Do you have back pain? Are you tired and lack focus? Do you have a chronic headache? Your pillow might be the problem.
Just like millions of Americans, you need a pillow that supports you enough to alleviate chronic pain in your back, neck, and shoulders.
A good pillow promotes spinal alignment and takes the pressure off your spine, thus helping you rest better.
But choosing the right model isn’t easy. You need to compare different models and take into account a variety of factors, like your favorite sleeping position, body shape, and weight.
So you need to decipher the pillows’ characteristics, like shape retention, malleability, and temperature neutrality in terms of your own needs.
That’s exactly why I wrote this guide.
Apart from some eight top pillow models, I have also comprised a helpful buying guide with the best strategies to get a reliable pillow, so keep reading!
Make Sure Your Head Hits the Right Pillow – How Pillows Can Help to Alleviate Back Pain
When you think of feather pillows, you imagine fluffy. But that’s not always the case.
These pillows are soft and supportive, plus they bend to fit your head and neck shape.
A quality feather pillow should use small, perfectly curled feathers which provide the right amount of bounce and have the same strength as carbon fiber.
A down pillow is made with the birds’ undercoat, so it’s soft and cushiony.
These airy pillows feel luxurious and airy, but they’re not the best in terms of support. The most cushiony type is made with down from European geese, which have a high, 600+ fill-power.
These pillows are an excellent choice for people who want additional support, pain relief, and improved posture. It adjusts to your anatomical curves, so your head, neck, and upper body stay in a neutral, relaxed position.
This type of pillow changes shape throughout the night, depending on your movements. There is a wide array of foam pillows, and you can choose in terms of shape, size, and elasticity.
These pillows are made with EPS – unexpanded polystyrene – which looks like mini beads.
The most common example you can find these travel neck pillows. While these pillows offer firm support, they’re not cushiony at all.
If you need a green solution and firm support, look no further than buckwheat pillows.
These pillows are made with buckwheat seeds, so they’re eco-friendly and vegan, but they’re also not fluffy at all.
The advantage of water pillows is that they change shape easily throughout the night for optimum neck support. However, because they change shape with even your tiniest move, they can wake you up if you’re a light sleeper.
Otherwise, you can adjust their firmness level by adding more water, though they are heavier than other pillows.
Pillows for Sleep Apnea
If you need a CPAP machine to help you breathe during sleep, you know that it’s quite difficult to find cushions to fit all its tubes and cords.
Sleep apnea pillows are designed specifically for this equipment, but there are different types on the market, in terms of height, feel, and materials.
The best sleep apnea pillows are filled with foam or polyester fiber.
If you need upper body and neck support during sleep, consider a neck pillow.
Its baffle aligns your head and neck, so your spine is well supported in a comfortable, correct position.
Body pillows are long, often more than 50 inches, so you can curl them around your body or stretch them to fit your body shape.
You can put hug them, place them between your knees or above your shoulders. Body pillows are comfortable, offer excellent lumbar support, and they’re recommended in pregnancy.
Lumbar pillows are designed to improve your lower back pain because they support your lumbar area.
That way, your spine, and lower back will relax in a neutral position, and your muscles will unwind.
These triangular pillows are highly versatile because you can use them to support all your body parts.
Thanks to their high versatility, you can use them to read, to alleviate acid reflux symptoms, varicose veins pain, or to breastfeed.
These pillows are a real comfort for pregnant women too.
Typically, wedge pillows are manufactured from polyester fiberfill or a combo which explains their high degree of support.
Top 8 Best Pillows For Back Pain in 2021
Layla Sleep Pillow – Soft and Supportive – Best Pillow for Side Sleepers With Neck and Shoulder Pain
Kapok is a cushiony, down-feely and airy pillow because it’s made with high-quality reactive memory foam.
This material also makes the Kapok a high pillow, which is an advantage for people who like to read in bed or who have hypertension.
Premium memory foam is supportive and elastic, so it can accommodate the shape of your neck and head.
That’s why the Kapok is best suited for side sleepers who need neck and shoulder pain relief.
The Kapok is filled with Kapok seed fibers, so this pillow is eco-friendly and entirely natural.
The yielding process uses pesticides or toxic chemicals, which could potentially affect your breathing system.
The downside is you need to air out the pillow before using it because Kapok seeds have a distinct tang.
