The best pillows for back pain that offer support for a more comfortable night’s sleep

Reduce pain and discomfort with one of the best pillows for back pain

How a pillow could alleviate your pain: woman sleeping in bed with pillow
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There’s nothing worse than waking up in the morning with excruciating back pain and knowing you’ll have to deal with it for the rest of the day. Sometimes even the best pillows miss the mark, which is why it’s so important to invest in one that’s designed to relieve back pain, masterfully balancing comfort and support while you sleep.

While there are many causes of back pain, including strain, tension and injury to spinal joints, muscles, ligaments or nerves, one of the most common causes is sleeping on a pillow that’s not supporting your head and neck properly for spine alignment.

The right pillow for back pain should support your head, the natural curve of your neck, and your shoulders. More specifically, the posture you adopt while you sleep could be what’s really causing your stiffness and aches. Recent research proves this assertion, revealing that habitual postural patterns are “associated with musculoskeletal pain.”

“The term ‘posture’ is used to describe how your body is positioned when lying down and sitting, not just standing,” says osteopath and physiotherapist Tim Allardyce from Surrey Physio

“Proper posture at night is important for several reasons, as it can lead to discomfort and injury. Poor posture can make neck muscles tight, which can easily lead to morning grogginess. Plus, you’re not giving your back the opportunity to fully rest.”

This consideration is especially important if you sleep on your back. Often waking up in discomfort? A pillow could alleviate your pain. “Although this position keeps your spine in a neutral place, it can increase the natural curve of your lumbar spine, causing problems,” says Tim Allardyce. Placing a pillow under your knees can reduce strain on the spine.

To help you on your search for the best pillow for back pain, we tested some of the most popular brands on the market including the Supportiback Premium CoolGel Bed Pillow.

Taking into account that we all sleep differently, some of us are back sleepers while others prefer to sleep on their side, we tested different types of pillows evaluating them on their design, material, height, support, shape, and firmness to bring you a roundup of the best pillows for back pain. Whether you prefer to sleep on your side, back or front, additional pillows can be used to promote good alignment by filling any gaps between your body and your mattress. Here are the best ones to try.

The best pillows for back pain

Supportiback Premium CoolGel Bed Pillow

(Image credit: Amazon)

1. Supportiback Premium CoolGel Bed Pillow

The best overall pillow for back pain

Specifications
Fill: Memory Foam
Firmness: Firm, yet soft
Machine washable: Machine washable cover
Sizes available: Standard: 30 x 11 x 36 cm
Targeted areas: Alleviates back pain and stiffness
Reasons to buy
+Contours gently cradle your neck and head+Keeps head and spine in alignment to prevent back tension+Features cooling gel that doesn't retain heat and make you sweat
Reasons to avoid
-Has slight odor and is a bit small

The orthopedic Supportiback Premium CoolGel Bed Pillow relieves back tension and pressure points with memory foam that's durable, yet comfortable. Pillows that are too leveled don’t provide enough support, leading to neck pain and stiffness. On the contrary, excessively thick pillows force your head into an unnatural position, affecting its alignment with your spine. Thankfully, this option strikes the perfect balance, something many pillow brands cannot master, try as they might. 

Slumberdown Climate Control Pillow Pack

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2. Slumberdown Climate Control Pillow Pack

The best budget pillow for back pain

Specifications
Fill: Dacron and Microfiber
Firmness: Soft to medium
Machine washable: Yes
Sizes available: Standard: 48 x 74 cm
Targeted areas: Alleviates back and side pain
Reasons to buy
+2-for-1 value deal+Cooling: Dacron fill helps carry excess moisture away from the body +Non-allergenic materials
Reasons to avoid
-Some shoppers say it's too flat, constantly needs to be fluffed

With soft fibers and a unique walled design, the Slumberdown 2-pack slightly elevates your head to promote spinal alignment; and prevent ongoing back and neck pain. Though inexpensive, the brand does not skimp on quality: each Slumberdown product is sustainably made in an effort to eliminate textile and plastic waste.

