In This Article
Back pain is as one of the most prevalent medical conditions found in adults today. A study regarding the prevalence of sleep disturbance in patients with low back pain determined that, at any time, 20% of adults are suffering from an episode of back pain.
Having the right pillow combined with a mattress with proper support can greatly decrease discomfort and lead to a better nights sleep.
What Causes Back Pain
Though 20% of the adult population includes a high number of individuals, it doesn’t account for a significant percentage of the adult population.
The troubling aspect of the study conducted by George Institute for Global Health is its conclusion that 80% of all adults will experience episodes of back pain at some point in their lifetime.
For many individuals back pain is more than an uncomfortable nuisance, it is a chronic strain on their bodies and a barrier to living a healthy lifestyle.
The Mayo Clinic classifies back pain as any shooting, stabbing pain or muscle ache that radiates in the lower back or down either leg. A doctor may also diagnose back pain in patients who experience sensations of pain when sitting, standing, lifting, walking and sleeping.
Doctors searching for the source of a patient’s back pain typically begin with an assessment of the patient’s spine.
Spinal Alignment- Office chairs, bad posture, and low-quality mattresses allow the spine to compress and contort in ways that are detrimental to healthy spinal alignment, resulting in chronic back pain.
The key to avoiding back pain is to provide the most support for the neutral spine, which is the position the spine assumes when at rest. The best way to support a neutral spine is to assume good posture when sitting, standing and, most importantly sleeping.
As with any medical condition individuals experience back pain differently, and poor spinal alignment may not be the only condition contributing to a patient’s back pain.
Medical Conditions- A range of medical conditions can contribute to back pain including scoliosis, spinal stenosis, sprains, fractures, pregnancy, specific forms of cancer, kidney stones, arthritis, and endometriosis.
The only positive aspect of back pain is that the majority of back pain symptoms are easy to alleviate with home remedies, stretching, and a regimen of self-care.
Home remedies and stretching may not be adequate solutions for those who suffer from chronic back pain, in fact for many back pain sufferers, the only relief from the pain that dominates nearly every moment of their waking lives is a restorative night of comfortable sleep.
How Does Back Pain Affect My Sleep
Adequate sleep is critical to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but for those who suffer from chronic back pain quality sleep is more elusive than a remembered dream.
According to a study presented in the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, there is a “significant relationship between pain and sleep.”
The study correlated chronic low back pain (LBP) with sleep disturbances in the majority of adults and confirmed that individuals who are deprived of adequate rest are more susceptible to chronic pain.
In other words; the more pain the body experiences when attempting to sleep the less likely the body is to achieve adequate rest.
These findings only confirm what those who suffer from chronic pain have known all along; Chronic pain and sleep disturbance form a vicious cycle.
Lower Back Pain- LBP can develop at any age and is most commonly associated with the sensation of pain in the lumbar region of the body, which extends from the lower rib cage to the hips.
Night Time Back Pain- The majority of back pain sufferers can adjust certain aspects of their posture, routine, and lifestyle to alleviate their back pain symptoms. Those who suffer from nocturnal back pain are stricken with pain even when they take active measures to mitigate it.
Nocturnal Back Pain is characterized as back pain that doesn’t go away when sleeping, which exacerbates symptoms of sleep disruption.
Conditions Associated with Nocturnal Back Pain- Nocturnal back pain is a medical condition, but symptoms rarely evolve on their own. Nocturnal back pain is a common symptom of many medical conditions, including:
- Kidney Stones
- Spinal Stenosis
- Herniated Disks
- Ankylosing Spondylitis
- Spinal Tumors
- Various Forms of Cancer
- Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
- Gallbladder Disease
Thousands of remedies and medications have been developed for the various medical conditions associated with back pain. Few, however, have any effect on sleep disturbance caused by nocturnal back pain.
Luckily many sleep practices relieve back pain and promote healthy restorative sleep.
How to Alleviate Nocturnal Back Pain
If your back pain has reached the limit where you are now considering changing your sleep habits then a purchasing a new bed designed to relieve symptoms of back pain should be your first step. Beds designed to alleviate back pain typical include:
Adjustable Frame- Enables sleepers to recline, sleep prone, or elevate the knees and legs.
Supportive Mattress- Designed with extra support for the spine and pressure point relief.
Pain Relief Pillow- Designed to support the neck, displace the weight of the head, and properly align the spine.