Copper-Infused Cooling System
The cover is sewn with copper fibers, which are an excellent thermal conductor. So instead of pilling up the heat and reflecting it to you, the Kapok stays cool throughout the night.
However, the cover is not removable.
The Kapok uses CertiPur-endorsed memory foam, which doesn’t affect people with allergies.
The copper thread has various health benefits, starting with its anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.
Layla claims that copper ions affect athletic performance and improve health and wellness, though they admit there are no current studies to prove this.
TruContour Lumbar Pillow for Sleeping – Good Lower Back Pain – Support Pillow for Bed
The TruContour lumbar pillow is specifically designed to take the pressure off your lumbar area, which alleviates lower back pain.
With your lumbar area in a natural position, your muscles will unwind throughout your body, so your posture will be improved.
TruContour’s round shape is a perfect fit for your natural spine curvature. This ergonomic design is comfortable and supportive.
There are two sizes for this pillow: Light and Super Lumbar. The first pillow is thinner and medium-supportive, while the second one is loftier, thicker, and therefore more supportive.
Choose the right size according to your needs because some unhappy customers have complained about the pillow not being thick enough.
You can adjust the pillow’s height by easily adding or removing more foam pads. The Light size offers two pads, while the Super-size three.
If you’re still unhappy with its thickness, some customers have added another small pillow of their own beneath the TruContour.
The cover is supple, soft, and low-maintenance. You can easily remove it to wash it in the machine.
However, this cover can make the pillow easy to slide around in your sleep, so you might need to readjust its position.
Medical-Grade Memory Foam
This type of foam is cozy, supportive, and hypoallergenic. This is to be expected, considering that a practicing-board specialized neurologist contributed to designing the TruContour Sleep System.
One Year Full Warranty
A few customers have complained that the pillow gets less supportive with time or that the stitches don’t hold.
Luckily, if the pillow gets damaged under normal use within a year, TruContour will ship you a new, free pillow.
The Water Pillow by Medilflow – Best Pillow for Upper Back Pain and Neck Support
John’s Hopkins Tested
The Water Pillow employs a patented Waterbase technology to alleviate upper back and neck pain.
Medilflow had it independently tested, and the results show a decrease in pain, as well as an improvement in terms of sleep quality.
The Water Pillow can be used regardless of your preferred sleeping position to offer you good support.
You can also adjust the water level inside the pillow. Add more water if you want to increase the firmness, or take out water for a cushiony experience.
There are four firmness levels to change between Soft, Medium, Medium-firm, and Firm.
Water offers reliable support during the night because it’s a dynamic material.
That way, the pillow moves and adjusts its shape according to your movements, so it guarantees an anatomically-correct, neutral position.
Cotton Shell Cover
The 200-thread cotton shell fabric is smooth, machine washable, and hypoallergenic.
However, cotton is not a moisture-wicking material.
The water pouch is insulated and completely sealed so no accidents can happen. The layer of Dacron Hollofil fiber adds to the support and elasticity.
The downside is that you can’t tilt a water pillow, nor support it up for reading. Besides, this model weighs quite a lot when compared to another type of pillow.
Made in the USA
Mediflow shows high confidence in the materials and quality craftsmanship of its US-made Water Pillow.
That’s why they offer a 30-day return warranty and a 3-year guarantee against manufacturing issues.
Coisum Orthopedic Memory Foam Pillow – Best Orthopedic Pillows for Back Pain and Neck
The orthopedic design used for the Coisum is high-grade and supportive, but not cushiony. You can expect medium-firm support, which is considered best for alleviating neck stiffness, upper back pain, and back numbness.
Slow-Rebound Memory Foam
This type of high-quality memory foam has a 60 density and therefore, a medium response to pressure.
While it takes a bit to regain shape, so it’s not the most elastic pillow on the market, it offers medium-firm support.
The memory foam is CertiPUR-US certified against toxic substances.
Stable and User-Friendly
The incline design adds to Coisum’s stability, so your head is comfortably held in place. The side cutouts are user-friendly for people who like to rest their arms on the pillow.
That way, your shoulder is lower than your head to prevent hunching, which leads to poor posture and pain.
For Back and Side Sleeping
The Coisum is designed for side and back sleepers particularly because it’s too high for stomach sleeping. Besides, it is temperature-sensitive to make sure it accommodates the nape of your neck.
Its two heights can easily accommodate your preferences and needs. For instance, if you have cervical problems, you can choose the supportive high part. Otherwise, the lower side can accommodate most people.
