Disclosure: Some links may be affiliate links. If you buy an item via links on our site, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
If you spend a lot of time in bed due to surgery, an injury, or disability then it’s incredibly important to make sure you are well-positioned. This ensures your comfort but also helps to prevent postural problems and issues such as pressure sores.
There are many different types of positioning and comfort aids to choose from, and this guide serves as a way of providing information on each one.
For anyone that struggles with back pain, a wedge pillow could provide sufficient support to prevent this. These triangular-shaped pillows are also ideal for a variety of other conditions, including acid reflux and snoring.
What is a Bed Wedge?
A wedge pillow, sometimes called a bed wedge, is a firm, triangular-shaped pillow that is normally made from a material like memory foam. The design of these pillows ensures that the upper part of the body remains raised during sleep.
While this position can be used to improve comfort, it is also believed that using a wedge cushion can also help with a variety of health conditions.
Why Use a Bed Wedge?
One of the primary reasons that you might use a wedge cushion is to improve comfort as you sleep or even just lie in bed. However, comfort is far from the only reason you might invest in one of these cushions.
Back pain is often the result of misalignment of the spine. Fortunately, through the use of a wedge pillow, your spine and hips will be better aligned, meaning less pain in the lower back.
Blood can pool in the lungs when we are reclined and this can cause problems with asthma during the night. But a wedge cushion elevates the body and ensures better blood flow and fewer breathing problems.
Sleep Apnea and Snoring
If you lie flat when sleeping, the effects of gravity on the respiratory system can cause snoring. This is bad enough on its own if you sleep next to someone else, but it can also result in sleep apnea which disturbs your normal sleep patterns. A wedge pillow fights the effects of gravity and ensures a more comfortable night’s sleep.
When you are recovering from surgery, a wedge pillow can come in handy for relieving pain and swelling depending on where it is placed. It can support the joints, and you can use more than one wedge pillow for optimal support.
Whether you experience swelling in the legs after being on your feet all day, because of pregnancy or as a result of another condition, a wedge pillow can be used to reduce swelling. With the feet raised as you sleep, you’ll not only notice less swelling, but an improvement in pain.
Using two wedge pillows, one under the head and neck and the other supporting the knees, you can lie in the zero gravity position. This has been shown to be the most relaxing position and could aid in a better night’s sleep.
Acid Reflux and Heartburn
When you use a wedge pillow, you are sleeping with the upper half of the body raised, which is known to reduce symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn.
How to Use a Bed Wedge?
The great thing about a bed wedge is that it’s a versatile piece of equipment. Here are some of the most popular ways to use them.
Side and Back Sleeper
For people that prefer to sleep on their side or back, a wedge pillow creates a soft slope when placed horizontally on the bed. This keeps the upper part of the body raised, which in turn makes for a more comfortable sleep for your whole body.
Supporting the Knees
Many people place their wedge pillows under the knees, with the tallest part directly underneath the knees. This benefits you in several ways, including improving circulation and reducing lower back pain.
One of the most common ways to use a wedge pillow is to place it vertically against the wall at the back of the bed or the headboard. You can then lean against this when working in bed, watching TV, or simply sitting, and you’ll benefit from proper postural alignment.
Using the Wedge Pillow on Your Lap
You can use your wedge pillow as a base for your laptop, a book, or other things when doing activities in bed. This way, it will serve as a mini desk with a slight incline.
Types of Bed Wedges
Not all bed wedges are the same, and it’s important to understand the differences between them in order to be able to choose a product that best suits your needs.
Flat-Bottomed Wedge Pillow
Flat bottomed wedge pillows can be made from a variety of different materials, including latex and memory foam. They are placed flush to the mattress and have a triangular shape. There are some flat-bottomed wedge pillows that have straps, so they don’t move around while you sleep.
Adjustable Wedge Pillow
If you have varying needs and require a pillow whose height and thickness can be altered, then an adjustable wedge pillow is well worth considering. They typically feature removable layers and can also be folded into a shape that suits your needs.
Contoured Bed Wedge Pillow
A contoured wedge pillow is great for people that sleep on their side as it can improve alignment. More than this, the contoured shape ensures that pressure is taken off areas like the neck and hips.
Knee Positioning Pillows
A knee positioning pillow can be placed in such a way that it may help to alleviate back pain, hip pain, and leg pain. These small pillows fit between the knees and are known to improve comfort while sleeping.
