More than ever, we're all doing a lot of sitting. Whether it's time at the desk or long commutes, all this sitting puts excess pressure on our back and pelvis, resulting in discomfort. Lower back pain is a common problem, according to physical therapist Aman Dhaliwal PT, DPT.
Because the lower back connects to the pelvis, sitting or standing with a certain pelvic tilt can cause the entire spinal curvature to shift, Dhaliwal says. This can usually result in anterior or posterior pelvic tilt — neither of which are healthy and can become increasingly painful if left untreated.
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In addition to physical therapy, lumbar support pillows can be beneficial because they put pressure on the tilt to help your spine return to its original curve. Lumbar support pillows are among the best pillows for back pain, and you can think of them like arch support shoe inserts. Use these pillows in situations where you feel pressure or discomfort the most to realign the curve and ensure you have good posture to prevent future pain.
"Anyone who is unable to sustain the curve consciously needs some type of a reminder or support system and, therefore, needs a lumbar support pillow," Dhaliwal says.
The Best Lumbar Support Pillow of 2022
- Best Overall: The Original McKenzie Early Compliance Lumbar Roll ($23.50, Amazon.com; $23.50, Walmart.com)
- Best for Sitting at a Desk: Everlasting Comfort Lumbar Support Pillow ($34.99, Amazon.com; $36.99, Walmart.com)
- Best for Sleeping: Sunday Citizen Snug Lumbar Pillow ($85, Anthropologie; $68, SundayCitizen.com)
- Best for Flying: SmartTravel Inflatable Lumbar Travel Pillow ($27.49, Amazon.com)
- Best for the Car: NiceeDay Lumbar Support Pillow ($29.99, Amazon.com; $27.99, Walmart.com)
- Best During Pregnancy: Boppy Side Sleeper Pregnancy Pillow ($34.99, Amazon.com; $34.99, BuyBuyBaby.com; $35, Boppy.com)
How We Chose
We reached out to physical therapists for guidance on the most important features in lumbar support pillows. They helped direct our criteria when picking the top lumbar support pillows:
- Purpose of pillow
- Size and curve
Best Overall Lumbar Support Pillow: The Original McKenzie Early Compliance Lumbar Roll
- Easy to use
- May not be sized correctly for taller people
If you have general lower back pain and you want to support throughout your day — from sleep to clocking in at the office — you will need a lumbar support pillow that's flexible and adjustable. That's why Dhaliwal names this pillow as her top pick. She says it's easy to use, portable, includes a strap for height alignment based on need (sitting, sleeping, side-laying, etc.) and it's lightweight.
In many ways, this pillow mimics the clinic setting of a physical therapy office, she says. "We use small towel rolls to measure a patient's comfort level with the size of the roll and the position. We recommend using that for a few days or as needed to understand what fits and feels the best. Based on the data collected, a lumbar pillow equivalent to that size and feel should be invested in," Dhaliwal says.
This pillow allows you to manipulate it into the various positions that are most helpful depending on your current position. The only drawback is that it may be too small for tall people, so if this is you, consult with your PT to determine a better solution for your needs.
Buy it: $23.50, Amazon.com; $23.50, Walmart.com
Best Lumbar Support Pillow for Sitting at a Desk: Everlasting Comfort Lumbar Support Pillow
- Easily attached to chairs
- Accommodates shape of your spine
- May not be suitable for shorter people
Low backs may pay the price of working without an office-supplied ergonomic chair, says Allison Dastugue, PT, DPT, a physical therapist at The Stone Clinic. In addition to sitting at a desk in a chair that supports you — rather than cross-legged on the couch — a lumbar support pillow can come in handy for computer workers.
"Lumbar support pillows are designed to modify non-supportive chairs to reflect the normal curves of the spine," Dastugue says. "These pillows encourage us to sit fully back in the chair and allow the chair to support the spine rather than our muscles having to hold us upright all day. They encourage a better upright posture and may even assist in reducing upper back and neck discomfort due to improved postural alignment."
Dastugue recommends this pillow because it balances memory foam to accommodate the specific curves of your spine with the firmness to hold shape and support. "It also comes with Velcro straps so you can attach it to a variety of chairs and ensure it does not slide down the back of the chair," she adds.
Buy it: $34.99, Amazon.com; $36.99, Walmart.com
Best Lumbar Support Pillow for Sleeping: Sunday Citizen Snug Lumbar Pillow
- Aesthetically pleasing
- Can be used for your back or between legs
- Pricier option
Depending on your sleep position, a lumbar support pillow may be handy at night — stomach sleepers, for instance, can develop lower back pain with overly soft mattresses, and side sleepers sleep may need extra support to prevent discomfort. (By the way, here are the best mattresses for side sleepers, along with the best ones for stomach sleepers.)