The cover is removable, easy to wash, and breathable. Many users appreciate its soft, skin-friendly feel and airy design.
Desk Jockey Lower Back Pain Lumbar Pillow Support Cushion – Pillow for Back Pain While Sitting in the Office Chair or Bed
Lumbar Support Cushion
This cushion promises to alleviate back pain when you’re sitting down, to make you feel more comfortable.
Another advantage is that, with the pressure off your lumbar area, your spine is supported in an anatomically correct position.
That takes the pressure off your other muscles and bones, which improves your posture.
Clinical Therapeutic Grade
This type is elastic and changes with your body shape and movements, so it provides good support.
The level of firmness could be classified as medium, so the pillow provides a good amount of cushioning too.
Besides, this memory foam is chemical odor-free so you can use it right out of the box.
The Desk Jockey has been designed with the help of a board-certified physical therapist.
It is so supportive because it takes into account your anatomical shape and body mechanics, to contour your lumbar area ergonomically.
Desk Jockey promises that this pillow will last you a lifetime, no matter how much you sit on it.
Although originally thought as a desk pillow, you can use it on an airplane, at work, while driving, or for your reading chair.
The two side-handles and strap should help you secure this cushion onto your desk chair. However, the straps are pretty loose, so you need to readjust the memory foam manually.
Another disadvantage is that they might not fit your chair’s design, so the pillow isn’t positioned perfectly in the center.
Xtreme Comforts Hypoallergenic, Adjustable Thickness – the Best Pillow for Shoulder Pain and Good for
The Xtreme Comforts pillow is a versatile product that can accommodate all sleeping positions.
You can also adjust the pillow thickness via an inner zipper so it can fit your needs and preferences in terms of firmness.
Made in the USA
This quality pillow is USA-made with quality materials and top craftsmanship.
That’s why it was voted Number 1 by The Wirecutter in 2018, and the Best Pillow by USA Today in 2019.
The memory foam boasts a CertiPur certification for safety, so it uses no toxic chemicals like TDCPP, lead, mercury, phthalates, ozone depleters, or heavy metals.
This is a durable pillow that has undergone various independent tests at accredited labs, which is why it has a 6-year warranty.
Ultra-Deluxe Memory Foam
The premium shredded memory foam is elastic, it doesn’t form lumps, and it doesn’t get easily flattened. As such, it offers good support in all sleeping positions, aligning your neck, spine, and hips.
This reduces pain, sleep issues, and orthopedic problems because your posture is improved.
As it’s shredded, the memory foam is easy to mold and adjust for comfortable use.
Micro-Vented Kool-Flow Cover
The cover is made of bamboo, so it’s soft and breathable. The Micro-vented Kool-Flow design ensures optimum air circulation, so the cover is breathable.
This technology also helps to regulate your body temperature, keeping the pillow cool throughout the night.
This cover is also hypoallergenic because it’s resistant to dust mites that cause most allergies.
You can remove it easily and wash it in the machine, which wins the pillow more points on the user-friendliness scale.
Leachco Snoogle Original Maternity Full Body Pillow – Best Pregnancy Pillow for Back Pain
This full body maternity pillow is versatile and convenient because it replaces the myriad of pillows you would otherwise need for optimum support during your pregnancy.
You can wrap your hand underneath it, rest your head on it to alleviate headaches and hold it between your knees to reduce hip aches – the curse of pregnancy.
Once you’re in the second or third trimester, you can prop your growing belly on it too so you can reduce pressure on your spine.
The original Snoogle boasts a patented design. Its creator is a nurse and mother, who is familiar with the intricacies of pregnancy and the support women need during this period.
As such, the pillow is cuddly and supportive, it adjusts to your body shape, but it’s also breathable and cool.
The horseshoe head pillow is easy to fluff to the right height. The midsection is long, so you can easily wrap it along your back or under your stomach. The end is a bit curved so you can adjust it between your knees.
The downside is that you need to spend a bit of time adjusting all these parts to feel comfortable. And if you change positions frequently during your sleep, you will need to do that almost every time.
The cover is soft and low-maintenance as you can easily wash it in the machine.
ComfiLife Orthopedic Knee Pillow for Sciatica Relief – Best Leg Pillow for Back Pain
What is the best leg pillow? Just like every other knee pillow, the goal of this type of pillow is to relieve tension in the thighs and legs.
