Back pain is brutal to live with. It makes walking, sitting, and even sleeping difficult. Sleeping challenges can be mitigated in some cases by using leg pillows for back pain.
The problem is a common one that affects millions of people every year. According to a study by the National Institute of Health (NIH), lower back pain ranks amongst the highest causes of disability in the world. Another study by NIH suggests that of those reporting back pain in a year, 10-20% are likely to develop chronic back pain.
These findings are not surprising, given our sedentary lifestyles and nearly constant use of electronic devices, like laptops and mobile phones. Some of the other common causes of chronic back pain could be muscle strain, joint stiffness, arthritis, ligament tears, herniated discs, sciatica, menstrual syndrome, and even pregnancy.
Back pain can causes tension, soreness, and stiffness of the back. In some cases, it may also radiate to the neck, shoulders, and legs. Pain in the back may cause insomnia, stress, and mental health problems.
If you’re living with chronic back pain, you may have heard that leg pillows are a possible solution for better sleep. The might be!
Do Leg Pillows Actually Help Back Pain?
Back pain can be helped with the use of drugs and some non-pharmacological treatment. Non-pharmacological treatments include exercises for the back, physiotherapy, consulting a chiropractor, and maintaining proper posture and spine curvature and using the proper chair to sit on, while at work. If you are suffering from back pain, using a certain type of mattress and pillow while sleeping may also help.
Back pain is caused by constant pressure exerted on the spine, because for most people sleeping is the single longest activity that they do during the day, improper posture during sleep can mean a prolonged period of pressure and stress for the back and spine.
Using a knee pillow may help you sleep better if you have back pain. Using a pillow between your legs while sleeping should help if you have back pain.
How to Sleep with a Leg Pillow
Where you place the pillow, largely depends on your preferred sleeping position. For the most part, people have 3 sleeping positions – sleeping on their back, side or stomach.
1) Sleeping on Your Back – Pillow Under Knees
If you sleep on your back you should place the pillow under your knees, which will help the natural curve of your lower back. The knee pillow will reduce stress on your spine by keeping your spine in a neutral position. It helps distribute the weight around your hips evenly.
If you have back pain on both sides of your body, sleeping on your back in this position may be best as it treats both sides equally. The pillow under your knees will also help prevent you from mindlessly rolling onto your side during the night which could cause further pain.
2) Sleeping on Your Side – Pillow Between Your Knees
Sleeping on your side is a good option if you suffer from back pain on one side. For side sleepers, it is advised to keep a pillow between the knees. The pillow will support the upper leg and reduce the pull that it creates on the spine while sleeping on the side.
Lie down with your knees bent slightly in a semi-fetal position. Place the pillow between your knees but also close to your pelvis to help keep your hip in a neutral position. A thicker pillow is desired here to help keep the top hip better aligned with the bottom hip.
3) Sleeping on Your Stomach – Try this Instead
Sleeping on the stomach is not advisable if you suffer from back pain. It’s not good for back pain. Sleeping on your stomach puts the most stress on the spine. The back muscles are also under pressure in this position, which causes the spine’s natural curve to flatten. It also forces you to sleep with your neck tuned 90 degrees, twisting the upper spine.
If you must sleep in this position, placing a pillow under the lower abdomen may help. But again, best to avoid it altogether.
A better option would be to try sleeping with a full body pillow that can help “lock” you in place better, supporting your knees, hips, and upper body.
What to Look for in a Leg or Knee Pillow
If you are suffering from sudden and immediate pain and do not yet have a designated knee pillow, try a regular pillow. It can work. If that’s not an option, try folding a thick towel or small blanket over into the desired thickness
You should be looking for a single, firm pillow that can be placed under or between the knees. Again, your goal is to ease the strain around your hip region by creating a more equal balance. Ensure that the pillow is thick enough to maintain suitable legs and hip alignment.
Orthopedic pillows are good for people suffering from back pain. They come in different shapes and size. When an hourglass knee pillow is used, it is best when placed between the legs for side sleepers suffering from back pain.
An orthopedic knee pillow is a refined version of a conventional pillow shaped to help people who have any medical problems relating to lower extremities, knee, ankle, hip, and back.
A conventional pillow can easily shift position, especially when you are asleep. A knee pillow helps avoid this problem.
