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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

22 Models Considered
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112 Consumers Consulted
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Shopping guide for best lumbar support pillows

Last Updated April 2019

For those with lower back pain or discomfort, taking pressure off of the lower portion of the spine can provide effective relief and even lessen the need for pain medication.

That’s why lumbar support pillows are so popular. They are shaped to follow the natural curve of the back and sturdy enough to help the spine remain in a natural position when sitting or lying down. Using a lumbar support pillow can make it much easier to do seated office work for longer periods without experiencing tightness or pain in the lower back or legs.

However, lumbar support pillows come in all different shapes, sizes, and materials, and, with so many choices, finding the best one can be a challenge. To make your search easier, read on for our recommendations and important details on how to find a top-quality lumbar support pillow for your needs.

While not a cure for back pain, a lumbar support pillow can be very beneficial when recovering from a back injury or when managing chronic back pain.

Key considerations

Size and fit

The biggest consideration when buying a lumbar support pillow is whether it will relieve your pain and discomfort. You may need to test several pillows to get exactly the right fit, because even though many are listed as “one size fits all,” their construction, the rigidity of the cushioning, and their actual size do make a noticeable difference.

Proper fit is more important than cushioning, in most cases. A lumbar support pillow is designed to support the lower and middle parts of the back, so it should fit the curve of your lower spine without pushing your back out of the proper position. This means that, for some, a thinner lumbar support will provide longer-lasting comfort than a thicker pillow.

Position

Lumbar support pillows work best when used for sitting upright or reclining slightly. They don’t work as well when reclining deeply or lying down flat. When doing work that requires you to sit forward, they don’t work well at all. (If you need to lean forward in your chair for prolonged periods, consider a wedge pillow placed on the seat instead.) They can be ideal for long car trips, where you’re sitting in a relaxed position.

For some users, lumbar support pillows cause more discomfort, not less. There are several reasons for this, including a pillow that’s too large or too small, or one that is positioned incorrectly. Sometimes a slight change in seating posture — placing both feet on a platform a few inches above the floor, for example — will resolve the problem.

Overheating

Lumbar support pillows’ cushioning tends to reflect body heat back to the user, increasing sweating along the lower and middle back. This moisture can soak into the fabric cover and cushion, and, over time, it can develop an odor. A support pillow with a water-resistant cover can make a big difference; these covers are easier to clean, too.

A lumbar pillow with a mesh backing can improve airflow between the user and the pillow, so that some sweat evaporates before reaching the pillow. For those who really don’t like the extra heat of heavily cushioned lumbar pillows, you can resolve this with wire-frame lumbar supports that have a mesh backing and no cushioning at all.

FOR YOUR SAFETY

If you have leg discomfort when using a lumbar pillow, place both feet on a platform that is raised about 6 inches above the floor.

Features

Lumbar support pillows look simple from the outside — at least at first glance. Their construction, however, is anything but. They’ve been designed and refined to provide a better, more comfortable experience for users. Here are a few details to look for:

Interior cushion material

Many premium lumbar support pillows use memory foam. This can be quite comfortable but can get very warm if there is little to no airflow between you and the cushion.

Curved cushion

The convex curve of a lumbar support pillow plays an important role in keeping your spine positioned correctly when sitting.

Side supports

Pillows designed to support the lower lumbar spine often have stiffer, cushioned “wings” on either side of the curved center portion. These help hold you in the correct position when sitting against the pillow.

Concave center

Some designs have a center portion that curves inward, with bigger side supports; the “roll” portion can be felt when you sit back against the pillow. The advantages of this slight inward curve are to promote the best sitting position and to improve airflow between you and the pillow.

Lumbar roll

A few lumbar support pillows skip the complex half-crescent design entirely and instead are just a cylindrical roll with a protective cover. Some users find the roll much more comfortable and versatile than other types of lumbar support.

Mesh backing

A breathable mesh between you and the pillow helps to promote airflow, keeping you from getting uncomfortably hot and reducing the amount of sweat that reaches the pillow — extending its overall life.

Stitching

Lumbar support pillow covers need to be tough enough to stand up to years of heavy-duty use, so the stitching along the seams is important. Look for double-stitched seams or rolled seams that won’t chafe but still hold strong.

