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Knee Pillow for Sleeping: Optimal Spinal Support?

Updated on June 6, 2021
Sam Shepards profile image

I'm Sam. I enjoy writing about sleep and mental health-related topics as well as ways to prevent stress and to relax.

The first recorded use of pillows was in about 7000BC. In those days they were used to denote status rather than as means of enhancing the sleep experience. Today there are a plethora of pillows available in different shapes sizes and with an array of fillings to assist people to relieve pain, align their spinal column or just to have a peaceful nights sleep.

Main benefits of sleeping with pillows are for support and comfort and to allow the body to regenerate after a degree of abuse from manual or physical labor and perhaps due to surgery or injury or even just from wearing the incorrect footwear. If you have lower back pain one of the best ways to alleviate the pain and sleep pain free would be to use a knee pillow for sleeping.

What is a knee pillow?

A knee pillow for sleeping is also commonly known as a contour pillow and is shaped like an hourglass and is positioned between the knees when sleeping. A specially designed orthopedic pillow can be purchased or a normal pillow can be used providing it is relatively firm to allow for support.

Reasons for using a knee pillow

  • When lying on your side a knee pillow for sleeping helps to keep the body straight and will help to increase blood flow to the lower limbs without the pressure restriction caused by one leg compressing the other.
  • Placing a pillow below the knees if you sleep on your back will also help to align the body and again this should be relatively firm. Using a feather pillow will not help as the feathers get displaced by pressure and would not offer the required support.
  • Placing a pillow between or below the knees will reduce the strain on the lumber area of your spinal cord and also relieve lower back pain.
  • Sleeping with out the support of a pillow when sleeping on your side usually causes the upper leg to stretch downwards which in turn twists the lower portion of your spine and will not allow for a proper nights sleep.
  • Placing a pillow between your knees when sleeping on your side will also relieve any pressure on the pelvic region
  • A knee pillow for sleeping will also relieve any pressure or pain associated with knee problems and after surgery to the knees.
  • Two out of three people sleep on their sides and as a result the base of the spinal column will naturally drop downwards which is an unnatural position or placement of the vertebrae and merely lifting one leg by using a pillow will naturally align the spinal column and give a better nights rest.
  • Due to the lack of pressure between the knees by using a support pillow will also increase blood flow to the lower limbs and may help with discomfort associated with veracious veins.

How to choose a knee pillow for sleeping

Pillows come in a variety of fillings and each has its own benefits and when choosing a knee pillow for sleeping it is best to opt for a firmer pillow to provide as much support as possible however the choice is a personal one and it should be remembered that over a period of time with constant use the pillow inners will not be the same as when originally purchased and should then be replaced.

Various types of pillow fillings

  • Feather or down fillings – are wonderful as head pillows as they can be molded to fit snugly around the neck area but do not offer the support required for use as a knee pillow
  • Hollow fiber fillings – these offer medium support as knee pillows for sleeping but their lifespan is relatively short as the fiber tends to deteriorate faster than other fillings
  • Pillows filled with grain – offer a very firm support providing the inner is tightly packed with grain.
  • Foam pillows – these offer excellent support if it is solid foam as opposed to foam chips which can displace with pressure or movement while sleeping.
  • Memory pillows – which are specifically made using a heat resistant material which molds to the shape required and will regain its original shape when not in use. It will also offer medium to firm support.
  • Orthopedic pillow – these are the best choice as they are specifically designed and shaped for use a knee pillows for sleeping and offer optimum support.

Closing remarks on knee pillows

If you take into consideration that approximately a third of your life is spent sleeping it is always best to ensure that the body gets the rest it deserves and also to ensure that in every respect you take care of your spinal column. Sleeping incorrectly or without the correct support will add to or cause pain while sleeping which will not provide the body with the rest required to recuperate after a days work. And one way of taking care of your spine and your knees is by utilizing a knee pillow for sleeping which has many other added benefits to ensure a good nights rest.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2016 Sam Shepards


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