Before running out and purchasing a brand new bed set, it’s important to remember that back pain affects every individual differently and that every individual has different preferences when it comes to how they sleep.
Consider Sleep Posture- Sleep posture is the position the body assumes when falling asleep and is arguably one of the most important sleep preferences to consider before making any purchase.
Sleep posture will ultimately determine what kind of mattress and pillow will be the most effective at alleviating back pain symptoms for specific individuals. Except for astronauts who sleep in zero-gravity, all sleepers assume a variation of three sleep postures:
Consider Sleep Disorders, Injuries & Conditions- Nocturnal back pain is a sleeping disorder, but it may not be the only condition causing a sleep disturbance.
You should consider any sleeping disorder that is currently affecting your sleep, as well as any injuries or medical conditions before purchasing a mattress or pillow designed to alleviate back pain.
Otherwise, you run the risk of purchasing a mattress & pillow combination that may provide little to no back pain relief.
An adjustable frame and mattress can relieve back pain in many back pain sufferers, but the understated hero of a full bed set designed for back pain is the pillow.
Positioning a Pillow for Back Pain Relief
Pillows are a fantastic and affordable way to alleviate nocturnal back pain without having to purchase an entirely new mattress.
Pillows can be positioned in strategic sections of the body to provide extra support, relieve pressure points, and elevate sensitive areas such as the hips and knees.
Those who sleep on their side in the fetal position are advised to sleep with a pillow under the head and neck and between the knees.
Back sleepers, including those who sleep in the reclined position, are recommended to sleep with a pillow under the knees, head, and neck
Stomach sleeping can be very detrimental to spinal health as it does not provide adequate support of healthy spine alinement.
However, for those who feel most comfortable sleeping on their stomach, it is recommended that a pillow be placed under the abdomen to elevate the hips and support a neutral spine.
The Best Pillow for Back Pain Buyers Guide
There are no rules when it comes to pillow design, and they come in many different types and configurations.
Pillows designed to alleviate back pain are no different, which is why it is essential when shopping for the best pillow for back pain to consider quality over any other feature.
To determine if a pillow is the best pillow for back pain consider:
Pillow Shape- The pillows shape plays a significant role in the pillows effectiveness at relieving back pain. The most common pillow shapes include body, wedge and cervical pillows which are utilized to support different areas of the body.
Pillow Stuffing- A pillows stuffing is arguably more important than its shape and is the feature that determines how and why the pillow is used. The most popular pillow stuffings include:
- Memory Foam
- Shredded Memory Foam
- Shredded Latex Noodles
- Down (Feather)
- Down Alternative
- Polyester (Synthetic)
Pillow Size- Pillows are typically manufactured in one of six sizes.
Pillow Cover- The pillow cover does not play a direct role in providing back pain relief, but it does contribute to the pillows overall comfort.
Pillow covers that should be breathable and feel pleasant on the skin. They should also be removable, machine washable and made from natural environmentally safe materials.
Pillow Features- Pillows designed for specific purposes are going to include different features. Pillows designed to provide maximum comfort and back pain relief typically include:
- Additional Neck Support
- Increase Lumbar Support
- Increased Softness
The best pillow for back pain will not be the same for every individual suffering from nocturnal back pain.
For our recommendations, however, the best pillow for back pain is a wedge or cervical pillow with responsive stuffing that provides firm and conforming support to the spine.
The pillow will enable healthy spine alignment and include all of the features that make a pillow comfortable and useful for any sleeper.
Best Overall – Nest Easy Breather Pillow
The goal of the Easy Breather Pillow from Nest Bedding is to seamlessly combine pressure relief with much-needed support for the spine and neck, and it certainly achieves its goal.
The cover of the Nest Easy Breather Pillow consists of organic cotton which provides breathability and a soft, luxurious feel on the skin.
The pillow is stuffed with 8-inches of all-natural latex which is popular for its firmness. The latex ensures the Nest Easy Breather Pillow remains cool all night long and never loses the lift that is critical to supporting the natural curve of the spine.
Back sleepers will find that the Nest Easy Breather Pillow provides nominal support and alignment of the spine and comfortably conforms to the shape of the neck and head. When sleeping on the side, the Nest Easy Breather Pillow performs well and enables a smooth transition from one side to the other.
The Nest Easy Breather Pillow also performed well when placed under the legs. The shredded latex noodles are incredibly responsive and provide comfortable separation when placed between the knees and healthy support when placed under the lumber.
