Snoozing with a supportive pillow is a great way to keep healthy posture and guard against back pain. Of course, sleep is something we all do differently, and there is no one-pillow-fits-all rule! But don’t worry, folks. My roundup of the best pillows for back pain is here to help.
In this guide, I’m presenting the top seven pillows designed to alleviate back pain and bring you the restorative sleep you need. I picked something for every position so that sleepers of all styles can find their perfect match. Plus, I’ll impart my own tips and tricks behind pillow-shopping so you’re better equipped to do some research on your own. Let’s get started!
Best Pillow for Back Pain
- Best Overall – TEMPUR Neck Pillow
- Best Luxury Pillow for Back Pain – Layla Pillow
- Best Adjustable Pillow for Back Pain – Lagoon Fox Pillow
- Best for Combination Sleepers with Back Pain – Marlow Pillow
- Best Hypoallergenic Pillow for Back Pain – Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow
- Best Cooling Pillow for Back Pain – Luxome LAYR Pillow
Disclaimer: The content on Sleepopolis is meant to be informational, but should not replace medical advice. If you experience chronic neck or back pain, it’s best to consult your healthcare provider.
Best Overall – TEMPUR Neck Pillow
The TEMPUR-Neck is a molded memory foam pillow with an ergonomic shape designed to follow the natural curvature of the body.
3.90 / 5Read Full Review
Up next is the Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Neck, a pillow designed for back and side sleepers who need extra help maintaining healthy posture.
Nowadays, Tempur-Pedic offers a wide variety of pillows, but this one is its very first. It’s filled with the brand’s proprietary memory foam, a material known for its exceptionally slow response to pressure. If you’re looking for a firm, moldable pillow that’ll tightly conform to your head and neck’s shape, this is a great way to go.
What’s unique about this model is its contoured design. The sides of the pillow are curved, the middle has a lower loft, and the whole thing kind of resembles the letter “U.” This construction is meant to adapt to the natural contours of your head, neck, and shoulders, and to prevent your spine from deviating out of alignment when you’re back or side sleeping.
And just to make sure all its bases are covered, one side of the pillow has a higher loft to accommodate taller sleepers, while the other side is shorter for us petite folks.
If you’re curious to learn more about this accessory, be sure to check my full Tempur-Pedic pillows review!
Price: $89-$129, with a five-year warranty.
Perfect For: Back and side sleepers looking for a firm contour pillow!
Best Luxury Pillow for Back Pain – Layla Pillow
Layla Kapok Pillow
Constructed with shredded foam and natural fibers from a Kapok tree, this pillow is both plush and dense enough for side sleepers.
4.50 / 5Read Full Review
Meet the luxurious and super-lofty Layla Kapok Pillow, a perfect pick for side sleepers.
Amply stuffed full of shredded memory foam and a natural down alternative called Kapok, the Layla pillow strikes a cozy balance between plush and supportive. It’s fluffy, huggable, and features an extra lofty profile of seven inches tall. Side sleepers (especially those looking to alleviate back and shoulder pain) are going to be most compatible with this pillow.
The Layla is one of my favorites for alleviating lower back pain because it’s great for holding between the legs and under the knees. Remember: tucking a lofty pillow beneath your knees or between your legs can align the spine, relieve lower lumbar pressure, and boost blood circulation. Plus, this pillow’s dense yet fluffy construction helps it maintain its shape under pressure.
But if you’re looking for something a little less lofty, take comfort in the fact that this pillow’s fill is adjustable in order to accommodate all sleep styles.
For the full scoop on how it performs in every position, check my full Layla pillow review.
Price: $99-$119, with a 120-night trial period and five-year warranty.
Perfect For: Side sleepers looking for a lofty, supportive, multi-purpose pillow!
Best Adjustable Pillow for Back Pain – Lagoon Fox Pillow
Lagoon Fox Pillow
This adjustable pillow allows you to add or subtract the fill until you find the right height and firmness level.Read Full Review
If you’re not quite sure what type of pillow is going to be best for your back pain, you should try the Lagoon Fox. An adjustable pillow, it allows you to remove and replace the fill to your liking, so you can test out a variety of heights and firmness levels.
The filling is made from shredded memory foam, which should leave plenty of room for air to flow through the pillow. It also has a cover of bamboo and rayon — both breathable materials. Another bonus? The foam has been infused with gel to assist with cooling, and is CertiPUR-US certified. That means its manufacturing process is environmentally friendly, conducted without ozone depleters and other harmful emissions.
To adjust the pillow’s fill, simply remove the cover, then add or subtract the memory foam to your liking.
Read more about the Fox — as well as some of the brand’s other products — in our full Lagoon pillows review.
