Take a second to think about your posture right now. As you’re reading this story are you hunched over your phone or slouched down at your desk? Are you sitting on your foot? No judgment — we’re guilty of much of the same — but if you’ve ever been plagued by nagging back pain, tweaking your daily positions can make a big difference.
While there are some bed pillows that help with back pain (and even more for neck pain, which you can learn more about here), the four chiropractors we spoke with all recommend starting by improving your posture at your desk chair with a lumbar cushion. “We’re always trying to restore normal posture in the lumbar [or lower] spine,” says Rudy Gehrman, a chiropractor and the founder and CEO of Physio Logic. It makes sense since, for better or worse, you likely spend just as much time — if not more — at work as in bed. Below, we’ve rounded up their picks for pillows and cushions to keep you aligned, night and day.
Best back support seat cushions
“If you have a chair that has no back support or lumbar cushion, you’re not supporting that normal lumbar lordosis — or curve — so you’re pushing all the weight onto the [spinal] discs,” Gehrman says, adding that lumbar support cushions “make sitting less evil.” Chiropractor Randi Jaffe calls this cushion, which has an adjustable strap for moving it up and down on your chair, “a nice way to enhance a good chair or make a not-so good chair better.” The ideal position for the cushion depends on your height and the shape on your spine. “Feel your lower back where it naturally curves inward,” says chiropractor Jan Lefkowitz of Body in Balance Chiropractic. “That is where the support should be placed.”
Since everyone’s natural spinal curve is a little bit different, Gehrman regularly recommends this adjustable inflatable cushion to his patients. It comes with a hand pump so you can fill it with air for anywhere from 1.5 to 3 inches of support. That allows you to gradually build up to a greater level of support, which is beneficial if you’ve never used a cushion before. “If you have no curve at all in your lumbar spine, we want to try to restore that normal curve,” says Gehrman, “but if we try to restore a curve on an office worker who has not had any back support [for years] and we put too much of a support in, that rapid change can actually cause an injury.”
“Proper posture actually starts with the pelvis and lower back,” says Lefkowitz. “That is your foundation.” Jaffe likes this memory foam seat cushion to take pressure off your tailbone and provide some support for your lower spine.
Best back support bed pillows
When it comes to bed pillows, chiropractor David Perna of Back & Body Medical says to look for something firm that offers plenty of support no matter where you place it. “Typically, when you’re talking about a pillow for back pain, you’re looking at placing it either underneath your knees with your legs slightly bent if you’re sleeping on your back or, if you’re a side sleeper, between your knees so that your top leg wouldn’t be pulling down on your pelvis and putting torque on your back,” he says. For a pillow that won’t go flat under your body, he likes the dense memory foam of a Tempur-Pedic.
Both Perna and Jaffe suggest sleeping with a body pillow to relieve back pain, especially if you move around and switch positions during the night. Perna likes that you can have one end of the pillow between your knees and “also have it come up high enough to where it should be able to support your head and neck.” Jaffe adds that these long pillows “keep the spine in a neutral position” and can be easily moved from under the knees to between your legs.
Best back support pillows for side sleepers
If you sleep exclusively on your side, it might be worth investing in a dedicated leg spacer pillow, Jaffe says. “It just brings the knee up a little bit and it creates that neutral spine and neutral pelvis,” she says, helping side sleepers avoid sinking into a contorted or unnatural position that leads to pain.
Side sleepers with back pain that’s concentrated around the shoulders can get relief with this innovative ramp-like pillow with a hole for sliding your arm through. Perna likes how it reduces torque on the neck, and comes with “a body pillow that you can put between your knees so you can achieve that spinal alignment when you’re sleeping as well.” He says it’s a new type of pillow that’s gaining popularity among side sleepers.
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