Runner-Up – TruContour Lumbar Pillow for Sleeping Back Pain
The TruContour Lumbar Pillow for Sleeping Back Pain is one of the best choices anyone can make for his or her back. The TruContour Lumbar Pillow is designed to be placed under the lower back to provide extra lumbar support and enable a neutral spine.
The TruContour Lumbar Pillow is manufactured from medical grade memory foam which enables back pain sufferers to improve posture regardless of whether they sleep on their side, stomach or back.
The feature that distinguishes the TruContour Lumbar Pillow from other pillows designed for back pain is its versatility. The TruContour Lumbar Pillow is available in different degrees of firmness and support options; light and super support.
The TruContour Lumbar Pillow also allows sleepers to adjust the thickness of the pillow which makes it the ideal pillow for individuals of all shapes and sizes. The TruContour Lumbar Pillow comes with an extra soft velour cover in a breathable lining, so the pillow never overheats.
What’s more, the TruContour Lumbar Pillow is machine washable, dust mite-resistant and comes with a 100% money back guarantee if not entirely satisfied.
Honorable Mention – Snuggle-Pedic Ultra-Luxury Bamboo Shredded Memory Foam Pillow
The Snuggle-Pedic Ultra-Luxury Bamboo Shredded Memory Foam Pillow is designed to relieve back pain and never go flat, which are two features that distinguish it from 99% percent of the pillows on the market.
The Snuggle-Pedic Ultra-Luxury Bamboo Shredded Memory Foam Pillow is manufactured from hypoallergenic bamboo which makes it ideal for individuals with sensitive skin.
The pillow also comes with a high-quality, breathable micro-vented cover that feels luxurious on the skin, yet never overheats.
Memory Foam provides the stuffing for the Snuggle-Pedic Ultra-Luxury Bamboo Shredded Memory Foam Pillow, which enhances the pillows density and provides added support.
The memory foam also enables the Snuggle-Pedic Ultra-Luxury Bamboo Shredded Memory Foam Pillow to naturally adjust to the head and neck to provide critical support regardless of sleep position of posture.
Honorable Mention – Arc4Life Traction Pillow For Sleeping
Neck soreness and back pain are closely related which is why it is important to consider the neck when purchasing a pillow for back pain.
The Arc4Life Cervical Neck Traction Pillow works effectively regardless of sleep posture and is one of the only pillows that we could find that relieves pinched nerves and herniated disks.
The shape of the Arc4Life Cervical Neck Traction Pillow is what makes it so effective at relieving back pain. A deep ‘V’ lies at the bottom of the pillow and cradles the neck and provides support for the neck by gently immobilizing it in traction.
The Arc4Life Cervical Neck Traction Pillow For Sleeping aligns the spine with the proper curve of the neck to improve sleep posture and provide a stretch for the muscles of the neck.
The Arc4Life Cervical Neck Traction Pillow For Sleeping comes in a medium firmness that is neither too firm or too soft. The pIllow also comes with two levels of support; a gentler neck roll side and firmer traction side so the perfect level of support is only a pillow flip away.
Honorable Mention – EasyLife185 Ergonomic Aloe Memory Foam Sleeping Pillow for Back and Side Sleeper
The EasyLife185 Ergonomic Aloe Memory Foam Sleeping Pillow is specially designed to provide the maximum level of comfort and support for the neck and back.
The Ergonomic Aloe Memory Foam Sleeping Pillow is a high-performance pillow, meaning it is ideal for individuals who are experiencing back pain due to physical injury.
The EasyLife185 pillow is designed with an innovative new shape which includes a heart-shaped indent that cradles the head and provides therapeutic support to the vertebrae. It’s also stuffed with slow rebound memory foam to keep strain off of the back.
The EasyLife185 Ergonomic Aloe Memory Foam Sleeping Pillow comes with an anti-mite inner sleeve cover and aloe pillowcase that is exceptionally soft and breathable to prevent overheating.
Winner: Nest Easy Breather Pillow
The winner of the best pillow for back pain is the Nest Easy Breather Pillow for its incredible adaptability, support, and comfortable responsiveness.
The Nest Easy Breather Pillow provides quality, responsive support that enables it to be ridiculously comfortable, and it works great regardless of sleep position.
The Nest Easy Breather Pillow also performed well as added support for the abdomen, lumbar, legs and knees. The pillow works so well that we would recommend it for any sleep disturbance or chronic pain.