A knee pillow is a firm and flexible pillow, made of memory foam. It may or may not have straps. The advantage of having a strap is the user does not have to worry about the constant repositioning of the pillow and can turn around freely without displacing it. The use of straps should be avoided by those who have sensitive skin.
When purchasing a pillow for back pain, three main features should be considered.
Look for a pillow that adequately elevates your leg and separates your knees. Your pillow should strike the right balance between comfort and support. I prefer firm, you may prefer soft.
Knee and leg pillows come in several different shapes and sizes; i.e., hourglass-shaped, wedge-shaped, cylindrical-shaped, or bolster pillow and donut-shaped pillow, sometimes referred to as hemorrhoid pillows.
Hourglass knee pillows are recommended for side sleepers suffering from back pain. A regular pillow can be used, but depending on your body shape and sleep position, you may find that a special pillow works better. I do.
When searching for a knee pillow, look for one which has a filling that is soft but also supportive. This comes back to the firmness. Personal preference plays a key role in selecting the correct pillow. It is important to consider the supportive quality of the pillow and the convenience of keeping the pillow clean.
Best Leg Pillows for Back Pain
1) ComfiLife Orthopedic Knee Pillow – Memory Foam Contour
ComfiLife Orthopedic Knee Pillow is an excellent pillow that will help you relieve back pain at night while sleeping. It is designed in a way that fits comfortably in between the knees while sleeping. This pillow has a breathable cover, and this ensures that the pillow doesn’t get too warm at night while sleeping.
- Sciatica, Back & Hip Pain Relief at Night - Ergonomically designed knee pillow fits comfortably between your knees and provides maximum support and comfort at night that helps relieve sciatica pain and pressure on the lower back. ComfiLife knee pillow is designed to help relieve back pain at night however it may not work for all conditions or completely eliminate all symptoms or pain. It may take a few days for your body to get adjusted to using a knee pillow at night and see results
- High-Density Memory Foam - Made with quality durable cut memory foam to provide long lasting comfort for hours, superior to other pillows it won't go flat over time
This is the hourglass-style pillow I spoke of. The contours of it are great, but it lacks the width of larger pillows that some people might need.
2) Abco Tech Foam Wedge Contour Knee Pillow
This pillow is similar to the ComfiLife but it comes with a washable cover and bag. This is a nice feature if you travel and want to bring your pillow with you. It has very solid reviews on Amazon.
Again, its contoured shape will help with better spine and knee alignment while you sleep. This pillow is designed with memory foam that gives you great support while you sleep.
3) Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Again, this pillow is similar in its hourglass shape but it has one key difference – a strap that wraps around one leg. This feature helps keep the leg between your legs and it’s perfect for restless sleepers who move around a lot. However, some might find it uncomfortable or distracting.
- CUSTOMIZED SUPPORT: Our hip pillow for side sleepers is made from soft yet dense memory foam, which adjusts to the shape of your lower body, creating a support system for your knees, hips, and legs
- PREVENTS KNEE CLASHING: The hour glass shape makes it the perfect between leg pillow for side sleepers. Its dual curved design cradles each leg, providing separation for an ideal sleeping position
It is ergonomically designed to keep your legs separated and provide enough support to align your legs, spine and hips while sleeping.
4) Contour Legacy Leg & Knee Foam Support Pillow
This pillow (as of this writing) has over 28,000 reviews averaging 4.5 stars. It differs from the other pillows in that it blends the hourglass shape with a wedge design. This may benefit some people more than the strict hourglass shape.
- ORTHOPEDIC LEG PILLOW TO HELP REDUCE BACK, HIP, LEG, KNEE & SCIATICA NERVE DISCOMFORT- As a side sleeper, you don’t sleep perfectly straight. Your top leg drops in front of you putting pressure on your back, your hip joints twist & your knees touch, causing pain. The Contour Legacy Pillow is the best leg pillow cushion for those looking for relief as the cushion comfortably supports your legs & knees to provide proper sleeping alignment & positioning to eliminate those painful pressure points.
