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Do you ever get low back pain after a long drive or a long day spent sitting at your desk?

If so, you’re not alone: A 2015 study found that the rate of chronic, impairing low back pain more than doubled between 1992 and 2006.

Research has proven that sitting, especially poor sitting posture, is a big contributor to low back pain, whether you’re sitting in a car, at a desk, or in bed.

But since we must sit, we can at least make it more comfortable by using pillows made specially to support our low backs.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) found that more than 1 in 4 working adults experience low back pain.

As part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), NIOSH maintains a detailed website of resources for reducing low back pain in the workplace.

One of the organization’s most comprehensive recommendations is to apply the science of ergonomics.

NIOSH defines ergonomics as “the science of fitting workplace conditions and job demands to the capabilities of the working population.”

In simpler terms, ergonomics uses our knowledge of the body to adjust and customize all working conditions to prevent musculoskeletal disorders and reduce or prevent chronic pain.

The lumbar region is the lower part of your spine, also called the low back or lower back. Prolonged sitting often results in hunching, which reduces the natural curvature of the lumbar spine. This can lead to pain and strain.

Placing pillows behind your lower back, under your knees, or in both areas can provide good lumbar support. It’ll help your spine maintain its natural curve and reduce pressure on your low back.

  • Popularity: We seek out products that aren’t only highly reviewed but are also used and loved by hundreds of customers.
  • Clinical research: This piece was conceived based on multiple studies that show the benefits of getting lumbar support from specialty pillows.
  • Company reputation and transparency: We only recommend products from trusted brands. This means they haven’t had any recent recalls and lawsuits.
  • Customer reviews: All products have an average customer rating of at least 4 stars.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $35
  • $$ = $35–$50
  • $$$ = over $50
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Best for the car

Purple Back Cushion

  • Price: $$
  • Firmness: medium
  • Size: 15.75 x 9.25 x 2.5 inches (in.)

Purple, a popular mattress company, also makes a variety of ergonomic cushions and pillows.

Purple’s lumbar back cushion is made of the same trademarked grid as their mattresses, which are designed to conform to your low back and help provide posture support.

The material is designed to keep your back cool and reduce sweat. The cover is machine washable and includes a handle for easy carrying.

It comes with a 1-year warranty and a 4.3-star rating based on more than 1,100 customer reviews on Purple’s website.

The 1-star ratings account for just 5 percent of all reviews. They tend to complain about the cushion being too small or having a chemical smell.

Best for people in larger bodies

Dreamer Car Lumbar Support

  • Price: $
  • Firmness: low
  • Size: 20.9 x 16.5 x 5.9 in.

With a 4.4-star rating on Amazon based on more than 4,800 reviews, this car lumbar pillow is a customer favorite.

Larger and longer than most lumbar pillows, this one is built to also help support your upper and middle back. The curved shape is designed to align to your spine, helping promote good posture and relieving muscle tension.

It comes with a removable and washable cotton cover, a memory foam core, and two adjustable straps to keep it firmly attached to your seat.

The manufacturer recommends moving your seat back 1 to 2 inches to accommodate the added thickness of the pillow.

This car pillow’s 1-year guarantee ensures a replacement or refund if you experience any defects.

Best breathable lumbar support

Coop Home Goods Ventilated Orthopedic Lumbar Cushion

  • Price: $
  • Firmness: high
  • Size: 16 x 16 x 4.25 in.

This memory foam lumbar cushion is infused with charcoal to help reduce the odors lumbar support pillows can pick up after hours a day pressed against a sweaty back.

An attached strap allows you to easily attach and detach your pillow as you move from place to place in your home or office.

The firm CertiPUR-US certified memory foam is designed to relieve pressure on your lower back and help your posture. This simple, effective cushion comes with a 100-night trial and 5-year warranty.

Best for sitting, sleeping, or working in bed

Coop Home Goods Four Position Support Pillow

  • Price: $$
  • Firmness: high
  • Size: 21 x 8 x 5 in.

This customizable memory foam pillow features a removable foam insert, so you can adjust the height to your preference.

The pillow is designed to support both your low back and hips. Place it behind your back and lay on it for lumbar support, under your knees to relieve lumbar or hip pressure, between your knees for reduced back pain while lying on your side, or anywhere else your body needs a little support.

The cover is removable. Its compact size may make it a good choice for traveling. This pillow is CertiPUR-US certified and includes a 100-night sleep trial and a 5-year limited warranty.

Best for versatility

Sojoy 3 in 1 Foldable Gel Seat Cushion

  • Price: $$
  • Firmness: high
  • Size: 18.5 x 15 x 2 in.

From uncomfortable office chairs to meditation or yoga sessions on hardwood floors, the Sojoy 3 in 1 Foldable Gel Seat Cushion is an excellent option that’s easy to pack on the go. Filled with memory foam and soft silicone gel, this cushion is designed to support your tailbone and relieve pressure from your lower back.

It’s also great if you’re recovering from recent surgeries, injuries, or bruises since it can be easily zipped, folded up, and taken anywhere.

Still searching for the right sleep products?

Let us help. Shop our top picks for pillows by condition or sleep position to get the sound sleep you deserve.

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Purple Back CushionDreamer Car Lumbar SupportCoop Home Goods Ventilated Orthopedic Lumbar CushionCoop Home Goods Four Position Support PillowSojoy 3 in 1 Foldable Gel Seat Cushion
Size (in.)15.75 x 9.25 x 2.520.9 x 16.5 x 5.916 x 16 x 4.2521 x 8 x 518.5 x 15 x 2
Who it’s best forfrequent driverspeople in larger bodiespeople who sit for long periodspeople who frequently travelpeople who need support everywhere they go

It’s important to look for a lumbar pillow that is comfortable and firm enough to provide support for your lower back. Most lumbar pillows are made using memory foam, which is soft, supportive, and durable enough to hold its shape even with continued use.

