Wedge Pillow Articles

How to Use a Knee Elevation Pillow

knee elevation pillow

A knee elevation pillow is a very common and effective tool that helps alleviate symptoms from orthopedic conditions and digestive and cardiorespiratory pathologies. It also increases sleep comfort so you are able to rest better. However, many people are using their leg wedge pillow ineffectively or wrong, and this makes it less effective. If you are wanting to learn how to use a leg wedge, then look no further.

How to use a triangle knee elevation pillow

This type of knee elevation pillow should start right near your gluteal fold (where your bottom meets your leg). As the knee wedge gradually inclines, the center of the knees should rest at the angle of the wedge pillow. This gives your legs the most support and is the most comfortable on your knees.

Another key to buying a triangular shaped knee wedge pillow is to make sure it’s the right length. You’ll know it’s the right length if your heels just barely hang off the end of the pillow. Click HERE to learn more on how to measure your leg to see exactly what size leg wedge pillow you need.

How to use a contoured knee elevation pillow

When using a leg elevation pillow with contours, there are some similarities to a triangle knee wedge pillow in regards to positioning. The heels should rest just off the end of the pillow. And just like with the triangle wedge, the contoured leg pillow should start right near the gluteal fold.

The difference with this knee elevation pillow is that your legs rest on an incline. The contours cradle your legs, so that your legs are comfortable while you elevate them. If you are positioned correctly, the back of your knee will rest on top of the first "hill" and your calves will be cradled in the valley between the two contours.

Knee pillow for side sleepers

The last knee elevation pillow we will talk about is a leg separator pillow. This type of pillow is very effective when you would like to elevate your knees in a side-sleeping position. When most people look for a knee elevation pillow for side sleepers, they look for a single, regular sized pillow to go in between their knees. While this is a good start, if you stop there, you are really missing out.

If you only place a regular sized pillow between your knees, you’ve just caused your top hip to externally rotate. This rotation of your top leg puts tension on your spine. Instead, the best way to sleep on your side is to elevate your legs on a knee elevation pillow that runs from your pubic bone all the way to your feet. The pillow should support your top leg so that it rests as close to parallel with the bed as possible. When your pillow fully supports your leg, your hips and back are able to fully relax. 

If you have been wondering how to use a knee elevation pillow, this article should answer a lot of your questions! Use it as a guide to position yourself correctly and enhance the effectiveness of your knee wedge pillow.

-Bryan Blare, Doctor of Physical Therapy

What's The Best Wedge Pillow for COPD?


The best wedge pillow for COPD (also known as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is one that keeps your torso elevated. There are several types of wedge pillows that can do this, but one works better than the rest.

How COPD affects your breathing at night

If you have been diagnosed with COPD, you may have noticed that breathing is more difficult when you lie down in bed at night. Difficulty breathing at night effects your ability to go to sleep and stay asleep. Having such difficulty with sleeping can lead to chronic sleep deprivation and fatigue.

The primary reason COPD symptoms are often worse at night is related to sleep positioning. Lying down flat makes it more difficult to breathe. When you lie flat, gravity works against your breathing muscles, making your body work harder to take a breath.

Someone who doesn’t have COPD won’t notice the effects of gravity on their breathing while lying flat. But for individuals with COPD who are predisposed to breathing difficulties, lying flat can be unbearable.

The best sleeping position for COPD patients

The best sleeping position for COPD patients is sleeping elevated and on your side. When you sleep elevated on a wedge pillow for COPD, gravity has less of an effect on your lungs. You can breathe easier because your lungs aren't having to expand against gravity.

Additionally, when you sleep on a wedge pillow for COPD, gravity brings your diaphragm down slightly. This downward pull on your diaphragm increases lung expansion and ventilation ability. All these things work together to make it easier for you to breathe.

Side sleeping on a wedge pillow for COPD also keeps your airway open. Sometimes when you sleep on your back, gravity can collapse your airway. This makes it more difficult to breathe and can even be a cause of snoring and sleep apnea. You certainly do not want your airway to be collapsing if you have been diagnosed with COPD. Sleeping on your side will make sure that your airway has the easiest time staying open.

The best wedge pillow for COPD

The best wedge pillow for COPD will keep your torso elevated and will keep you comfortable on your side. It is important for side sleepers to use a COPD wedge pillow that has contours made to support the side of your body. The contours make sleeping on an incline so comfortable!