What is a Knee Positioning Pillow?
Knee positioning pillows feature two curved sides and a design that allows you to place the pillow between your knees as you sleep. The shape ensures that the pillow won’t move or slip even if you turn while you’re sleeping.
Why Use a Knee Positioning Pillow?
There are a lot of benefits to using a knee positioning pillow that go far beyond mere comfort. Although that is one of the main reasons that people use these types of pillows.
Improve Lower Back Pain
When you sleep on your back, a lot of pressure and tension is put onto the spine. But by raising the knees, this pressure is relieved, which can go a long way in reducing back pain.
Improve Knee Pain
Similarly, knee pain can be reduced through the use of a knee positioning pillow. For those that suffer with sciatica, which can radiate down through the legs and knees, these pillows could make a difference.
Pressure on the blood vessels in the night can reduce blood pressure and that’s what gives you that ‘pins and needles’ feeling or what many people call a dead arm or leg. But by placing a knee positioning cushion under or between the knees, this allows for better blood flow.
It might surprise you to know that without the proper support, your knees can affect your spinal alignment which could result in breathing difficulties. Placing a knee positioning cushion between the knees, or underneath them if you sleep on your back, can improve breathing while you sleep.
Improve Your Spinal Alignment
As we have mentioned, when the knees aren’t properly supported, your spine is misaligned. The simple use of a knee cushion can go a long way in improving this alignment.
Prevent Varicose Veins
Owing to how effective these pillows are at improving your blood pressure, this automatically lowers the risk of varicose veins which can be unsightly and painful.
How to Use a Knee Positioning Pillow?
How you use your knee positioning cushion will depend on the position you sleep in.
For side sleepers:
- Start by lying on your side and bring your knees up towards the chest.
- You’ll need to place your pillow between the knees ensuring that they are raised enough that they cause the hips to remain parallel.
- Sometimes, you may find that your body sinks into the mattress; that’s OK, you just need to add another pillow below the torso to maintain a straight spine.
For back sleepers:
- Start by lying on your back, keeping everything flat.
- Now, with the feet and buttocks on the bed, slightly raise your knees.
- Slide your knee pillow underneath. You may need to add more pillows for full support until you feel comfortable.
Types of Knee Positioning Pillows
When looking for a knee positioning pillow, it’s really important to familiarise yourself with the different types.
Hourglass Knee Pillow
Hourglass knee pillows have thicker edges but are thinner towards the middle. These are great if you want something that won’t budge while you sleep, as they fit perfectly between the thighs. If you’re a side sleeper, then hourglass pillows will keep the knees apart and work very well for this position.
Adjustable Knee Pillow
Sometimes, you might need different support than others which is why an adjustable knee pillow is extremely useful. You are able to adjust the thickness of the pillow through the use of removable inserts.
Under Leg Wedge Pillow
An under-leg wedge pillow is more similar in design to a wedge pillow with a flat bottom. It can be placed under the knees and is perfect for people who sleep on their backs.
The half-moon pillow works well for both side and back sleepers. It has a cylindrical shape with a flat edge and can be placed between the knees.
As the name suggests, this is a cylindrical-shaped knee pillow without any flat edges. These pillows are commonly used by side sleepers and can be placed between the knees for additional support.
Lumbar Support Pillows
Without support at the bottom of the back, it doesn’t take long before you’re suffering from serious back pain. Lumbar support pillows support the lumbar region of the back improving posture and lessening back pain.
What is a Lumbar Support Pillow?
When you sit in a chair, you will notice that there is a gap between the chair and the bottom of the back. A lumbar cushion is used to fill the gap, offering support and ensuring the spine retains its natural curve.
Why Use a Lumbar Support Pillow?
One of the main reasons to use a lumbar support pillow is to improve the posture by helping the lower part of the spine remain in a curved position. This improves the impact of gravity on the spine, which may otherwise put undue pressure on the area resulting in soft tissue damage and pain.
Improve Lumbar Disc Problems
If you have issues with the discs in the lower part of the spine, then using a lumbar support pillow can help to offer improved comfort and support.
Great for People Who Sit a Lot
Many of us work in jobs that require us to remain seated for large parts of the day, including office jobs, drivers, and many others. Being in a seated position without the correct support can result in back pain, poor circulation, and a whole host of other problems. But with the addition of a lumbar support pillow, you’ll find it more comfortable to sit for long periods.
