipulation and pain management techniques to treat patients with spine conditions.