Sepoveda Support Pillows 2 Pack

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3. Sepoveda Support Pillow

Stomach Sleepers: The best pillow for back pain

Specifications
Fill: Hollow Microfiber
Firmness: Soft
Machine washable: Yes
Sizes available: Standard: 42 x 32 x 15 cm
Targeted areas: Alleviates back, neck, and spine fatigue
Reasons to buy
+Hollow microfiber protects your head and neck, aiding in pain relief+Comes with pillowcase made of 100% cotton+Easily re-bounces to its original shape after use+Arrives vacuum sealed
Reasons to avoid
-Some shoppers say it's too soft and thick, without enough durable support

The Sepoveda Support Pillow brims with uber-soft and bouncy microfibers that allow you to sink head first, comfortably. Plus, it retains shape quickly, which eliminates the need for excess fluffing after continued use and wash. For added, customizable support, you can adjust the height of the pillow to your liking, so you can drift off in a cozy posture.

Stomach sleepers often suffer from lower backache, and a pillow can help. “It increases the curve in your lower back,” says osteopath and physiotherapist Tim Allardyce from Surrey Physio. "To breathe you must turn your neck, which can cause unnecessary pressure and lead to pain.

“If you are a tummy sleeper, turn on to your side and place a pillow between your knees, or hug a pillow and also use a normal pillow under your head. This means when your body tries to turn the pillows will stop it.”

Luxureal Contour Pillow

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4. Luxureal Contour Memory Foam Pillow

Side Sleepers: The best pillow for back pain

Specifications
Fill: Memory Foam
Firmness: Firm, yet soft
Machine washlable: Yes, removable pillowcase
Sizes available: Standard: 36.2 x 16.3 x 16.2 cm
Targeted areas: Alleviates back, head, shoulder, and neck pain
Reasons to buy
+Contour design helps align the spine and relieve pain+Made of breathable memory foam that holds shape
Reasons to avoid
-Some shoppers say it's too small for the level of support they need

Side sleepers often need two head pillows, while back and front sleepers need just a single thin one. Though it suits most sleeping positions, the structured Luxureal pillow works exceptionally well for the side sleeper, thanks to its unique contour design and breathable material. This design, coupled with a soft foam core, provides an extra boost of support (and relief) for the head, neck, shoulders, and back. 

To restore the correct alignment of your hips, pelvis, and spin, place a pillow between your knees. This will reduce stress on the lower back and help to stop your upper leg twisting your spine out of alignment. 

Tempur Comfort Cloud Standard Support Pillow

(Image credit: Tempur)

5. Tempur Comfort Cloud Standard Support Pillow

Back Sleepers: The best pillow for back pain

Specifications
Fill: Visco Elastic
Firmness: Soft, yet firm
Machine washable: Yes, removable pillowcase
Sizes available: Standard: 74 x 50cm
Targeted areas: Alleviates back, neck, and side pain
Reasons to buy
+Retains shape and plumpness after continued use+Perfect blend of soft and firm for balanced support+Adapts to your sleeping posture to prevent muscle strain and tension
Reasons to avoid
-Some shoppers say it's too high and expensive, with little give. 

The Tempur Comfort Cloud Standard Support Pillow masters the delicate balance of softness and support by design. This pillow leverages the brand's specially developed TEMPUR® Extra Soft (ES) material, which works to soften to the natural curvature of your head and neck. This material also ensures you'll stay cool and sweat-free as a preventive measure against overheating and discomfort.

Ecosafeter Contour Memory Foam Pillow

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6. Ecosafeter Contour Memory Foam Pillow

The best pillow for upper back pain

Specifications
Fill: Memory Foam
Firmness: Soft to medium
Machine washable: Yes, removable pillow case
Sizes available: Standard: 20 x 12 x 4 cm
Targeted areas: Alleviates back and neck pain
Reasons to buy
+Durable and structured for spinal support, preventing tension and pain+Retains shape after continued use+Breathable, hypoallergenic and soft high-density inner core+Features removable cover made of Bamboo
Reasons to avoid
-Some shoppers say that by design, it works better for those with longer necks-Some shoppers say it feels more lightweight than like thick memory foam

The Ecosafeter contour pillows adapts to your head, neck, and spinal positions, without compressing. Simply put, you'll be able to sink into it with the assurance that it'll hold you in place. Its material is dense and thick, but also provides the coveted "sleeping on a cloud" softness, which many options of its ilk lack. 