For maximal comfort, combine your COPD wedge with a leg separator pillow. Using a leg separator pillow while you sleep on your side aligns your hips, knees, and lower back correctly so you wake up without stiffness and pain. When sleeping on your side is comfortable, you won't toss and turn!

For back sleepers: the best wedge pillow for COPD

What if sleeping on your side just isn’t an option? The second-best sleeping position for COPD patients is sleeping on your back with a triangle wedge pillow for COPD. Place your regular neck pillow on top of your wedge and recline your feet on a knee wedge pillow. This position virtually eliminates the effect of gravity on your body, lets your lungs expand, and allows you to sleep comfortably on your back.

For mild to moderate COPD, a 10-inch wedge pillow for COPD will be best. If you have a heavier torso or more severe COPD, you may benefit from using a 12-inch wedge pillow.

Don’t sleep like this if you have COPD

The worst position to sleep in with COPD is on your stomach. When you sleep on your stomach, the mattress applies pressure to your lungs. This increased pressure doesn’t allow your lungs to expand as much as they could otherwise. This leads to shortness of breath and breathing discomfort.

If you have COPD, you will also want to avoid sleeping flat on your back. Sleeping flat is the position that makes your body work the hardest to breathe (this is all because of gravity). When you have COPD, it’s hard enough to breathe already, so you will want to sleep in a position that makes breathing easier, not harder.

Now that you know the best wedge pillow for COPD, you are equipped to start sleeping better!

-Hillary Blare, Doctor of Physical Therapy

Is Your Wedge Pillow Causing Back Pain?

wedge pillow causing back pain

The question is, can a wedge pillow cause back pain? The answer is… if used incorrectly, yes. To stop back pain caused by a wedge pillow, let’s go over the best way to position your pillow so you wake up feeling better, not worse!

Why your wedge pillow may be causing back pain

One reason your wedge pillow may be causing back pain is if it is positioned incorrectly. Unfortunately, many companies sell wedge pillows using models that are positioned incorrectly on the wedge pillows. This misleads you, the customer, and can lead to pain and discomfort.

The correct position of your body on a wedge pillow is as follows: Your neck pillow should be positioned on top of the incline wedge. The wedge should end in your lower back, level with the top of your iliac crest (or the top of your hip bone). Your bottom and hips should rest on the mattress.

Maintain spinal posture

If your positioning is correct, and you still think your wedge pillow is causing back pain, it could be that your spine does not like the introduction of the angle to your sleep position. Sleeping with your torso on a wedge pillow does increase the pressure on your lower back. If you have any sort of back issues, this angle could exacerbate those conditions.

An easy way to combat this is to sleep with your legs resting on a leg wedge pillow. Sleeping with your legs elevated takes the pressure off your lower back. Elevating your legs will gently rotate your hips in a way that eliminates tension in your back muscles.

When you sleep on a wedge pillow without using a leg wedge, gravity has a higher pull on your back. The pull of gravity on your lower back could be the cause of your back pain. Sleeping with your legs elevated on a leg wedge drastically reduces the effects of gravity on your back. Eliminating the effect of gravity will make a huge difference in making sure you wake up without back pain.

A wedge pillow puts your body in a new position

Keep in mind, anytime you start sleeping in a new position, it takes your body time to get comfortable. For instance, if your body is going from sleeping flat to sleeping at an angle, give yourself time to adjust. You should give your bones, joints, and body, 30 days to adjust to your new pillow. 

Don't let your wedge pillow cause back pain. If you think it is, try out these tips, and let us know how they helped you!

-Bryan Blare, Doctor of Physical Therapy

Can a Sleeping Wedge Really Help Me Sleep Better?

sleeping wedge

A sleeping wedge will boost your sleep ability so that you can operate at your optimum level. Think about all the things you could accomplish each day if you woke up rested and refreshed. A sleeping wedge can help make that a reality.

Do you always have a slight (or severe) stuffy nose? Do you snore? Suspect sleep apnea? What about acid reflux? Even the mildest form of any of these symptoms effects your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. You may even be experiencing such mild symptoms that you aren’t even consciously aware that you are experiencing them at all! This would cause you to have interrupted sleep and be unaware of the cause.

Today, where busyness is king, it is essential to maximize your time and use it well. That starts with maximizing the time that you set aside to sleep. Your body needs productive sleep for your brain and body to function at peak performance.

So, let’s get into why a sleeping wedge can help you make your sleep time efficient.