- THE ONLY LEG PILLOW THAT SUPPORTS BOTH YOUR LEGS & KNEES – When we first invented our leg pillow back in the early 90’s (the hour glass shape that so many companies have now copied), our goal was to improve sleeping alignment to reduce pain. The leg pillow was invented to help reduce pressure that occurs from bad sleeping posture which causes discomfort. Years later we realized that cushioning & supporting BOTH your legs & knees are important in maintaining proper alignment to help reduce pain.
The Contour Legacy Pillow is one of the best leg pillows for those looking for relief as the pillow comfortably supports your legs and knees to provide proper sleeping alignment & positioning to eliminate those painful pressure points.
5) Leg Elevation Pillow with Memory Foam Top
Are you a back sleeper? This one might be for you. It’s a serious pillow! Depending on the nature and location of your back pain, this could be the pillow for you.
- IDEAL LEG REST PILLOW - Attain optimal spinal & coccyx alignment and improve your body posture while resting or sleeping in a way that allows for maximum relaxation and relief - lay your legs against our elevated leg rest pillow and relieve excess pressure off your legs, hip & knees.
- COMFORT REDEFINED - Generous cushion of our best leg rest pillow eliminates leg cramps experienced when you wake up, adds ease to your video gaming or TV time; ensures comfort for mothers while feeding newborns, and helps get relief from restless leg syndrome, varicose veins & phlebitis. You can also use this foot pillow as a bolster pillow to elevate a mattress or pillow.
The ramp-style design relieves excess pressure on your legs, hips, and knees to allow for maximum relaxation and enables optimal spinal c coccyx alignment to improve your body posture while resting. It may be too much pillow for some, however.
6) Sleep Yoga Knee Pillow for Back Sleepers & Side Sleepers
This is my personal favorite. The Sleep Yoga Pillow has been engineered with side and back sleepers in mind. This pillow helps reduce tension in the lower back and pelvic region. It is long enough to fit from the knees through to the ankles.
- KNEE PILLOW FOR ALL SLEEPERS - Great knee support for both back and side sleeping; can also be used between the knees to help provide comfort
- CHIROPRACTOR DESIGNED - Chiropractic& orthopedic designed angles and contours to help improve posture, relieve back pain & sciatica pain relief
Depending on your sleep style, the pillow is intended to fit either between or below your legs in order to promote good posture during sleep.
Avoiding Back Pain in the First Place
While managing back pain is important for those who suffer from it, it is best if you can completely avoid back pain altogether. There are some general precautions you can take to avoid or reduce back pain. If you are suffering from lower back pain, it is recommended that you discuss your condition with your doctor.
Various factors like obesity, age, inactive and/or unhealthy lifestyle, copious pressure exerted on the back, and repetitive movements involving twisting or rotation spine movements can be responsible for causing back pain.
Age and physical condition appropriate regular exercise can help you have a healthier back and overall body. Swimming and walking help to strengthen back and abdomen muscles and avoid any muscle injury or spasms.
Stretching exercises maintain stability and relieve any muscle tension. Yoga is recommended, but consult with your physician first if you have a serious back injury as stretching can sometimes aggravate the problem if done incorrectly.
Healthy and Balanced Diet
Proper eating and maintaining a balanced diet with adequate nutrition is essential to keep bones and muscles strong. Vitamin D and calcium provide strength for bones avoiding osteoporosis.
A nutritious diet maintains good blood circulation towards the back preventing muscle soreness. It also prevents obesity which is one of the leading causes of back pain.
Mental stress also triggers back pain. Muscles tend to get tense when you are stressed. Regular stress relief exercises and yoga are highly recommended for reducing stress.
It is important to maintain a proper posture whether standing, sitting, or sleeping. If you can, avoid sleeping on the stomach as it causes the ill alignment of the spine. You should try to balance your weight evenly on both legs to maintain posture stability.
Smoking reduces blood circulation of the back, triggering disc degeneration, and slower healing. Taking care of your health should be your number one priority.
Back pain is just that – a pain. When it is severe enough, daily life is disrupted. Always consult your doctor if your back pain is chronic and you can get no relief. Be wary of taking too many pharmaceutical “cures” for the problem, however, as pain killers can easily lead to addiction.
Hopefully, your back pain is not so severe that your life is made miserable by it. Lead a healthy lifestyle, exercise and stretch, and if it helps, use leg pillows for back pain to seek some type of relief at night.