Straps

Many, but not all, lumbar support pillows include one or more straps to attach the pillow to a chair or the seat of your car.

EXPERT TIP

Lumbar support pillows designed for chairs do not work well when used for support when lying flat. Look for lumbar pillows designed specifically for sleeping.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

A lightweight or inflatable lumbar support pillow can provide invaluable support and comfort during plane or train trips.


Staff  | BestReviews

Lumbar support pillow prices

Lumbar support pillows can be found for as little as $14 to $23, although the interior cushioning may not hold up as long as more expensive support pillows. Many highly rated pillows can be found within the mid-range price point between $30 and $40. Pillows offering lumbar support to the entire back are generally found in the higher price range between $35 and $55.

Tips

  • If a lumbar support pillow causes more discomfort, not less, it may be the wrong size. Try out a smaller lumbar pillow or a larger one.

  • The material in a lumbar pillow should allow for easier air flow between your back and the pillow.

  • If you feel discomfort when using an otherwise comfortable lumbar pillow, take a break from sitting by standing and stretching for several seconds or minutes.

  • When using a lumbar pillow, make sure you are seated upright or slightly reclined, with both feet on the ground.

  • Look for a pillow that offers a combination of softness and firmness. If you can test out the support pillow before buying, that’s even better.

  • Avoid straps that aren’t adjustable or that rely solely on elastic to fit to a chair. Eventually, this type of strap will stretch out and become too loose to securely hold the lumbar pillow in place.

  • Long, adjustable straps add versatility to the lumbar support pillow, allowing you to attach it securely to different chairs as needed.

Other products we considered

We were impressed with the Vertteo Full Lumbar High-Back Pillow, which provides firm support for both the lower and upper thoracic areas of the spine and a nice boost for long car trips. For air travelers, we found the Therm-a-Rest Lumbar Travel Pillow to be indispensable thanks to an easy self-inflating feature and the ability to deflate and roll it up tightly to store in a carry-on. If you’re looking for pain-free sleep, a standout is the TruContour Lumbar Pillow, which allows you to adjust its height by adding a second or third pillow.

Consider using multiple lumbar pillows — keep one at the office, one at home, and one in the car to provide continued support throughout the day.

FAQ

Q. I’ve used lumbar pillows in the past and they were very uncomfortable after just a few minutes. Are today’s lumbar support pillows any better?

A. There is a wider range of lumbar support pillows available. More importantly, the width of the lumbar cushion can play a big role in how comfortable — or not — the experience is. Before ordering a new lumbar support pillow, sit upright in the chair that you plan to use it with and have another person measure the distance between the chair back and your lower back, where your spine curves inward (just above the tailbone). Look for a cushion with a width similar to that measurement.

Q. I actually prefer to use a bigger lumbar support pillow because I like the stretch it gives my back. Are there any drawbacks to this?

A. A lumbar support pillow that is too large can become uncomfortable quickly. That drastically shortens the amount of time that it’s in use. If you work in a seated position for long periods of time, a smaller lumbar support pillow will keep you comfortable much longer. Also, the pressure placed against a too-large support pillow can break down the cushioning material much more quickly, shortening its life span.

Q. I use a cylindrical lumbar support pillow rather than an ergonomically shaped one. It’s sometimes uncomfortable. How can I improve the level of comfort?

A. A big advantage of cylindrical support pillows is that you can shift them up and down between your back and the chair, precisely positioning the pillow in a spot that’s most comfortable for you. Because a higher pillow position can shift your torso forward, sit on a wedge pillow at the same time to improve overall comfort.

Q. I tend to sweat quite a bit when using a lumbar support pillow regardless of any “breathable” materials. What is a good type of pillow to purchase that will stand up to a hot, sweaty environment?

A. Look for a lumbar support pillow with a removable, washable cover. After each use, place the pillow in a part of the room with good airflow so that any moisture will dry quickly. This will reduce or prevent accumulated odors from sweat.

The team that worked on this review
  • Angela
    Angela
    Editor
  • Daniel
    Daniel
    Writer
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Enid
    Enid
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Samantha
    Samantha
    Writer

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