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Millions of adults in the U.S. experience frequent back pain that compromises their overall sleep quality, leaving them tired and unfocused the next day. Choosing the right pillow can be highly beneficial for those with chronic back pain, as some pillow materials conform closely to the sleeper’s head, neck, and shoulders in order to improve spinal alignment and alleviate pressure points. Sleeping with a pillow between one’s legs can reduce back pain, as well. By the same token, choosing the wrong pillow can worsen the symptoms of back pain.
Pillow shoppers face several considerations when choosing and comparing models. One important factor is loft, or pillow thickness; sleepers should take their weight, sleep position, head size, and shoulder width into account when deciding how thick or thin their pillow should be. Other key variables include temperature neutrality, shape retention, moldability, and price-point.
This guide will discuss some strategies for choosing a pillow that will alleviate back pain. Below you will find our picks for the best pillows for back pain sold today. Our choices are based on verified customer and owner experiences, as well as intensive product research and analysis.
Our editor’s pick is the Zoned Gel Dough pillow, which is part of Malouf’s Z pillow collection. This model is constructed from soft, aerated memory foam that conforms closely to the sleeper’s head and neck and reduces pain and pressure points in their most sensitive areas. The ventilation holes promote air circulation, allowing the pillow to sleep cooler than many other foam models; the cover made from polyester and bamboo-rayon also helps regulate temperature.
Durability is another key strength of the Zoned Gel Dough; the expected lifespan exceeds three years, which is longer than most competing models. Another advantage is wide selection. The pillow is available in low, medium, and high loft options to accommodate sleepers with different preferences. The pillow offers great shape recovery, as well, and never requires fluffing or primping.
Malouf offers free pillow shipping anywhere in the contiguous U.S. The Zoned Gel Dough is backed by a five-year warranty.
The Eden from Coop Home Goods is filled with shredded, gel-infused memory foam. The material offers close conforming and improved spinal alignment but also sleeps cooler than solid memory foam. The bamboo-rayon cover helps with temperature neutrality, as well. Additionally, the Eden’s loft is fully adjustable. Owners simply add or remove shredded foam fill to increase or decrease the loft, which can be helpful for those with thickness preferences that shift from night to night.
The Eden has an expected lifespan of three years or longer, which exceeds that of most other shredded foam models. The pillow is also easy to clean; a removable polyester liner allows owners to wash the cover in a machine without damaging the foam. The Eden is highly moldable, making it suitable for those who sleep with a pillow between their legs, but its shape retention is better than average.
The Eden has a price-point that is much lower than that of the average shredded memory foam pillow. Coop Home Goods will ship the pillow for free to all 50 states; the Eden is backed by a 100-night sleep trial and a five-year warranty, both of which are longer than average.
Few pillows are as luxurious as those reserved for guests at the best hotels. We feel the Saatva Pillow is as close you’ll get to enjoying high-quality hotel pillow without leaving the reservation. The pillow is made from a combination of 100 percent organic cotton, micro-denier fiber, and 100 percent shredded American Talalay latex. The Saatva Pillow is proof that you can enjoy luxury goods that are very well made but also responsibly constructed using only all-natural and renewable materials.
The Saatva Pillow comes encased in a breathable sateen cover, that wicks away moisture while promoting maximum airflow. Its inner core consists of highly responsive latex, which offers optimal head and neck support. Additionally, the core is naturally hypoallergenic, mildew-proof, and resistant to dust mites.
The outer pillow is washable. Remember to separate it from the core before cleaning it.
It can be tough getting the right amount of loft to support your head and neck while resting on your side. The Layla Pillow comes with a zipper that allows you to open the pillow and remove as much foam as you need to for getting the loft just right. The pillow is not only made for comfort, but it’s affordably priced and designed to last for years.
The Layla Pillow comes with a cover woven with a unique copper yarn known as CuTEC. Although associated with performance fabrics, this material helps remove dead skin cells and while keeping the pillow hygienic. The Layla Pillow is free of harmful chemicals, pesticides, and is hypoallergenic.
After purchasing the Layla Pillow, you have a 120-day trial window to return it for a full return. Additionally, it’s backed by a five-year warranty.
Parachute’s Down Alternative Pillows are great for providing plush comfort, and we at Tuck think the soft density pillows are best for stomach sleepers. The soft version of the pillow is designed to keep the neck in a neutral position, allowing stomach sleepers to rest comfortably all night. In addition, Parachute’ Down Alternative Pillow comes with a pure microfiber filling is completely hypoallergenic. It comes wrapped in a 100 percent sateen cotton shell and reinforced by a double-stitched piping seam.
