If you’ve ever woken up with unbearable lower back pain in the morning, you may have instinctively blamed your mattress. And although it might have played a part, there’s another facet of your sleeping routine that could be wreaking havoc on your spine — and that’s how you sleep.
As a side sleeper and sufferer of occasional sciatica pain, I’ve spent my fair share of time upgrading my sleeping setup to get much-needed relief while I slumber. One of the most effective changes I made was incorporating the use of a knee pillow, which, according to Beth Terranova, a physical therapist at New York City’s Strength and Spine, helps significantly in achieving a healthy spine alignment to reduce discomfort.
“The position of your knees while sleeping affects the position of your hip, pelvis and spine. Putting a pillow between your knees can help to bridge that space and allow your hips to stay stacked,” she said. “Keeping your hips stacked helps to not rotate your spine, which can become uncomfortable after sleeping in a rotated position for a while.”
Like the name suggests, a knee pillow is designed to be placed between your knees when you sleep on your side and eliminate pressure on your hips and lower back. Terranova added that over time, it’s possible to develop stiffness, aches and pains if you are sleeping with your spine in a rotated position, and that her clients notice a big improvement when using a knee pillow. But she also suggested using a larger body pillow to add provide for your upper body.
“Don’t forget about your shoulders as well! Upgrade the pillow between your knees to a body pillow and you can also support your arm, shoulders and upper back. This is especially helpful if you have upper back or shoulder pain as well,” she said.
Below, we rounded up knee and body pillows that reviewers rave about.
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Everlasting Comfort knee pillow
Made of soft yet dense memory foam, this knee pillow is designed to adjust to the shape of your leg. It has an hourglass-like structure that fits perfectly between your knees as you sleep. It also comes with an adjustable strap to keep it from moving. And as a bonus, you'll also get a complimentary pair of memory foam earplugs for when you're trying to catch some ZZZ's in loud surroundings. It comes with a removable washable pillow cover.
"This pillow is everything! I don’t like my knees clashing together when I’m sleeping on my side. It’s really annoying and irritating. But this pillow is soft, supportive and relieves all of that. I’m a wild sleeper too so no matter how/where I toss and turn, it stays in place all night. I get the best sleep with this pillow, hands down!…..Or should I say knees down LOL" — Jess Michelle
Contour knee and leg foam support pillow
This ventilated memory foam pillow also features an ergonomic hourglass design and helps keeps your knees aligned to reduce discomfort, back and hip pain and other sleep disturbances. It comes with a removable washable pillow cover. Promising review:
"I was a little skeptical when I first bought this pillow, but was having the worst back pain and was willing to try anything and to my surprise, this pillow was amazing. I'm a side sleeper and ALWAYS need a pillow between my legs but sometimes the pillow can be too big or not big enough and it always causes hip and back pain. I've had this pillow for 4 months now and I'm obsessed. It's so comfortable and compact but really makes a big difference for side sleepers!" — Jennifer Lee
Circa Air inflatable knee pillow
If you have a trip coming up, you'll find this travel-friendly knee pillow particularly useful. The inflatable pillow has a one-way button valve and folds down to just 4 inches by 2 inches so you can easily store it in your luggage without using up a ton of space. Despite its small size, it has an ergonomic design when inflated and a breathable exterior. Promising review:
"I need to sleep with a knee pillow and have been trying to fit my memory foam one in suitcases. Got tired of it taking up so much room and have been looking for a travel knee pillow. This one is perfect! Folds up into a very small pouch and weighs hardly anything. Easy to inflate and comfortable to sleep with. So happy I found it." — Robyn Bernitt
Everlasting Comfort bolster pillow
Back sleepers, this one is for you. This half-moon style lumbar pillow is designed to be used multiple ways, including between your legs or knees and behind your neck while laying down. It's made of breathable memory foam and comes with a removable washable cover.Promising review:
"This pillow is exactly what I needed to help me have a full night of comfortable back sleeping. The size and shape are perfect for positioning under the back of the knee which relieves pressure on the lower back and hips. I am able to sleep all night with no pain! Cover is soft and removable for easy cleaning. I am very satisfied with this purchase. No bad smells either!" — Amanda Darty
Oubonun adjustable loft body pillow
If you want an all-in-one support option, this body pillow with an adjustable loft is a great choice. Ideal for all sleep positions, the pillow promotes proper spine alignment and allows for the removal or addition of fillings to get a custom height for your needs. It comes in gray, white/gray, white/blue and all white and measures 21 inches by 54 inches. Promising review:
"This is the best body pillow I’ve ever had. I bought it to provide pain relief for my arthritic knee and to keep me from rolling over on my back at night. It has provided a great deal of relief for my knee, supporting it well, and I now sleep comfortably on my side all night, which has reduced my snoring. I can’t recommend it enough! Well worth it." — MandySu