According To A Physical Therapist, A Body Pillow Can Help Relieve Back Pain— Here's How
by Cynthia Fetherlin

Back pain can be a nightmare, especially when it keeps you from getting some much needed sleep. Sitting for long periods of time, sleeping on your side, or pregnancy can all cause varying degrees of back pain. A body pillow can help ease your back pain so you wake up feeling well-rested. With so many options out there, choosing one of the best body pillows for back pain can be a challenge in itself.

To get more information, I reached out via email to Dr. Karena Wu, a board-certified clinical specialist in orthopedic physical therapy and owner of ActiveCare Physical Therapy in New York City. When it comes to back pain, a body pillow can help because "it can support the weight of the arm and leg when side lying," she explained. "Without it — and if the arm or leg sits forward from the body— the weight pulls on the torso, which can torque the spine."

She recommends choosing a body pillow with medium firmness so it has "some give so that it supports the limb weight." She also suggests that you make sure you lie more next to it and not completely over it. "Arm or leg can be placed onto top or cradling it but not stretched out too far," she says. Otherwise, she adds, there's still potential to twist the spine even more, thus causing more harm.

When shopping for a body pillow, I found its best to consider its shape first:

  • U-shaped: These are great for side-sleepers because if you switch sides, you won't have to completely adjust the pillow.
  • C-shaped: When I was pregnant, this shape worked well because the curved top and elongated midsection were great for supporting my neck, back, and bump.
  • Straight: If you want to relieve some pressure from your hips and knees, consider a straight body pillow. This style also works well if you have a pillow you already like for your head but want to add an additional cushion for your lower body.

Next, remember that body pillows will likely take up a good portion of your bed, so if you have a smaller bed, be sure to check out the pillow's dimensions first.

With all this in mind, I've rounded up a selection of the best body pillows for back pain to give you a range of options. Read on to find the perfect one for you.


The Best Overall Body Pillow for Back Pain

This U-shaped body pillow is firm enough to provide the right amount of support. With the flexible shape, you can fold it into different positions to support your legs or lower back when sitting up. Very Well Health awarded it "The Best Body Pillow for Back Pain" due to its total body support. Although some people say it's quite large, it does come in four sizes so you can choose the right size for your space.

Reviewers also urge new users to not let the looks of the pillow deceive them when it first arrives; it will seem small, but when you take it out of the package, it'll expand. One user recommends putting it in the dryer when you first get it to help the stuffing expand. Also, keep in mind, the cover is 100% velvet, so it can be a little hot to sleep on. If you prefer a cooler pillow, you may want to opt for the version that comes with a bamboo cover instead.

What fans say: "I suffered [from] horrible back pain for a long time and would constantly wake up in the middle of the night. Since using this pillow, [I have] no more back pain. [I] hardly wake up in the middle of the night."


The Best Body Pillow For Hot Sleepers

If you sleep hot, a body pillow filled with shredded memory foam is breathable enough to keep you cool, and firm enough for full-body support. The micro-vented bamboo cover is designed to prevent heat from building up while you sleep. It's also hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites, so if you have allergies, this is a great option. The shredded memory foam inside is CertiPUR-US Certified, meaning it was made without harmful materials. If it isn't as thick as you'd like, the manufacturer says tossing it in the dryer can help keep it soft and "fluffy."

What fans say: “My favorite part is how cool the pillow stays throughout the night, thanks to the breathable cover [...]. I'm happy to report that since I purchased the pillow, I've woken [up] every morning refreshed and with no pain! [I] couldn't be happier with this purchase - I would 100% recommend this product to anyone who suffers from back pain after sleep, or anyone who just wants to enjoy sleeping with a great pillow!”


The Best Body Pillow For Side Sleepers

Sleeping on your side can sometimes put strain on your lower back, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Prevent painful mornings with this U-shaped body pillow. Several reviewers rave about how this pillow has helped relieve their back pain caused by sleeping on their sides. One reviewer wrote that it "cradles my entire body" and that she wakes up without the aches and pains she normally experiences. This pillow has also received accolades from The Strategist and Business Insider for being "The Best U-shaped Body Pillow." The stuffing is made with synthetic down making i hypoallergenic. Plus, the entire pillow is machine washable, which means dust mites can be easily kept at bay.

What fans say: "I was having back problems and couldn't get comfortable no matter what I tried to do [...] I'm a side/belly sleeper and this pillow supports me in all the right places so I'm finally getting some restful, no-pain sleep every night!"


The Best Body Pillow for Pregnancy-Related Back Pain

Designed by a registered nurse, this C-shaped body pillow supports your neck and lower back while providing extra comfort for that growing bump. Many reviewers rave about how it has just the right level of firmness for relieving back pain.

The cover is made from 100% cotton, so the fabric is soft and breathable. Keep in mind, some reviewers say the cover can be a little difficult to put back on after washing, but given the pillow's high rating and over 7,000 reviews, it seems to be only a minor inconvenience. It also comes in four colors, so it'll easily complement any bedroom decor.

What fans say: “I've experienced lower back pain from the very first trimester. I found this pillow comfortable and supportive on my lower back. In the third trimester, I started to experience hip pain. I started sleeping with the lower portion of the "C" so that the pillow was between my ankles and knees and my hip pain went away!”


The Best Budget Body Pillow

This budget-friendly body pillow is made with alternative down and has a 100% cotton cover, making it soft and breathable. It comes in three levels of firmness — medium, firm, and extra firm — so no matter what your preference is, there's one that will meet your needs. With more than 2,000 positive reviews on Amazon, many people boast about how it helps ease back pain so they wake up feeling rested and refreshed— all for under $30. One thing to consider is that some reviewers have reported the medium firmness is a little too soft, so if you prefer a more supportive pillow, go with the firm or extra firm one.

What fans say: “I love this body pillow. I have back pain and using this at night has helped me get comfortable as I sleep. It is firm enough to keep its shape yet feels soft enough to hug my body at night and keep me comfortable.”

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Dr. Karena Wu of ActiveCare Physical Therapy