Price: $119–$139 with a 100-night trial period.
Perfect for: Unsure shoppers who are still figuring out what kind of pillow they want.
Best for Combination Sleepers with Back Pain – Marlow Pillow
Brooklinen Marlow Pillow
The Marlow pillow from Brooklinen is filled with shredded foam and polyester fiber fill and uses a zippered design to offer an adjustable feel.
4.20 / 5Read Full Review
A combination sleeper is going to need a pillow that’s responsive and allows them to easily switch positions while they rest. If they struggle to change positions, this might worsen any back pain they’re experiencing.
These folks may want to check out the Marlow Pillow. Its fill of shredded foam and polyester fiber provides a little bit of fluff while still offering plenty of support and responsiveness. You should have no problem switching from your side to your back to your stomach.
The Marlow is also an adjustable pillow, although not in the way you might expect. Instead of adding and removing its filling, all you have to do is unzip it. This gives it more compression and allows you to sink in a bit more. And if you want to make the pillow firmer again, simply zip it back up. It’s worth noting that this adjustability probably isn’t as drastic as what you’d see in a pillow with removable fill. It’s more of a slight alteration in compression.
To read more about this innovative pillow and see if it’s right for you, check out our full Marlow Pillow review.
Price: $65–$85, with a 365-night trial period. The pillow is also available as a two-pack and a four-pack.
Perfect For: Anyone who alternates between two or more sleeping positions.
Best Hypoallergenic Pillow for Back Pain – Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow
Eli & Elm Side-Sleeper Pillow
The Eli & Elm side sleeper pillow is one of the best pillows for side sleepers. It’s constructed in a unique u-shape to support side sleepers’ heads and necks and reduce shoulder pain.
4.30 / 5Read Full Review
If you struggle with back pain and allergies, you’ll want a pillow that isn’t going to exacerbate either of these issues. The Eli & Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow may be just what you’re looking for.
With a latex/polyester fill and a cover made of cotton, polyester, and spandex, this pillow is hypoallergenic. It’s antimicrobial, mildew-proof, and resistant to dust mites, so it’s highly unlikely to activate anyone’s allergies. As far as back pain goes, its unique shape contours the neck and shoulders, which helps keep the spine in a neutral alignment. Plus, the pillow’s fill is adjustable, so you can add and remove it until you find the most comfortable loft and firmness.
We think that the Eli & Elm pillow will be the best fit for back sleepers and side sleepers, both of whom should feel the right blend of comfort and support. It could also be a good match for anyone who sleeps hot, as latex is a naturally cooling material, and the cotton cover is soft and breathable.
Excited to learn more? Check out our full Eli & Elm Side-Sleeper Pillow review.
Price: $125–$145, with a 45-day trial period.
Perfect For: Back sleepers, side sleepers, and sleepers with allergies!
Best Cooling Pillow for Back Pain – Luxome LAYR Pillow
The Luxome LAYR Pillow is a customizable option with CertiPUR-US certified memory foam and naturally cooling bamboo.
Luxome LAYR Pillow
The Luxome LAYR Pillow is a customizable option with CertiPUR-US certified memory foam and naturally cooling bamboo.
If you’re struggling with back pain but are also plagued with the discomfort of a sweaty sleep, then the Luxome LAYR pillow could be the solution for both of those problems.
The Luxome LAYR pillow includes a number of cooling properties: a cooling bamboo cover, gel-infused memory foam, and breathable cotton inserts. This construction ensures the regulation of sleepers’ body temperature throughout the night and prevents folks from waking up hot and sweaty.
As far as relieving back pain goes, the Luxome LAYR pillow helps sleepers pinpoint their preferred loft with the use of cotton inserts. By mixing and matching these inserts, sleepers can choose what pillow height and firmness is best for their spinal alignment and overall comfort.
Our full Luxome LAYR Pillow review is coming soon.
Price: $120–$150, with standard and king options. The pillow is also available as a one-pack and a two-pack.
Perfect For: Sleepers with back pain who are also battling the discomfort of overheating at night.
Methodology: How to Pick a Pillow for Back Pain
Now that we’ve taken a look at my top picks, let’s cover some fundamentals that’ll guide you in your search. When you’re shopping for a pillow that’ll alleviate back pain, it’s important to consider how its construction will support your preferred sleeping position. Below, I’ll tell you how to land on the loft, firmness, and materials that best suit your sleep style, and provide some strategies for relieving back pain as well.
Choosing the Right Loft & Firmness for Your Sleeping Position
Promoting neutral spine alignment is your pillow’s most important job, and goes a long way in guarding against back pain. Essentially, this means that your pillow supports the natural C-curve of your spine, without craning your head or neck into an unsafe position.