Ideally, you should also pick a pillow that has a removable, machine washable cover for easy cleaning.

Your lumbar pillow should also be the right size and shape for your body to ensure that it can provide support exactly where you need it.

You may also want to look for an adjustable pillow that can be secured to your chair or seat to help hold it in position.

A lumbar support pillow can help improve your posture and relieve back pain. The curved shape of the pillow should rest along the inner curve at the base of the spine to offer constant support while cradling the lower back. This helps take the pressure off of the spine and keep the back muscles relaxed.

Additionally, a lumbar support pillow can help to prevent slouching and hunching over, which can lead to further back pain. When used correctly, a lumbar support pillow can be a helpful tool in managing and preventing back pain.

You can also use lumbar support pillows to help keep your spine naturally aligned while sleeping. Many people find that using a lumbar support pillow helps them to sleep better at night and wake up feeling more rested in the morning.

The type of material that you should look for in a lumbar pillow can vary depending on your needs and preferences.

The majority of lumbar pillows are made with memory foam. However, some lumbar pillows may also be made using polyurethane foam, latex, or buckwheat.

Here is a closer look at each of these materials:

  • Memory foam: This type of pillow contours to the shape of your body to reduce tension and support spinal alignment. Though memory foam can be beneficial for back pain, it retains heat more than other materials, which may not be a good fit for everyone.
  • Polyurethane foam: Also known as polyfoam, this material offers moderate contouring and is more affordable than memory foam. However, it’s typically not as durable and is also not as dense.
  • Buckwheat: These pillows are filled with buckwheat hulls and are designed to promote airflow to keep you cool. The firmness and height are adjustable and the hulls distribute evenly to help relieve back pain. Still, the higher price tag and rustling noise that these pillows make may be a deterrent to some.
  • Latex: This material is made from the sap of rubber trees. It’s highly durable and breathable, with moderate contouring to provide extra support for your back. On the other hand, latex pillows can be pricey and may not be as widely available as other types.

There are several factors you should consider when shopping for a lumbar pillow, including:

  • Firmness: It’s important to find a lumbar pillow that offers a good balance of comfort and support and caters to your personal preferences in terms of firmness.
  • Loft: The loft, or height, of a pillow can range from low to high. Many pillows are available with varying height levels or include removable inserts so you can adjust to fit your needs.
  • Size and shape: Many lumbar pillows are designed to support spinal alignment, improve posture, or reduce tension in your lower back to alleviate pain. It’s also important to find a pillow that’s the right size for your body to ensure it stays in place while you’re using it.
  • Materials: Pillows are made using various materials, so it’s best to determine your preference before you start shopping. You should also look for a pillow with a removable cover that can be easily washed.
  • Price: The price for pillows can vary quite a bit and may depend on multiple factors, including the type of material used. Be sure to evaluate your budget and find a price point that you’re comfortable with to find a pillow that fits your needs.

Back pain can make it harder to fall asleep and could cause sleep disturbances. But, according to one 2020 review, improving the quality of your sleep could lead to less back pain, and vice versa.

If you’re often sitting for long periods, using a lumbar pillow can reduce back pain by decreasing the strain on your lower back.

A high quality lumbar pillow can also help reduce tension, provide additional support, promote better posture, and improve spinal alignment, all of which could potentially enhance sleep quality.

Your sleeping position affects the alignment of your spine and can either improve or worsen lower back pain.

Sleeping on your back is generally considered the best option if you have lower back pain, as it can reduce lumbar pressure and keep your spine aligned to prevent back problems.

On the other hand, sleeping on your stomach can strain your lower back and spine, which could actually worsen back pain in the long run.

Meanwhile, sleeping in a fetal position may be a good option if you have back pain, as it can open the space between the vertebrae, reducing joint pressure.

Can lumbar pillows help with back pain?

Over time, the muscles that support your spine — also known as the paraspinal muscles — can begin to fatigue, leading to poor posture.

Lumbar pillows are designed to support the natural curvature of your spine, which can help alleviate lower back pain by decreasing strain on these muscles.

How should you use a lumbar pillow?

Ideally, you should use a lumbar pillow any time you’re sitting for long periods, such as while you’re working or traveling.

For this reason, many lumbar pillows are designed specifically for use in bed, the car, or your office chair, making it easy to get additional back support whenever you need it.

Your lumbar pillow should be placed in the small of your low back, ensuring that it supports the normal curvature of the spine.

How firm should a lumbar pillow be?

Look for a lumbar pillow that is comfortable but also firm enough to provide enough support for your lower back.

Lumbar pillows made with memory foam can be a good option, as they provide a good amount of cushioning but also contour to the shape of your body for extra support.

How much lumbar support do I need?

The amount of lumbar support you need depends on the severity of your back pain and your individual needs.

If you have mild to moderate back pain, you may only need a small pillow for occasional use. However, if you have chronic back pain or a more serious back condition, you may need a larger pillow that provides constant support.

You may need to experiment with different sizes, shapes, and firmness of lumbar support pillows to find the one that offers the best fit and most comfortable support for you.

While back pain is very annoying and very common, there are ways to protect your low back.

Whether you end up supporting your lumbar spine with a high end designer pillow, a giant piece of fake bread, or something in between, remember to take the time to move, stretch, and strengthen your back and body to the extent you’re able.

Ash Fisher is a writer and comedian living with hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. When she’s not having a wobbly-baby-deer day, she’s hiking with her corgi, Vincent. She lives in Oakland, California. Learn more about her on her website.