The ComfiLife pillow is supportive and comfortable, keeping your knees elevated to reduce lumbar pressure.
In turn, this alleviates your sciatica pain, back pain, and hip pain, as well as stiffness and numbness in these areas.
The ComfiLife Knee Pillow has an ergonomic design, so it doesn’t feel weird when you rest it between your legs. Its ergonomic design contours your body and also aligns your legs, hips, and spine, to improve lumbar pain.
This proper alignment improves posture and circulation. Besides, with less pain, your sleep quality will improve, so you feel more rested in the morning.
Premium High-Density Memory Foam
This type of memory foam is comfortable for hours.
High-density means the memory foam doesn’t flatten with time, and it also provides medium-firm support.
The cover is soft, breathable, and easy to clean. You can easily undo the zipper and throw it into the machine.
You can place this pillow between your legs when sleeping on your side, under your armpit when you’re reading on your side, or underneath one leg when you’re sleeping on your back.
If you’re a back sleeper and want to elevate both legs, you’ll need two pillows for the job.
This pillow comes with a no questions asked money back guarantee, so you can return it easily if you don’t like it.
Best Position to Sleep for Lower Back Pain
If you have lower back pain, you might be scared into thinking you’ll never find a comfortable sleep position.
Or, even worse, that you won’t be able to sleep in your favorite position anymore.
That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Here’s what you can do:
Pillow Size, Shapes, and Loft (Thickness)
Pillows are found in seven sizes:
The shape is essential if you suffer from backaches. While there’s a wide array of possible shapes, there are two general categories:
Pillow loft (thickness) can be:
Pillow loft also depends on your position:
Take your mattress type into account:
Your body weight influences the pillow thickness:
If your head size is:
If your shoulder width is:
Pro Tip: Consider an adjustable height pillow if your needs and preferences vary.
Best Pillow Materials
As you saw, there are various pillow materials:
|Buckwheat||· Adjustable height|
· Too firm
· Easy to flatten
· Too soft
|Down Alternative||· Adjustable|
|· Not durable|
· Flatten easily
· Too soft
· Easy to flatten
|Latex||· Conforms easily|
· Keep full shape
|· Not adjustable height|
|Memory Foam||· Conforms easily|
· Easy to mold if shredded
· Reflect heat
· Easy to mold if shredded
|· Not durable|
· Easy to flatten
· Reflect heat
|Water Chambers||· Loft-adjustable|
· Foam-padded for comfort
· Highly conforming
· Not for light sleepers
How Do I Pick the Right Pillow?
You can pick the pillow up from your local bedding or home goods store, but it’s easier if you go to a shop in which they have an in-house assortment of pillows for sale. Choose a pillow that matches your body type or sleep style. Be sure it is on the firmer side. Lay down on it. You can lie down on the floor with the Tempur, but try some and see how you like it.
If you have back problems, it’s probably a good idea to test them out on a hard surface first. See what feels good for you. Also, pay attention to how thick the pillow is. Extra thick pillows may cause your neck and head to go numb. Go with a medium or medium-firm topper. Think about your sleeping environment. If you sleep in a room with other people, what might be the best sleeping arrangement for you?
Why We Should Not Use Pillow While Sleeping?
If you sleep on your pillow at all, you probably think it’s quite an advantage for you to do so. Why? Because you end up sleeping on one half of the pillow and in turn, you tend to have a comfortable and even slumber. That is a big factor you can take to your advantage if you really want to sleep. But, for some people, sleeping on their pillow is a very bad idea. It has to do with the way they rest their head during sleep. When we lay on our pillow, the brain is laid on the naturally flat part.
This causes pressure on the head because the brain is laying on a hard surface. Because of this, people get headaches more easily. With the brain sitting on the softer part, there is a lot of stress. Your body doesn’t get the relief that it needs, which makes it more likely to wake up frequently in the night or even cause nightmares.
Can Pillows Make Your Back Hurt?
Blame it on pregnancy. Blame it on weight gain. Or, blame it on our youth and desire to continue to live an active lifestyle, but it can be difficult to find comfortable sleep positions. According to the Mayo Clinic, after the first trimester, your stomach should return to its normal size and shape. If not, consider a maternity pillow. Even though it may not feel like it, you are pregnant, so a pregnancy pillow will allow you to stretch out and your back to heal more quickly.