That said, every sleeping position requires a different loft (height) and firmness in order to ensure neutral spine alignment. So let’s take a closer look at the best loft and firmness for each sleep style:
- Side Sleeping – Side sleepers need a firm, high-lofted pillow that’s at least 4-inches deep. This will keep the head, neck, and spine in neutral alignment, and relieve pressure at the shoulders as well.
- Stomach Sleeping – Stomach sleepers need a soft, low-lofted pillow in order to prevent the head and neck from being craned upwards. Some pillows may look too lofty for stomach sleeping, but as long as they’re soft enough to compress into a loft of 2-inches or lower, you should be good to go!
- Back Sleeping – Back sleepers are most compatible with a medium level of loft and firmness. That said, some back sleepers may prefer a firmer feel, while others might enjoy a plush, thinner pillow. You may also want to upgrade your entire bedroom set up, so take a look at our list of best mattresses for back sleepers, to see if a new bed can help you avoid aches and pains. Whichever you choose, just make sure your head is not being pushed forward, out of alignment with your neck and spine.
For a more in-depth explanation of how to keep a healthy sleeping posture and neutral spine alignment, be sure to check my complete guide to picking the right pillow!
Strategies for Alleviating Back Pain
Yes, pillows provide head and neck support, but they can also be wedged between your legs, under your knees, beneath your abdomen, or behind your back in order to relieve pressure throughout the body. Below, we’ll explore the different ways in which a pillow can be used to alleviate back pain:
- Behind the Back – Slipping a pillow behind your back is a great way to relieve lower lumbar pressure, especially when you’re in the upright position. A wedge pillow is ideal for this, but a low-lofted pillow with a firm feel can get the job done too! Memory foam is a great material for this as well, as its slow response to pressure can conform to the precise contours of your back (more on this later).
- Between the Legs – Holding a pillow between your legs when you’re on your side is a great way to relieve hip pressure and lower back pain. It can also serve to align your spine, but you’re going to want to make sure the pillow is lofty and firm enough to maintain its shape under pressure. We’ll talk more about specific materials next, but latex can be great for this technique as its buoyancy can help keep your leg lifted.
- Under the Belly – Keeping a very thin, soft pillow beneath your belly when you’re stomach sleeping can alleviate back pain, and relieve pressure in the lower abdomen as well. Down, down-alternative, and polyester are great materials for this, as they’re extra soft and can easily compress under pressure.
- Under the Knees – Keeping a lofty pillow under your knees can relieve lower back pain and improve circulation throughout your entire body. Again, you’ll want to pick something with a firmer feel that won’t lose its shape and support beneath the weight of your legs.
Okay, now let’s talk materials. As I just mentioned, some materials are soft and plush, some are firm and dense, and others have a bouncy-quick response to pressure. To get a better idea of which is ideal for you, let’s explore the most popular materials below:
- Memory Foam – Memory foam is known for its slow response to pressure, and ability to conform to the precise contours of your body. It’s often firmer than other materials, which can be particularly beneficial for side sleepers, or those looking to hold a pillow between their legs or under their knees.
- Latex – Latex is typically less dense than memory foam, with a much quicker response to pressure. This can come in handy for sleepers who like to rest on top of the pillow rather than deeply sink into it. Its springy support is also ideal for folks looking to hold a pillow between their legs for lower lumbar relief.
- Down & Down Alternative – Down and down alternative pillows are known for being extra soft and compressible, making them ideal for stomach sleepers. In order to relieve back pain, stomach sleepers might want to use a down/down alternative pillow for their head, and then slip another one beneath their belly too.
Can pillows make your back hurt?
Yes, sleeping with a pillow that doesn’t properly support you in your go-to position can lead to back and neck pain. That’s why it’s important to match your pillow’s loft and firmness to your preferred sleep style.
What type of pillow should a side sleeper use?
In order to prevent neck and back pain, side sleepers should use a pillow with a lofty profile and a firmer feel. This will serve to align the spine, and relieve pressure at the shoulders and hips as well.
How should I sleep to avoid back pain?
Aside from using a supportive head pillow, sleepers can experiment with different pillow strategies in order to prevent back pain. For example, using a pillow between the legs or under the knees can serve to align the spine, and relieve lower lumbar pressure as well. Stomach sleepers, in particular, can slip a soft, low-lofted pillow beneath their bellies to alleviate lower back and abdomen pressure as well.
Now that you’ve seen my top seven favorite pillows for back pain, you’re well on your way to picking the perfect one (or two… or three…). Just be sure to keep a close eye on loft, firmness, and materials, and take some time to consider the sleep style strategies that work best for your body. Happy shopping and sweet dreams!