Parachute recommends dry cleaning the pillows, but if you do clean them yourself, machine wash cool on a delicate cycle using mild liquid laundry detergent. Tumble dry on low and remove immediately.
These pillows have a 90-day trial. Like all of Parachute’s down and down alternative products, they’re backed by a three-year warranty.
The Bear Pillow is constructed from a single piece of aerated polyfoam and a polyester cover with mesh end caps. The pillow sleeps very cool compared to other all-foam pillows. It also offers close conforming and pressure relief in the neck, shoulders, and other sensitive areas. The Bear Pillow is ‘Medium’ in terms of firmness, which is one of the most popular firmness settings among back sleepers – particularly those in the light and average weight groups. It is suitable for side and stomach sleepers, as well.
Additionally, the Bear Pillow is very moldable and scrunchy, but also retains a full shape due to its dense foam construction. And unlike many other all-foam pillows, the Bear Pillow produces minimal off-gassing odor; this is partially due to the mesh end caps, which promote good air circulation and help push out unpleasant smells.
The Bear Pillow qualifies for free shipping anywhere in the contiguous U.S. The pillow is backed by a 100-night sleep trial and a two-year warranty.
Back pain is, unfortunately, quite common among adults and children. Causes of back pain may include anything from muscle strains and arthritis to skeletal irregularities such as scoliosis. The right pillow can mitigate some of the pressure and discomfort associated with back pain — and by the same token, choosing the wrong pillow can have the opposite effect. Sleepers with back pain should consider factors like pillow size, shape, loft (thickness), and material composition when deciding which pillow will best meet their needs.
This guide explores the causes and symptoms of conditions that can lead to back pain, as well as tips for pillow buyers and our picks for the best pillows for back pain.
Millions of Americans are living with chronically painful conditions. Pain is a leading cause of disability and the major contributor to healthcare costs. Back pain sufferers account for as much as 50 percent of America’s working population. Unfortunately, frequent pain often contributes to a lack of sleep. At the same time, not getting enough sleep increases the risk of chronic pain syndromes. For those suffering from back pain, getting comfortable enough to sleep is an especially delicate issue.
If you’re not able to get your spine into the most ideal alignment and get as much support as possible, it will likely mean enduring more pain during the night. Before attempting to sleep, it might be best to consider how your sleep position might play a role in keeping you from getting enough rest.
For instance, sleeping on your back is actually considered the best possible position for proper spine alignment. If you experience frequent back pain, you might believe that sleeping on your stomach is the best possible way to avoid pain. In actuality, sleeping on your stomach is one of the worst positions for spine alignment and if you lack proper support from mattresses and bedding, this position might be backing your back condition worse.
When back pain keeps you from sleeping, you’re kept from getting the rest you need to be at your best the next day. Prolonged sleep deprivation often has severe consequences.
The implications of poor sleep are severe, so it’s important to do what you can to get a good night’s sleep and help your body. Fortunately, there are ways you can cope with chronic pain during the day that can ease symptoms enough to sleep at night.
Although it might seem out of your control, there are certain changes you can make in your everyday life that can ease the symptoms of chronic back pain. A few suggestions include:
Lastly, you should develop a series of bedtime habits that you act out every night when it’s getting close to bedtime. Turn down the lights, take a soothing bath, and read for a few minutes. Make sure activities are relaxing and that they encourage you to feel physically ready for bed. You’ll also want to make sure that you repeat these habits each night at around the same time as a way of training yourself to get ready for bed.
Additionally, make sure that your mattress and bedding are at an optimal firmness and softness level that will help you more easily cope with back pain. The combination of back support and improved sleep hygiene can help you ease chronic back pain symptoms over time and allow you to more easily sleep through the night.