Though anyone can experience this type of sleep-related symptoms, people assigned female at birth (AFAB) might need more support as their spine is typically more curved than someone assigned male at birth (AMAB). That's particularly true for those who sit at a desk, according to physical therapist Sandra Gail Frayne, founder of Hudson Premier Physical Therapy & Sports.
This chic lumbar support pillow from Sunday Citizen is designed for sleeping. Since it should ideally be an essential piece of your bed, you will appreciate that it looks more like a throw pillow and less like something you'd see at a hospital. The pillow's narrow design is aimed at absorbing shock and relieving pressure, and it can be used for your back or between your legs, Frayne says.
Buy it: $85, Anthropologie; $68, SundayCitizen.com
Best Lumbar Support Pillow for Flying: SmartTravel Inflatable Lumbar Travel Pillow
- Compact size for packing
- May deflate
While you may be taking a vacation, your lower back pain sadly doesn't put up an out-of-office. In fact, rigid airplane seats may worsen your condition for those who already have discomfort in this region of the spine, especially if you're taking a long-haul or frequent flight. Dhaliwal recommends this lumbar support pillow for travel since it's adjustable, portable, lightweight and easy to use.
Bonus: You can inflate it to your desired comfort level, making it easy to pack even if you're traveling light.
Buy it: $27.49, Amazon.com
Best Lumbar Support Pillow for the Car: NiceeDay Lumbar Support Pillow
- Removable, washable cover
- May not work fit properly for very petite or tall people
When driving long distances or your daily commute, sitting in an upright position can put more pressure on your lower spine. And since car seats can't be that adjustable or they won't be safe enough for driving, a lumbar support pillow for the car could help.
This design features a removable and machine-washable mesh cover, so you can easily clean it in case of a spill on the go. It also features air circulation so you won't feel overheated, even on the hottest days of summer (and bumper-to-bumper traffic). It was also designed to relieve not only lower back pain but upper and mid-back stress too, helping you to maintain a proper posture while you're driving.
Buy it: $29.99, Amazon.com; $27.99, Walmart.com
Best Lumbar Support Pillow for Pregnancy: Boppy Side Sleeper Pregnancy Pillow
- Supportive during pregnancy
- Expands for use in both second and third trimester
- Washable cover
- Some reviewers found it uncomfortable or poorly sized
Beginning in the second trimester of pregnancy, it may be best to avoid sleeping on your back, and instead opt to sleep on your side, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). This is because sleeping on your back can compress the main vein carrying blood from the heart to your lower body. potentially depriving blood flow to the fetus, per ACOG.
Adjusting to this position can be tricky if it's new to you — plus, the weight of a growing belly can be uncomfortable and side sleeping can cause lower back pain if you over-extend. A softer pillow, like this one from Boppy, is recommended by Dhaliwal since it gives room for mechanical limitations. It also expands as you grow, taking you from the second trimester to your baby's arrival, but takes up less space than a body pillow.
Buy It: $34.99, Amazon.com; $34.99, BuyBuyBaby.com; $35, Boppy.com
What to Look For
Unique to You
When selecting a lumbar support pillow, Dhaliwal says it's important to consider the following:
- Your trunk length
- Core stability and strength
- Time spent in certain positions in all environments daily
- Current curvature
"Some people have exaggerated curves, flat backs, or reversed curvatures," she continues. "So, selecting a proper lumbar pillow must be fitted based on individual needs and functionality. A poorly fitting lumbar pillow can create unnecessary discomfort, which may lead to poor compliance in the long run."
If you can, speak with a physical therapist who can assess your needs and make a unique recommendation.
Width and Length
When shopping for a lumbar support pillow, Dhaliwal says to look for one that is not too bulky or long, has straps for adjustment or holds in position with individual height for a more custom fit.
"Ergonomically designed, lightweight and portability along with durability are essential," Dhaliwal says.
It's hard to know if a lumbar support pillow will work with your body before you try it out. Look for options with a return policy or the ability to try it out beforehand. Depending on where you'll be using it, a removable and washable cover may be a priority.
Dastugue says the most crucial consideration is the shape of the pillow to match the natural curve of your spine. "The pillow should fill the naturally occurring space between your lower back and the chair without forcing an unnatural spine position," she explains.
When you think of the firmness level of a lumbar support pillow, imagine Goldilocks and her search for the right porridge. It should be firm, but giving, explains Nicholas Rolnick, PT, DPT, the founder of Culture of PT PLLC.
"Too firm isn't comfortable, but too giving doesn't provide enough support. A healthy medium is best," Rolnick says.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.