Use When Sleeping
There has been evidence to suggest that pressure from the mattress can cause back pain when you are sleeping. However, by adding a lumbar support cushion, pressure is more evenly distributed around the body, therefore lessening pain.
How to Use a Lumbar Support Pillow?
When using a lumbar support cushion, you should place the pillow vertically along the back of your chair. It needs to be placed so that it rests against your lower back and sits just below your spine’s natural lower curve. Be sure to use any straps to keep the pillow from moving around the chair.
Immediately when using these pillows, you should notice the results right away. If you don’t, this could suggest that the pillow isn’t properly placed. Adjust it until you feel relief. Some people may need to use a range of lumbar pillows depending on the seat. For example, you may find it necessary to use a separate cushion for the office and the car.
Types of Lumbar Support Pillows
As with other types of positioning aids, lumbar pillows come in a range of styles. Understanding the intended use for each one will help you to find the right pillow for your needs.
Lumbar Support Roll
These cylindrical-shaped lumbar pillows are great whether you are a side or back sleeper as they can be positioned in many ways. They’re also excellent for use when seated and are usually made from foam, so will contour to your body. You might also use this type of pillow to support the neck and shoulder, so they’re very versatile.
Lumbar Support Belt
Not so much a pillow but a belt which can be worn around the lower back, a lumbar support belt is great for use throughout the day since you can wear it even when you’re standing. They’re ideal for sleeping and sitting and can be adjusted to suit your needs. The belt sits around your waist from the hip and offers support and pain relief.
Half Moon Lumbar Cushion
The half-moon lumbar cushion has a semi-circular shape with a flat side that can be placed on the bed so that the pillow won’t move around as you sleep. They are often used as shoulder, neck and knee support when sleeping but are excellent for use as a lumbar cushion when sitting in a chair.
Lumbar Support Pillow
The lumbar support pillow is ergonomically designed to help retain the natural curve of your spine when seated. They provide firm support and can help to reduce pain and muscle tightness as well as improving circulation and posture.
Feet & Heel Bed Positioning Aids
Did you know the pressure sores commonly occur on the heels? In fact, this is the second most common location for these injuries, so having the right support can go a long way in reducing problems with pressure sores.
What are Feet & Heel Bed Positioning Aids?
Feet and heel bed positioning aids are designed to be worn around the foot, ankle, and heel providing support and cushioning for those who spend a long time in bed.
Why Use a Feet & Heel Positioning Aids?
When you are in bed for long periods, a lot of pressure is placed on areas that are in constant contact with the bed. However, a foot and heel positioning aid is cushioned and so will reduce the amount of pressure, therefore limiting the risk of bed sores.
When a lot of pressure is on the heel, this can result in a loss of circulation and as a direct result of this, the person loses sensation in that area. When pressure is reduced by wearing a heel and foot positioning aid, the user is much more aware of any pressure sores, should they begin to develop.
How to Use a Feet & Heel Bed Positioning Aids?
Using a foot and heel bed positioning aid is incredibly simple, but the results are extremely advantageous. There are different types of heel and foot positioning aids; some are air-filled while others are padded.
Where you are using a universal aid, simply undo the straps and place the foot inside. You can then do up the straps using the hook and loop system.
Some foot and heel positioning aids are made from foam, and the patient can simply drop their feet into the aid, relieving pressure. These are often used by people recovering from a wound.
If you are using a shear protecting aid then this is made from material which can be rolled onto the foot. You will also have a foam pad which can be inserted into the roll in a place that fits your needs.
Types of Feet & Heel Positioning Aids
Depending on what you are looking to achieve, there are many different types of foot and heel positioning aids that could benefit you.
A heel protector is designed to be wrapped around the heel in order to relieve pressure. They’re often made from sheepskin which is comfortable on the feet and easy to wash. You’ll want to look for a heel protector with good breathability as this will also reduce the risk of pressure sores.
There are many different types of foot protectors made from a range of different materials including wool, gel, and foam. These protectors have a similar appearance to shoes but are very padded and intended to be worn on the feet, secured with straps, when the person is sitting or lying down. The straps can be adjusted to increase or decrease support and the protectors serve as a way of reducing pressure.