A sleeping wedge will help clear your sinuses

Have you ever had difficulty sleeping due to sinus pressure? Are your allergies so bad that you always have a borderline stuffy nose? Sleeping with an incline wedge can be very beneficial in these instances.

We’ve all noticed that sinus pressure gets worse at night. As the night goes on, the pressure gets worse and worse until your body finally wakes you up. This is because when you lie flat, gravity causes mucus to accumulate in your sinuses. This accumulation of mucus is not only painful, but it also increases the chances of developing a sinus infection.

Instead of tossing and turning, use a sleeping wedge to elevate your head slightly. This slight head elevation relieves sinus pressure and mucus accumulation. It does this by allowing gravity to help drain the mucus out of your sinuses. If mucus can’t accumulate, your sinuses will have less irritation. There is also less of a chance of developing a sinus infection.

A bed wedge pillow can help with snoring and sleep apnea

Snoring and sleep apnea have something in common. They can both be caused by the same thing. And as luck would have it, a sleeping wedge can help.

A common reason that snoring and sleep apnea occur is because gravity collapses the structures and soft tissues that make up the airway. This collapse causes obstruction and results in less oxygen being transported to your brain. It also results in snoring.

A simple way to minimize this obstruction is to elevate your head and upper body with a bed wedge pillow. Elevating your head on a sleeping wedge will decrease gravity’s ability to narrow your airway. This is a simple and cost-effective way to breath easier and sleep better.

A sleeping wedge can help with acid reflux

In addition to helping with snoring and sleep apnea, a bed wedge pillow can also help with acid reflux. Did you know that approximately 60% of people with sleep apnea also have chronic acid reflux (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease).

GERD occurs when gastric acid from the stomach chronically backflows past the lower esophageal sphincter and gets into the esophagus. When stomach acid gets into the esophagus, it is extremely uncomfortable. Thankfully, elevating your torso on a wedge pillow can decrease the occurrence of acid reflux and prevent GERD.

A sleeping wedge is a versatile tool that improves your sleep for many different reasons.

-Bryan Blare, Doctor of Physical Therapy

5 Benefits of a Wedge Pillow for Legs

wedge pillow for legs

A wedge pillow for legs can be a useful and versatile tool. It is more cost effective than a hospital bed or mattress wedge, and it is much more stable and functional than stacking pillows. Today, we are are going to go over the top five benefits of using a leg wedge to elevate your lower body.

Benefit #1: Decreases low back pain

Lying down flat on your back is likely causing some undue strain on your spine. If you have any tension or tightness in your hip flexors, then they will pull your pelvis forward when you lie down flat. This creates an arch in your lower back and causes tension and compression in your lumbar spine facet joints. These facet joints are where a lot of spinal movements come from, and if they are compressed at night, you will have pain and stiffness when you move around the next day.

However, using a wedge pillow for legs can change that. Resting your lower body on a wedge pillow for legs will relax your hip flexors. When your hip flexors are relaxed, they can’t pull your pelvis forward and arch your lower back. This means your lumbar spine flattens, providing some much-needed space between your facet joints. When your facet joints relax, they can refresh and rejuvenate overnight.

Sleeping on a wedge pillow for legs is especially beneficial if you have recently had a low back injury, spinal surgery, or if you usually wake up with back pain or stiffness in the morning.

Benefit #2: Improves circulation

Another awesome benefit of a wedge pillow for legs is that it can help return blood flow back to the heart. For conditions like varicose veins, pitting edema, and venous insufficiency, a leg wedge uses the natural effects of gravity to aid the circulatory system with blood flow return.

Prolonged standing and sitting (which most of us do every day) can cause blood to pool in your veins. This makes leg swelling or varicose veins worse. To combat this, take breaks throughout the day to walk and get your blood pumping. Additionally, to give your circulatory system another break, take 15-20 minutes each to to elevate your legs on a knee wedge pillow.

Benefit #3: Aids in recovery from surgery

Having surgery in the knee, ankle, foot, or lower leg can be very debilitating and frustrating, especially when it comes to edema-control. When walking or sitting upright, your surgery site is always in a gravity-dependent position. This means your lower body is constantly working against gravity to transport blood back to the heart.

This task is made even more difficult because edema and swelling from the trauma of surgery can cause compression of the vessels responsible for returning blood. This compression can lead to ischemia, or a lack of blood flow.

You want to avoid any edema-induced compression of blood vessels after surgery. This impedes the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the surgical site. Swelling that just stays in your legs essentially slows down your recovery. Elevating your lower extremities with a knee wedge pillow can reduce edema and swelling to improve the healing ability of these healing tissues.

