How to Use a Knee Pillow the Right Way

Modern problems don’t always require ultra-modern solutions. When it comes to nightly knee and back pain, you could experience some relief by using a traditional or contoured knee pillow.

These specialized cushions vary in size and firmness, allowing users to choose the ideal model for their body shape, weight, and comfort level. However, if you’re not familiar with how to use a knee pillow, you might not be reaping all of the benefits.

In this article, we’ll explore what knee pillows are, how they might be able to help with aches and pains, and how to use one. If you’ve been struggling to achieve high-quality sleep, a knee pillow may be the perfect solution.

What Is a Knee Pillow?

A knee pillow (or orthopedic pillow) is any cushion that is placed between or beneath the knees to help reduce pressure and discomfort during sleep. Knee pillows can be standard pillows that are bent, folded, or otherwise manipulated into pleasing forms.

However, the majority of knee pillows are contoured models designed to rest directly between the knees. These pillows typically resemble large rectangular blocks and can be either whole or fitted.

Whole knee pillows are often made of medium-density memory foam. Those with angled ‘scoops’ tend to be made of firmer, denser memory foam or rubber latex. Consequently, larger individuals may benefit from choosing a contoured option.

The primary benefit of using a knee pillow is reduced knee and back pain. However, if you’re not familiar with how to use a knee pillow correctly, you may not enjoy many pain-relieving benefits.

Additionally, if you’re using a knee pillow that is too large or too thin, you may find yourself feeling frustrated. Fortunately, there are a few tips and tricks you can employ to ensure that your knees are cushioned and comfy throughout the night.

How Can a Knee Pillow Help With Pain?

If you sleep on your side, you’re placing all of your weight on one side of your body. Because we spend about 26 years of our lives sleeping, this pressure certainly adds up. Your repetitive sleeping habits could be worsening your joint problems.

As our mattresses and our bodies age, we can begin to develop aching spines, hips, and knees in the morning. While some of this discomfort is solely due to our aging bodies, poor bedding and sleeping habits could be worsening these natural issues.

Consequently, there are several potential benefits of knee pillows. Sleeping with a knee pillow may:

  • Help lessen chronic, nightly back pain
  • Help your spine realign itself properly as you sleep
  • Lessen and prevent excess stress/pressure on joints
  • Increase circulation throughout the body, aiding in pain-free slumber

Arthritis and back pain are common conditions that may affect everyone at some point during their lives. As such, it’s crucial to counter these conditions with smart sleeping habits and healthy lifestyle choices.

However, if you’re not sure how to use a knee pillow, you might not be able to enjoy all of its potential benefits. Let’s take a closer look at how these handy, supportive cushions work.

How to Use a Knee Pillow

The easiest way to get the most from a knee pillow is to invest in a contoured model. The best knee pillow for side sleepers is one that resembles a slightly-sunken block. This design accommodates a person’s knees and lower body weight.

Still, individuals who sleep on their backs or stomachs will naturally require a different type of knee pillow and method. Without further ado, let’s explore the three most common sleeping positions and their applicable knee pillow solution.

1. Conventional Method for Back Sleepers

Those that sleep on the back may not need to invest in any specialized pillows to enjoy the benefits of a knee pillow. That’s because back sleepers tend to benefit most when using a standard pillow for knee support.

If you’re a back sleeper that’s been yearning to find pressure-relieving knee support, you may want to gather two extra pillows from your home and stack them atop one another on your bed. Lay down and place the pillows directly beneath your knees.

This positioning should result in elevated knees and lowered ankles. Elevating your knees throughout the night may help reduce chronic pain. When accompanied by a firm, spine-supporting mattress, this method may help relieve significant back pain.

How Does it Work?

The sensation of pain originates from nerve endings throughout our body. When muscle tissue or blood vessels become swollen or engorged, they can put unwanted pressure on nerve endings.

This could result in feelings of pain, achiness, and stiffness in the affected area. Elevating a sore muscle or joint could also help fluids flow away from the area.

This results in reduced swelling, helping to put less pressure on nerve endings and surround tissues. However, this elevation method can be a challenge. Keeping a stack of pillows stationary throughout the night may not be possible.

This is especially true if you suffer from restless legs or sleep next to a partner who tosses and turns. In this case, it may be more helpful to adopt a side-sleeping position. If you do, you could utilize a contoured knee pillow.

2. Contoured Pillow for Side Sleepers

If you’re a side sleeper, then you’re in luck. The majority of knee pillows on the market are specifically designed to work well with side sleepers. These pillows almost always resemble thick blocks.

Some feature sloping valleys are designed to support your knees and legs. Others are thicker and less tailored. However, the majority of contoured pillows built for side sleepers are made of memory foam material. 

This allows the pillow to adhere to the sleeper’s body shape, weight, and precise sleeping position. However, some rubber latex models or layered foam cushions may be more resilient and durable than pure, medium-density memory foam pillows.

How Does it Work?

Contoured memory foam knee pillows work by softening and molding around the body of sleepers. They typically feature a firmer, less malleable core that reduces the amount of pressure placed on one side of the body during slumber.

This results in gentler, more comfortable sleep. Side sleepers often require pillows that provide extra support to the mid-region of the body.

Long, thick body pillows that allow the upper arm, shoulder, leg, and knee rest above the body during sleep may be an alternative solution to nightly knee, back, and hip pain.

Still, contoured knee pillows help target knee pain, making them a go-to for sleepers who wake up with achy, swollen knees.

3. No Pillow for Stomach Sleepers

Stomach sleepers shouldn’t use a knee pillow for support. While this might seem strange, especially when you consider the amount of pressure put on the knees while in this position, knee pillows could harm stomach sleepers.

That’s because a pillow laid beneath the knees of a stomach sleeper puts the spine’s alignment in an odd adjustment. It can contribute to backaches and pains and may even harm the hips and knees.

How Does it Work?

Simply put, stomach sleeping with a knee pillow doesn’t work. Stomach sleepers hoping to lessen recurrent knee and back pain may want to adopt a different sleeping position.

While this may seem impossible, especially if you’ve been sleeping on your stomach for many years, it is entirely doable. Adopting a different sleep position simply takes time, repetition, and patience.

You may also find that changing your lifestyle habits allows you to enjoy a side or back position in bed. Regular exercise and a healthy diet are crucial to restful sleep.

If you’re sleeping on a sagging or too-firm mattress, you may also want to change your mattress and bedding before adopting a side-sleeping or back-sleeping position. Should you decide to commit to a new sleeping position, you’ll likely need to do this.

Mattresses, pillows, and blankets that are comfortable for stomach sleepers may feel uncomfortable for those who sleep on their backs or sides. If you’re serious about improving your sleep and reducing knee pain, you’ll need to embrace change.

Enjoy the Best Possible Rest

You don’t have to stay up all night tossing and turning due to knee and back pain. With the right combination of mattress firmness, bedding comfort, and knee pillow usage, you may find yourself sleeping soundly throughout the night.

Now that you know how to use a knee pillow, you may able to get the most of your night and experience the restful sleep that you deserve. Of course, it’s important to use the right pillow for your body shape and weight and to keep it clean.

Doing so can ensure that your joints, bones, and muscles can finally rest and relax. Remember, when you’re sleeping on surfaces that don’t support and cradle your body, you’re putting excess pressure on your knees and back throughout the night.

If you enjoyed this article, then be sure to check out our related Health & Beauty articles today!