According to the Cleveland Clinic, an estimated four out of five adults will suffer from lower back pain at some point, making it one of the most common health concerns in the world.
Indeed, aches in this part of the body are a significant cause of disability for young and middle-aged adults, says physical therapist Aman Dhaliwal PT, DPT.
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Because there are many different causes of back pain, talking to your doctor is the first step you should take to help you find long-term relief.
However, for some immediate short-term relief, the right pillow can do wonders, Dhaliwal says. "A stressed and stiff spine, due to neglect over time, injury or disease, may be soothed and comforted by a back pillow," she says.
Whether it's a pillow you sleep with or one you add to your office chair, "the back pillow's goal is to re-align the spinal curve to help decrease tension and pressure on soft tissue," Dhaliwal says.
The Best Pillows for Lower Back Pain
- Best Overall: The Purple Pillow ($134, Amazon)
- Best Body Pillow: Snuggle-Pedic Full Body Pillow ($66.99, Amazon)
- Best Cervical Pillow: Elviros Cervical Memory Foam Pillow ($46.99, Amazon)
- Best Office Chair Pillow: Everlasting Comfort Seat Cushion ($69.99, Amazon)
- Best for Back Sleepers: Half Moon Bolster Semi-Roll Pillow ($32.95, Amazon)
- Best for Side Sleepers: Contour Legacy Leg & Knee Foam Support Pillow ($24.99, Amazon)
How We Chose
We spoke with several experts, including physical therapists and a primary care physician, to navigate the wide world of back-support pillows. They helped us better understand what to look for in specific pillows, depending on whether you're suffering from backaches after sleeping, while pregnant or from logging long hours at the office.
We considered the following criteria in our selections:
- Durability and use
- Positive reviews
1. Best Overall: The Purple Pillow
If you would like one pillow that fulfills all your lower back pain demands and needs, turn to the Purple Pillow.
This highly-rated buy comes from the mattress-in-a-box company Purple. What makes it stand out from the rest is its versatility and ease of use.
Thanks to included boosters, you can adjust the pillow's height depending on where you want to place it (under your lower back, between your legs and so on). The design also features a zipper panel that gives you full control over the level of softness or firmness.
If you intend to use the pillow for sleep each night, you'll also appreciate the moisture-wicking mesh cover that can be removed and thrown into the washing machine.
However, there are a few drawbacks: It's on the heavier side, so it's not optimal for travel. It's also a one-sided pillow, meaning you can't flip it over. Instead, you have to fluff it to shape. And if you're someone who cares about a certain bed aesthetic, it doesn't blend in easily with other pillows.
- Firmness adaptability
- Height adaptability
- Moisture-wicking mesh
- One-sided pillow
- Not as aesthetically pleasing as other pillows
2. Best Body Pillow: Snuggle-Pedic Full Body Pillow
Snuggling with a body pillow when you sleep may help your lower back, especially during pregnancy. Long and lean pillows like this top-rated option from Snuggle-Pedic can be beneficial when placed between your legs or alongside your body for added support.
The memory foam material will contour to your body, encouraging you to maintain a healthy spine alignment while you sleep (or scroll through TikTok, or read in bed...). It was specifically designed by a chiropractor whose goal was to use high-quality materials that provide sturdiness and comfort. And if you run on the hotter side when you sleep, the breathable and washable cover is a win, too.
If you are on the shorter side, it may not be ideal to place between your legs when you sleep. How come? It's a thick material and wide in length, which could be uncomfortable for your hips.
Like most support pillows, it's heavy, so it's not easy to travel with. Some reviewers have also shared that the pillow carries a chemical smell. (The company suggests washing and drying the pillow cover before you sleep with it to correct the stench.)
- Memory foam for support
- Washable and breathable cover
- Not ideal for shorter people
- Chemical smell at first use
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $66.99
3. Best Cervical Pillow: Elviros Cervical Memory Foam Pillow
Did you know that pain in other parts of your back can sometimes cause lower back pain? That's because your core supports your lower back, making it easily affected if you're slouching.
That's why if you are experiencing upper back or neck pain while seated for prolonged periods, you may benefit from a cervical pillow, explains Allison Dastuge, PT, DPT, from the StoneFit Rehab Clinic. These are designed to curve around the neck and support your head. She says they're ideal if you're a frequent flier or someone who happens to sit a lot — at a desk, in a car and so on.
Want to try one out yourself? Go for this option from Elviros. Its unique shape weaves around your shoulders, head and neck to provide support exactly where you need it. You also can choose between two heights to fit your needs, and it's neither too soft or too hard. You can think of it as the Goldilocks of back-support pillows since more than 35,000 people say it's just right for their needs.
The arms of this pillow are meant to provide structure and support for your shoulders, but some reviewers say it can be uncomfortable for stomach sleepers. Or it could take some time to get used to. Because the goal of the pillow is to keep your spine in a certain position, you can't move around in your sleep without having to reposition yourself when you wake up. It's also not a very pretty pillow, so your bed might not always look Instagram-ready.
- Ergonomically designed
- Two height options
- Highly rated
- Not as ideal for stomach sleepers
- Limits movement
- Not aesthetically pleasing
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $46.99
4. Best Office Chair Pillow: Everlasting Comfort Seat Cushion
What kind of pillow you need will depend on when and where you are having your discomfort, Dastugue explains. And for many of us, our aches, pains, groans and moans come primarily from our office job.
If you are experiencing low back pain from sitting, you may benefit from a supportive pillow for your chair, Dastugue says. "They can reduce tension and strain on your muscles and allow your spine to rest comfortably."