Individuals who experience back pain can adjust or reposition their pillows in order to alleviate their discomfort. According to Healthline, the following methods may be suitable for different sleepers:
There are six standard sizes for pillows, as well as smaller specialty sizes normally associated with specific pillow types (such as orthopedic memory foam pillows). The following table breaks down the width and length dimensions of these seven sizes, as well as suitable pillowcase measurements.
|Pillow Size||Dimensions||Pillow Case Size and Dimensions||Notes|
|Small||20W” x 12L”||Specialty sizes||Normally found with orthopedic/cervical pillows (see below)|
|Standard||20W” x 26L”||Standard (20-21W” x 30-32?L)||The most common pillow size, as well as the most compact and usually the least expensive|
|Super Standard||20W” x 28L”||Standard (20-21W” x 30-32?L)||Slightly longer than the Standard, but uses Standard-size pillowcases|
|Queen||20W” x 30L”||Standard (20-21W” x 30-32?L) Queen (20-22W” x 30-34L”)||The second most common pillow size, and suitable for most people who toss and turn|
|King||20W” x 36L”||King (20-21W” x 36-41?L)||Good for people who toss and turn, and also makes good headrests and backrests|
|Euro||26W” x 26L” 24W” x 24L” 22W” x 22L” 20W” x 20L” 18W” x 18L” 16W” x 16L”||Euro (dimensions vary)||The only standard pillow size that is square-shaped, and not normally used for primary sleeping pillows|
|Body Pillow||54W” x 20L” 48W” x 20L”||Body pillow (dimensions vary)||The longest pillow size, mostly suitable for side sleepers and pregnant women|
Pillow shape is also important for people with back pain. Although a wide selection of pillow shapes are available, pillows generally fall into one of these two categories:
Lastly, let’s discuss pillow loft, a term that refers to how thick a pillow is when not bearing weight. Specific loft measurements vary by model, but there are three general loft categories:
The loft will help determine how supportive and comfortable the pillow feels, and whether it is suitable for people with back pain. However, there are several factors to take into account when selecting a pillow based on loft. These include:
Choosing the right pillow based on loft depends on whether the sleeper prefers the back, side, or stomach position.
People who sleep with a pillow completely beneath often prefer medium-loft pillows because there is less space. For those who sleep with a pillow partially beneath their head, then a medium- or high-loft pillow may be needed to fill the larger gap.
Certain mattresses, such as all-foam and latex models, are designed to sink deeply beneath the sleeper’s body. A low-loft pillow may be most suitable for these mattresses because there is less space between the neck and the mattress surface. Other mattresses, such as innersprings and hybrids, are less responsive and will not sink as much. A medium- or high-loft pillow can help fill the extra space and provide more support.
People with above-average weights (more than 230 pounds) may sink deeper into their mattress than lighter individuals, and thus prefer a low- or medium-loft pillow that won’t elevate their heads too much. People with below-average weights (less than 130 pounds) may prefer medium- or high-loft pillows because they don’t sink as much.
People with larger-than-average heads are more likely to feel comfortable on a high-loft pillow that won’t sink too deeply. Low- or medium-loft pillows may be the best option for those with small or average-size heads
People with wider shoulder spans experience larger gaps between their head/neck and their pillow, and may need a higher-loft pillow to compensate for the space. Those with narrower shoulders usually feel more comfortable with low- or medium-loft pillows.
It’s important to note that many pillows offer adjustable loft. The owner simply unzips the pillow cover and adds or removes the fill material to increase or decrease the loft. Adjustable-loft pillows may be the best option for people whose loft preferences tend to vary from night to night.
Pillows come in a wide selection of fill materials, each with unique benefits and drawbacks for sleepers with back pain. The table below lists pros, cons, and back pain ratings for the seven most common pillow materials.
Additionally, some pillows contain interior water chambers that can be filled or drained to adjust the loft. The chambers are usually padded with foam to make the pillow more comfortable. Many sleepers with back pain claim that water chamber pillows alleviate pain and pressure to a noticeable extent.