Foot Elevation Pillow
The final type of positioning aid for the feet is a foot elevation pillow. These raise the foot slightly and are not only excellent for reducing pressure sores but also work very well for people recovering from surgery. They feature a ring-like design, and the foot is placed through the center. There is a strap to secure the pillow, and they’re made from foam for ultimate comfort.
Orthopedic Neck Pillows
Anyone that suffers from conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, whiplash, and neck tension would do well to use an orthopedic neck pillow. They offer support to this small part of the spine, which without, you may experience pain while sleeping.
What is an Orthopedic Neck Pillow?
An orthopedic neck cushion, otherwise known as a cervical cushion, is designed to directly support the head which in turn, removes pressure off the neck. This will help to reduce pain in the neck and prevent any future pain from occurring. They can be used alone or alongside other pillows.
Why Use an Orthopedic Neck Pillow?
Support for Back Sleepers
If you prefer to sleep on your back, then a roll-shaped pillow under the neck and a flat one under the head can offer sufficient support to improve comfort and therefore give you a better night’s sleep. What’s more, the cushion will contour to the shape of your body for more personalized support.
Support for Side Sleepers
When you sleep on your side, the spine doesn’t always remain straight and this can result in pain and postural problems. Using an orthopedic neck cushion can encourage the spine into a more natural position, eliminating these problems.
Types of Neck Pillows
How you sleep and the problems you are faced with will determine the best type of orthopedic neck cushion for you. There are two main types, let’s take a closer look at what to expect from each.
Contour Cervical Pillow
A contour pillow will typically have a wave-like pattern, but they do come in a range of shapes and sizes. The main aim of these pillows is to improve your posture as you sleep and therefore also improve comfort.
These neck pillows are ideal if you sleep on your side or if you require slightly more support when lying down.
Neck Roll Pillow
A neck roll pillow has a cylinder-like shape and is designed to be used under the neck. These pillows offer a high level of support and improve comfort when sleeping, which is excellent news for people who suffer from neck or back pain. They’re made from high-density foam, allowing them to contour to your shape and can also be used for other parts of the body, including the knees.
What to Consider When Choosing Bed Positioning Aids
If you want to make sure that you get the best support cushion for your needs then it’s really important to look at the features. Doing this will ensure the utmost support and comfort.
Shape & Size
Different shaped positioning aids give different results and much of this is based on the position in which you sleep. For example, if you’re looking for knee pain relief then you’d purchase an hourglass or cylindrical pillow.
It’s also worth considering the size, as some positioning aids are larger than others. Typically a full body pillow or a bed wedge are among the largest, so you need to consider the space they will take up.
Material & Firmness
Positioning aids come in a range of materials, and each has its pros and cons. Not only does the material affect how comfortable the pillow will be, but it can also affect how firm it is.
- Positioning aids aren’t typically filled with things like feather and down as these materials are not firm enough to offer the correct level of support, so should be avoided.
- Memory foam is a high-density material originally developed by NASA. It is very common in positioning aids as it offers excellent support and molds itself to the contours of your body.
- It is possible to get polyester-filled positioning aids. While these are lightweight and easy to care for, they often don’t age well and aren’t very breathable. When choosing a polyester pillow, be aware that they come in varying degrees of firmness.
- Latex positioning aids are excellent if you have allergies as they resist dust and are allergen-free. Moreover, they’re very breathable and durable and offer a good level of support.
You should make sure that the positioning aid is breathable, as this will prevent you from getting too hot and sweating a lot. Memory foam and latex are among the most breathable materials.
Moveover, you’ll want to think about how well the pillow regulates your temperature as this means that the pillow won’t trap heat and will keep you cool. If the material isn’t breathable, it can help to add a breathable cover.
Regardless of how well a positioning aid regulates temperature, you are still going to sweat in the night. Not to mention other factors that can cause a pillow to get dirty such as shedded skin cells, sebum, and other things.
This is why it’s really important to choose a positioning aid that can be easily washed. Having a removable cover is by far the best way to ensure this.
You should also consider whether the cover is waterproof, which is essential for people who may have nighttime incontinence or for general spills. Being waterproof will also mean that the positioning aid doesn’t soak up sweat.
You’ll need to think about how thick your positioning aid is, as this will say a lot about the amount of support it will give you. If you are slightly heavier, you may need a thicker pillow to give you the right level of support.