Lapono Lumbar Pillow

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7. Lapono Lumbar Pillow

The best pillow for upper back pain

Specifications
Fill: Airy mesh
Firmness: Soft, yet firm
Machine washable: Yes
Sizes available: Standard: 22 x 13 x 2.5in
Targeted areas: Alleviates lower back pain
Reasons to buy
+Soft top surface won't get hot or soggy like memory foam+Contours to your body curve, whether you're a back, side, or stomach sleeper+You can adjust the thickness by by adding a 1-inch detachable roundel
Reasons to avoid
-Some shoppers say it could be more comfortable and feels awkward underneath while sleeping-Could be more stiff: deflates easily

The Lapono pillow leverages breathable material and ergonomic design to support your back, an ideal solution against sciatic pain. Compared to generic triangle wedge pillows, which often squish and flatten quickly, this particular lumbar option is durable, working to align with your position and reduce muscle strain. 

Still not sure what pillow to go for? We asked an expert the key features of a good pillow for back pain to help you select the right one for you.

FAQ about pillows for back pain

What to look for in your pillow

Not all pillows are created equal; and the worst case scenario is selecting an option that actually worsens your back pains and aches. For back pain relief, it’s all about spinal alignment, and how well your pillow can support your head, neck, and shoulders. Here’s the most important factors to consider when shopping for best pillows for back pain:

1. Loft: also known as a pillow’s height, which determines spinal alignment and the angle of your head and neck. If you’re a back sleeper, for example, you’ll want a medium loft pillow that goes with the natural curvature of your head and neck. Side sleepers, however, need something a bit higher to fill in the gap between the neck and shoulders. Stomach sleeps generally benefit from low loft pillows to ensure a comfortable head-to-neck angle.

2. Support and Shape: to reduce pressure and tension in your neck and shoulders. To ensure your pillow lends strong support, look for options that retain shape and don’t fall flat throughout the night. When a pillow flattens, it messes with spinal alignment and lessens overall support, leading to discomfort and pain come sunrise.

3. Firmness: Your preferred firmness preference depends on your sleeping position and weight; and the “just right” firm pillow is soft and supportive in equal measure. Stomach sleepers should opt for something softer, while back and side sleepers should pay heed to medium-to-firm options.

4. Design: A high-caliber, thoughtfully-made pillows have long lifespans and don’t need to be replaced as often. Take note of durable materials, such as high-density foams, latex, and feathers.

What to do if you’re suffering from ongoing back pain

Back pain is categorized into two types: acute and chronic, long-term pain. Acute pain begins abruptly and generally lasts up to six weeks; while chronic pain develops over a longer time period, lasts beyond three months, and creates separate, ongoing problems.

It’s recommended to consult with your primary physician if your back pain:

Based on the diagnosis, your doctor may offer the following remedies:

1. Over the counter pain relief medication

2. Medical treatment, such as prescription medication, physical therapy (i.e. applying heat and muscle-release techniques)

3. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, including relaxation techniques. Studies demonstrate that patients with CBT tend to become more active, resulting in lower risk of back pain recurrence.

What to do if you wake up with black pain

If you do wake up feeling stiff, fear not. “There are many things you can do at home to help your back feel better,” says Tim. Here’s what he recommends:

1. Firstly, drink lots of water, as dehydration can cause muscle ache and can even cause muscle cramp.

2. Next, applying a cold pack over the sore area of your back can bring some pain relief. Try 15 minutes on, one hour off. It is very beneficial for the initial 48 hours and be sure to repeat it multiple times.

We also recommend doing stretches in bed, getting daily exercise, and taking over the counter medication if you feel is necessary. 

 Can I wash my pillow? 

Yes, that’s perfectly fair game. You may want to wash at least two pillows at once - that way, the washer is balanced, and your pillows won’t get thrown around so much. Use the "bulky/large" cycle if available. For a deep clean, we suggest adding powdered dishwasher detergent and bleach to your regular laundry detergent.

 How often should I wash my pillow? 

You should wash your pillow about twice a year, more or less depending on where you live climate wise. If not done frequently, your pillow can easily become a petri dish of dirt, bacteria, sweat, and grime build-up overtime. 

What pillows are best for hot sleepers? 

If you’re subjected to endure a sweltering sleep environment, look out for pillows made of moisture-wicking materials, such as cotton, wool, and bamboo. These materials generally absorb and release heat, so your body remains at a stable temperature throughout the night. 

And of course, a good cooling pillow should also provide support and spinal alignment.

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