|Pillow Material||Description||Pros||Cons||Neck Pain Rating|
|Buckwheat||The pillows are filled with five to 10 pounds of buckwheat hulls, or outer shells||Adjustable loft Sleeps cool Good support||High price Too firm for some Heavy and difficult to move||Good Buckwheat pillows offer adjustable loft and sleep fairly cool, but many people with back pain find they are too firm|
|Down||The pillows contain the soft inner plumage of ducks or geese, and may also be padded with outer feathers||Adjustable loft Lightweight Sleeps cool||High price Flatten easily Too soft for some||Fair Most down pillows are not suitable for sleepers with back pain because they are excessively soft and will lose their shape quickly|
|Down Alternative||The pillows are filled with polyester fibers that mimic the softness of real down||Adjustable loft Lightweight Low price||Short lifespan Flatten easily Too soft for some||Poor Most sleepers with back pain do not feel comfortable on down alternative pillows because they are too soft and will become flat rather quickly|
|Feather||Pillows are filled with outer feathers of ducks or geese (as opposed to down, or inner plumage)||Adjustable loft Lightweight Long lifespan||High cost Flatten easily||Very Good Feather pillows tend to be firmer than down pillows, making them more suitable for people with back pain|
|Latex||Pillows contain solid latex, a substance extracted from the sap of rubber trees||Close conforming Long lifespan Retain full shape without flattening||Non-adjustable loft High cost Dense and heavy||Good Latex pillows offer even support, but the loft is not adjustable|
|Memory Foam||Pillows may contain shredded or solid pieces of memory foam, which softens when it comes into contact with body heat||Close conforming Adjustable loft if shredded Lightweight||High cost Sleeps hot||Very Good Memory foam pillows conform closely and alleviate a high amount of pressure; most orthopedic pillows are made from memory foam|
|Polyester||Pillows contain shredded polyfoam, which has a similar feel to memory foam, or interlocking polyester fibers that give the pillow a fuller shape||Low cost Adjustable loft when shredded||Short lifespan Flattens easily Sleeps hot||Good Memory foam pillows provide more pain and pressure relief, but polyfoam pillows can be a low-cost alternative for people with back pain|
For those who suffer from chronic back pain, it’s important to find the right mattress and mattress topper to allow for a comfortable night’s sleep. The right amount of firmness will provide better support for your spine. Your ideal firmness gets determined by factors that include your body weight and natural sleep position. Use the chart below as a guide for determining the ideal firmness level for your mattress and mattress topper.
|Weight Group||Below-average (less than 130 lbs.)/span>||Average (130 to 230 lbs.)||Above-average (more than 230 lbs.)|
|Ideal Firmness for Side Sleeping||3 (Soft) to 4.5 (Medium Soft)||5 (Medium) to 6.5 (Medium Firm)||6.5 (Medium Firm) to 8 (Firm)|
|Ideal Firmness for Back Sleeping||4 (Medium Soft) to 5.5 (Medium)||5 (Medium) to 6.5 (Medium Firm)||6 (Medium Firm) to 8 (Firm)|
|Ideal Firmness for Stomach Sleeping||3 (Soft) to 4.5 (Medium Soft)||4 (Medium Soft) to 5.5 (Medium)||6 (Medium Firm) to 7.5 (Firm)|
A little extra support in the form of a mattress topper is a great strategy for reducing back pain. A topper is an individual layer of cushioning. It rests on top of the mattress cover. Mattress toppers are made to adjust the firmness level of your sleep surface. Although manufacturers typically design most toppers to provide layer of softness, certain models may add firmness as well. Mattress toppers are made up of variety of materials such as feathers, latex, memory foam, or wool. A mattress topper is ideal for anyone who’s not very satisfied with their mattress’ firmness but aren’t able to replace it. A topper is also a great buy for couples with differing firmness preference.
A topper’s firmness, density, and thickness are each important considerations. An individual’s weight and sleeping position will likely decide the ideal qualities of their mattress topper. The table below includes more relevant information:
|Sleep Position||Weight Group||Ideal Firmness||Ideal Topper Thickness||Ideal Topper Density|
|Side||Less than 130 lbs||Soft to Medium Soft||1″ to 2″||2.5 PCF and lower|
|130 to 230 lbs||Medium Soft to Medium||2″ to 2 1/2″||3 to 4 PCF|
|More than 230 lbs||Medium Firm to Firm||2″ to 3″||4 PCF and higher|
|Back||Less than 130 lbs||Medium Soft to Medium Firm||1 1/2″ to 2 1/2″||2.5 to 3 PCF|
|130 to 230 lbs||Medium to Firm||2″ to 3″||3.5 to 5 PCF|
|More than 230 lbs||Medium Firm to Firm||2″ to 3″||4.5 PCF and higher|
|Stomach||Less than 130 lbs||Medium Soft to Medium Firm||1″ to 1 1/2″||3 PCF and lower|
|130 to 230 lbs||Medium Firm to Firm||1″ to 2″||2.5 to 4 PCF|
|More than 230 lbs||Firm to Extra Firm||2″ to 3″||3.5 to 4.5 PCF|
A good night’s sleep begins with proper sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is a term for your nighttime rituals and habits that prepare you for a good night’s rest.
A few good sleep hygiene habits include the following: