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Buying guide for best orthopedic knee pillows

Sleep is supposed to be restorative, but it’s anything but restful for those who suffer from joint problems. Lying down is a painful proposition for those with sciatica or other types of inflammation in their hips or lower back. Many individuals resort to dozing in a recliner – an alternative that’s not as restful and can trigger neck or shoulder pain.

Nighttime joint pain can feel overwhelming, but an orthopedic knee pillow may provide you with a simple, drug-free solution. These pillows help to align your spine and lower body to relieve pain and pressure on sensitive joints.

Every human body is different and so is every knee pillow. Keep reading to learn more about the options that will help you get a good night’s sleep, and when you’re done, check out our recommendations for the best orthopedic knee pillows on the market.

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Give your orthopedic knee pillow a few days before you decide whether it’s working. Some customers notice immediate relief, but others need a few days for existing stress and inflammation to subside.

Key considerations

Your preferred sleeping position is the most important factor in choosing an orthopedic knee pillow.

Side sleepers

Those who sleep on their sides are the most likely to need an orthopedic knee pillow – and they’re the ones the tool is most likely to help. When you sleep on your side, your upper leg naturally pulls your spine out of alignment, which stresses your lower back and hips. Tucking a pillow between your knees will keep your upper leg from slumping over on the lower one and twisting your spine.

Orthopedic knee pillows designed for side sleepers are generally shaped like an hourglass, with curved indentations in which you rest your thighs. The flat segment between the indentations keeps your knees apart and your spine straight, preventing pain-inducing twists and turns. Additionally, pulling your knees gently toward your chest can help alleviate pain in this position.

Back sleepers

Individuals who sleep on their backs can suffer from a different type of problem: a lack of support for their lower back. Placing a pillow shaped like a half-moon or wedge beneath the bend of your knees can help support the back’s natural curve and diminish stress on the spine.

Stomach sleepers

Stomach sleepers can stress the spine by pushing it into the opposite position of its natural resting alignment. If you’re a stomach sleeper, sliding a flat pillow below your stomach and pelvis can go a long way toward restoring alignment. Stomach sleepers should also consider a flat pillow for their head or possibly sleeping without a pillow.



Most orthopedic knee pillows are made from memory foam, although a few are made from high-density foam. A handful are also made from standard foam. Back sleepers may be able to tolerate a half-moon pillow made from standard foam, but pillows intended to support the knees and thighs should usually be made from something more substantial.

  • Memory foam: Memory foam is an ideal material for orthopedic knee pillows because it adjusts to the body’s contours when pressure is applied yet returns to normal once the pressure stops. High-quality memory foam should maintain its shape over time, while inferior foam may quickly lose its shape and support.

  • High-density foam: Only a handful of orthopedic knee pillows are made from high-density foam. This extremely firm foam may be too hard for the average user and could lead to knee or back pain because it doesn’t flex and cradle body contours like memory foam. However, heavier customers who find that memory foam doesn’t provide enough support may want to explore this option.

Removable cover

Regardless of the base material, all orthopedic knee pillows should have a removable cover. This allows you to take the cover off and wash it, so you can remove sweat, body fluids, dead skin, and other materials that come into contact with the pillow. Besides being an issue of hygiene, this kind of debris can irritate the skin and exacerbate other health concerns.

Breathable fabric

Whether you’re a back, side, or stomach sleeper, your knee pillow is almost guaranteed to rest below the covers. You’ll need to make sure it stays as cool as possible, which is a challenge since foam is often used to insulate. Look for orthopedic knee pillows with covers made from breathable fabric that will not increase sweating or cause you to overheat at night. Some knee pillows are manufactured with cooling gel inserts to help keep your body cool.

Leg straps

Many customers lose their knee pillows during the night and have to go searching in the bed. This can disrupt your sleep, among other concerns. Some pillows come with straps so that you can attach them to your leg. This helps prevent your leg from sliding off the pillow or you losing the pillow when you roll to your other side. This feature may also be attractive to those who suffer from restless leg syndrome.


There’s no standard sizing for orthopedic knee pillows, but larger-framed customers should choose larger pillows and vice versa. Larger customers may find small pillows unsupportive, and smaller customers may find that large pillows open the knees too wide for comfort.

"When it comes to orthopedic knee pillows, hidden zippers aren’t just a cosmetic concern. A zipper pull that’s made invisible by design is less likely to dig into your leg at night."

Orthopedic knee pillow prices

Inexpensive orthopedic knee pillows cost between $15 and $20. For this price, back sleepers will generally get a sturdy memory foam bolster and side sleepers will find less supportive hourglass pillows. Either way, the knee pillow should come with a removable, washable cover.

Mid-range orthopedic knee pillows cost $20 to $25. You’ll find quality pillows for both back and side sleepers in this price range. Pillows should be made from dense memory foam. They should have removable covers, and the fabric should be a comfortable step up from budget pillows.

The highest-quality orthopedic knee pillows cost $30 or more. These pillows should be made of firm, dense memory foam or possibly high-density foam. (Choose high-density foam only if you’ve found that memory foam does not provide enough support or you consider yourself a heavier customer.) Knee pillows should have comfortable, removable covers, and they may have value-added features like cooling packs or leg straps.

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For your safety
Customers with latex allergies should check the materials in an orthopedic knee pillow carefully to avoid making a painful situation even worse.


  • If you’re a side sleeper who changes sides over the course of the night, choose a smaller knee pillow that will be easier to move under the covers.

  • Orthopedic knee pillows with textured covers stay in place better than those with sleek satiny covers, which tend to slide out of place.

  • Many memory foam pillows are temperature-responsive, meaning they will feel more firm when it’s cold and softer when temperatures are warm.

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Side sleepers make up more than 60% of the population. Stomach sleepers comprise roughly 15%, which is surprisingly higher than the 10% who sleep on their back – the most ergonomically correct position.


Q. Where should I place the knee pillow when I’m sleeping?
While some people actually put their knees in the hourglass indentations, orthopedic knee pillows aren’t really intended to rest at knee level. Rather, they are supposed to keep your knees from touching. Most people place the pillow between their lower thighs, just above the level of their knees. Ultimately, you should put the pillow wherever it gives you the most relief. Your doctor or physical therapist can help you find the optimal position to keep your body aligned.

Q. How long should an orthopedic knee pillow last before it needs replacing?
Knee pillows don’t last forever, but quality products should have reasonable longevity. It’s unacceptable for memory foam support to break down in a matter of weeks or months. A quality knee pillow should last between a year and 18 months. To test whether it’s time to replace your pillow, fold it in half and see whether it springs back into shape. Regardless of its condition, you should replace your orthopedic knee pillow every 18 months for hygienic reasons.

Q. Will an orthopedic knee pillow help relieve pregnancy discomfort?
Many women experience hip and knee pain in certain sleeping positions during pregnancy. A knee pillow can help, so feel free to give it a try. But it might not be the best option. As pregnancy progresses, women may also need support for the belly and back to get comfortable at night. In these cases, a maternity pillow might be a better choice. Many maternity pillows are shaped like an elongated “U” and can simultaneously support both the stomach and the back. Their open design also gives you the option to place a portion between your knees.

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