The Mayo Clinic suggests sleeping on your side with a pregnancy in between your knees, propped up and comfortable, so that gravity and your own weight will keep your stomach aligned and from causing too much pressure. Wish that your belly didn’t take up so much space? Here are eight other things that make your back hurt.
Do Pillows Cause Back Pain?
Back pain is caused by strain and heavy lifting, skeletal problems, infections, pregnancy, sleep disorders, and poor posture.
However, a bad mattress or bad pillow can cause pain or make it worse because it doesn’t offer you the right support.
If your pillow doesn’t fit correctly in the nape of your neck, your body is thrown off alignment, which activates certain pressure points.
It’s wise to choose a pillow that supports your movements and neutral spine posture throughout the night:
Frequently Asked Questions
How Common is Back Pain?
Back pain is an exceedingly prevalent and pervasive health issue, affecting a substantial portion of the global population. It represents a significant burden on individuals, healthcare systems, and economies worldwide. A thorough examination of its prevalence, causes, and impacts underscores the magnitude of this common ailment.
Global Prevalence: Back pain ranks among the most prevalent health complaints globally. According to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017, lower back pain alone was the leading cause of disability worldwide. It affected nearly 577 million people, equating to approximately 7.6% of the global population. This staggering prevalence highlights the widespread nature of the problem.
Lifetime Prevalence: Research suggests that the majority of individuals will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Estimates vary, but it is generally accepted that around 80% of adults will encounter at least one episode of back pain during their lifetime.
Chronic vs. Acute Back Pain: Back pain can be categorized into acute and chronic forms. Acute back pain typically lasts for a few days to a few weeks and is often triggered by factors such as muscle strain or injury. Chronic back pain, on the other hand, persists for more than three months and can be caused by a variety of underlying conditions, including degenerative diseases, herniated discs, or structural abnormalities.
Economic Impact: The economic consequences of back pain are substantial. It results in a significant financial burden on both individuals and society. Lost productivity due to absenteeism and reduced work performance, coupled with healthcare expenditures, results in staggering costs. In the United States alone, the economic burden of back pain exceeds $100 billion annually.
Risk Factors: Back pain can affect individuals of all ages, but certain risk factors increase its likelihood. These include age, with a higher prevalence among older adults; gender, as it tends to affect women more frequently; sedentary lifestyle; obesity; smoking; and poor ergonomics in the workplace.
Quality of Life Impact: Beyond its physical and economic consequences, back pain can profoundly affect an individual’s quality of life. Chronic back pain can lead to sleep disturbances, depression, and limitations in daily activities, eroding overall well-being.
In conclusion, back pain is a widespread and pervasive health issue with a profound impact on individuals and society at large. Its prevalence, coupled with its economic and quality of life implications, underscores the urgent need for continued research, prevention strategies, and effective treatments to address this common ailment. Understanding the multifaceted nature of back pain is essential for devising comprehensive approaches to its management and mitigation.
Final Words on Pillows for Bad Backs
Now that you’re here, you read all my reviews and tips on how to choose a pillow that fits. While there are plenty of good models on the market, I made my selection by choosing the best of the best:
Layla Sleep Pillow offers reliable support, and it’s cushiony, which is why it’s better for side sleepers with neck pain. It also sleeps cool, which is an advantage if you hate the feeling of hot tears on the pillow.
The TruContour Lumbar Pillow can help alleviate your lumbar pain thanks to its round shape, adjustable height, and medical-grade foam.
The Water Pillow by Medilflow is the best pillow for neck support and upper back pain because its water pouch offers dynamic support and easily adjusts your anatomical shape.
The Coisum Orthopedic Pillow is the best orthopedic pillow for neck and back pain thanks to its medium-firmness and slow-rebound foam that’s highly conforming.
The Desk Jockey Lower Back Pain Lumbar Pillow Support Cushion offers ergonomic lumbar support for your office chair or bed because it’s made with therapeutic gradefoam.
The Xtreme Comforts pillow is the best pillow for shoulder pain because its premium shredded foam is highly adjustable, so your spine and shoulders are optimally aligned.
The Leachco Snoogle Original Maternity Full Body Pillow is the best pregnancy pillow for back pain because it can support your back, belly, and shoulders at the same time.
The ComfiLife Orthopedic Knee Pillow is the best leg pillow for back and hip pain thanks to its concave, ergonomic design, and medium-firm memory foam.
That said, what pillow will you choose and why? Don’t keep me in suspense; the comments are right below!