Benefit # 4: Reading made easier

There’s nothing better than relaxing in bed and reading a great book. To maximize this experience, posture and comfort are very important, especially if you want to read for a long period of time.

For avid readers, a wedge pillow for legs can help you stay comfortable for longer. Using a leg wedge puts less strain on your upper body and neck because it gives your arms and book a place to rest. It also relaxes your back and hips so you don’t get stiff when your read.

Benefit #5: Better sleep

A wedge pillow for legs is beneficial if you have low back pain, swelling in the legs, or are recovering from surgery. An important benefit of a leg wedge is that it improves your quality and quantity of sleep. Because a leg wedge gives your body the ability to completely relax, you can rest better. So many things depend on our ability to sleep well, including our productivity, our mood, and our ability to heal. Sleep is important, and its important that we set ourselves up to sleep successfully!

There are so many benefits to using a wedge pillow for legs. Invest in yourself and let a wedge pillow for legs improve your comfort, sleep, and ability to heal.

-Bryan Blare, Doctor of Physical Therapy


Are You Using Your Reflux Pillow The Wrong Way?

reflux pillow

Many reflux pillow advertisements show models positioned completely wrong on their acid reflux pillows. This is detrimental to you, the customer, because if you go home and sleep on your reflux pillow how the model is demonstrating, you could wake up stiff, sore, and still have reflux.

As a physical therapist, this kind of advertising really bothers me because sleeping incorrectly can hurt your body. Here are some mistakes you can look for to tell if a company truly has the knowledge required to help you find comfort, or if they are just trying to sell you a reflux pillow.

Mistake # 1: Don’t sleep sideways on a triangle wedge pillow

Sleeping sideways on a reflux pillow that is triangular in shape is a big mistake. A big mistake that leads to back and hip pain. If you see a company advertising this, run! You should always sleep on your back on a triangle wedge pillow, and here is why:

Sleeping sideways on a straight wedge contorts your spine all night. This contortion compresses and strains the joints that move your spine, leading to inflammation and stiffness in the morning.

Instead, if you prefer to sleep on your side, look for an acid reflux pillow that is made especially for side sleepers. This contoured reflux wedge pillow is perfect for side sleepers. The contours conform to your body’s curves and fully support your spine. Combine this contoured reflux pillow with a leg separator pillow to maximize hip and back support, and get ready for some comfortable and reflux-free side sleeping!

Mistake #2: Sleeping on your reflux pillow without a neck pillow

You cannot sleep on a reflux pillow without a neck pillow. When you try to sleep flat on a triangle wedge pillow, the angle of the force of gravity will cause your neck to extend back into the wedge pillow. Sleeping in this extended position all night can lead to neck stiffness, soreness, headaches, and pain

Instead, put your regular neck pillow or this neck wedge pillow on top of your triangle wedge pillow. Sleeping on a neck pillow will support the natural curve of your neck. This support decreases strain on your cervical muscles, ligaments, and joints, so you wake up without neck pain.

Mistake #3: Not Using Any Sort of Leg Pillow

Sleeping on your back on a triangle shaped reflux pillow increases the amount of force on your lower back. The triangle shape of the wedge naturally makes the tailbone take the brunt of the force of gravity.

To decrease the strain on your lower back, use a knee wedge pillow. A knee wedge pillow takes away gravity’s pull on your back and instead, disperses gravity’s force evenly on your whole body. When gravity is dispersed evenly on all parts of your body, your muscles, joints, and ligaments fully relax. This leads to deep and rejuvenating sleep.

Additionally, not using a leg pillow can cause you to slide off of your triangle wedge pillow during the night. This again has to do with gravity and you can learn more about why you may be sliding off your acid reflux wedge pillow here. The bottom line is…using a knee wedge pillow will stop you from sliding down your wedge.

Mistake #4: Positioning your torso incorrectly on the wedge

To sleep correctly on a reflux pillow, your glutes should be lying on the mattress, and your torso and low back should be lying on the reflux wedge. Sometimes, the pillow ends somewhere in your mid-back area. This means you have slidden down too far on the wedge. If your glutes are on the wedge pillow, then you are positioned too high.

If you have been using your reflux pillow incorrectly, it’s not your fault, you were probably shown wrong! Start implementing these tips and you will be sleeping comfortably in no time!

-Bryan Blare, Doctor of Physical Therapy