We like this highly rated pillow that gives you low back support right where you need it the most. It's made of 650 grams of core-weight foam, a higher percentage than many other pillows. This means you will feel more cushion but still have memory foam's bounce-back support.
The ergonomic seat design curves around your lower spine and bottom, aligning your back and improving posture. It's lightweight, too, so you can take it with you in the car, on a plane, to your office — or anywhere you may be sitting pretty for an extended period.
You also can't argue with nearly 100,000 positive reviews on Amazon — it must be getting something right!
What are the drawbacks? There are a few. If you're a fan of a little cushion for your tushy, you may be disappointed in the firmness of this pillow. It is on the smaller side, so if you have a larger bottom or you have an oversized office chair, you may need something a bit bigger. For people with overweight, you may find the pillow is overly hot and could cause you to sweat.
- Ergonomic seat design
- Lightweight and portable
- High-quality memory foam
- On the small side
- Super firm
- Runs hot
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $69.99
5. Best for Back Sleepers: Half Moon Bolster Semi-Roll Pillow
Everyone has a different preference when it comes to sleeping position, and many of us can be fairly stubborn about it. If your position of choice is causing back pain, though, you may need to add a strategic pillow to your bedtime repertoire.
Dastugue says back sleepers should try a pillow tucked underneath their knees to reduce the tension on their lumbar spine by maintaining their pelvis in a more neutral position. "Sometimes a normal sleeping pillow will work here, but some may benefit from a more structured roll to maintain a bend in the knees while you sleep," she says.
For the latter, this pillow does the trick. Its half-moon shape keeps it in place on the bed while providing a comfortable prop for your knees.
According to Amazon reviewers, it can also be used as a lumbar support pillow when you're sitting. It has several thousand five-star reviews, with people calling it comfortable, durable and supportive.
- Made from high-quality memory foam
- Machine-washable cover
- Less expensive than many other pillows
- Takes 24 hours to expand once removed from the package
- Cover material pills easily
- Not tall enough for some people
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $32.95
6. Best for Side Sleepers: Contour Legacy Leg & Knee Foam Support Pillow
Side sleepers usually end up seeking a pillow because this position can put pressure on your hips and back. Dastugue recommends a pillow like this one that will allow the spine to remain in a neutral position and avoid a torque or twisting force through the spine while you sleep.
This orthopedic leg pillow provides support around your hip, leg, knee and sciatica nerve that aligns your back and relieves pressure and tension. It features temperature-regulated ventilated memory foam, meaning it will keep you cool when you're hot and warm when it's chilly.
Many side-sleeping pillows have straps that make it difficult to move in your sleep, but as a lightweight version with 30,000 positive Amazon reviews, this one works for most.
It does run on the small side, so if you prefer a bigger pillow, you'll want something different. It's also firmer, which is part of the design, so it will take some getting used to if you tend to go for softer pillows. Again, it's not aesthetically pleasing for a well-made bed, so consider tucking it away when you're not sleeping.
- Supportive orthopedic design
- Lightweight and moveable
- Temperature-regulating memory foam
- Runs small
- Not aesthetically pleasing
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $24.99
What to Look for in a Pillow for Back Pain
Particularly for sleeping, you want a back pillow made with breathable materials, so it doesn't make you overheat.
If you're using the pillow for travel, you probably don't want anything that's too heavy or bulky, either, because that can be difficult to lug around.
Ideally, you would use a back pillow for your lower back every day — at the office, in the car or while you sleep. And constant use requires constant washing. Always go for a back pillow with a cover that you can clean easily.
When it comes to fill, you need to find a balance between firm and soft that provides support. "The goal of such a pillow is that it can support your weight with some firmness but also is gentle enough to provide comfort," says Eric Tam, MD, a primary care physician with Mighty Health.
In an ideal world, you should test out a few varieties to see what genuinely helps your unique back.
The right back pillow for you should fit within your budget. Check the pillow's return policy so you can test out several options without wasting money.
2 Other Things to Keep in Mind When Shopping
1. Your Sleeping Position
Sleep and back pain are notoriously linked, says Dr. Tam. When buying a pillow for lower back pain, you want to make sure you're selecting a pillow for how you sleep: on your back, side or stomach.
"In addition to a cool, quiet, dark room, a supportive pillow can make a big difference in quality sleep. So if you're someone struggling with chronic back pain and insomnia, don't sleep on the importance of a supportive pillow," he adds.
2. Type of Back Pain
As Dastugue reminds us, every person and, therefore, every spine is different. What works for one person may not be the best fit for another.
"In the seated position, the pillow typically is chosen to best match the natural curve of your spine," she says. "If you are someone who has a more pronounced spinal curve, you may benefit from a more rigid or stiff pillow compared to someone with a more subtle curve."
If you're not sure what type of back pain you have, seek the attention of a doctor who will guide you to the right physical therapy regimen and back pillow.
When to See a Doctor About Back Pain
If your back pain isn't going away on its own after a week, you need to see a doctor ASAP. And before you buy a back pillow, it's probably a good idea to seek the attention of a physical therapist first.
As Dhaliwal says, activity level and core strength can be pre-determining factors in selecting a back pillow: "Identifying how much support is needed due to pain and range of motion deficit is important before making the decision. A pre-existing condition or comorbidity may also nurture the selection process."
In her opinion, the best situation would be a custom pillow for each individual because we all vary in height, weight and posture. "Typically, in a clinic setting, we would recommend starting with a towel roll, since it's inexpensive and easily modified to meet patient needs," she says. "Once it's determined how much pressure is easily tolerated and at what position, an actual pillow recommendation can be made."
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.