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Best Pillows for Back Sleepers

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Written by

Daniel Noyed

author

You spend time carefully choosing the best mattress for you. Your pillow deserves the same amount of attention. Like your mattress, your pillow affects how comfortable you feel in bed and how well you sleep.

Just as some mattresses work better for back sleepers, so do some pillows. Not all back sleepers prefer the pillows loved by side, stomach, and combination sleepers.

Generally, back sleepers require a pillow with a higher loft than pillows for stomach sleepers and a lower loft than pillows for side sleepers. The ideal pillow for back sleepers promotes spinal alignment rather than arching the neck too far upward or allowing the head to sink in too deeply.

The Best Pillows for Back Sleepers

Product Details

Brooklinen Down Pillow

Best Overall

Brooklinen Down Pillow

Brooklinen Down Pillow
Price: $99 - Standard $119 - King
Fill: Pure Canadian white down or a down/feather blend
Firmness: Plush
Who it's best for:
  • Back and combination sleepers
  • People who prefer the ultra-soft feel of down pillows
  • Shoppers looking for a pillow with loft options
Highlights:
  • Choice of three loft levels
  • Feather core and soft down fill balance support and cushioning
  • Premium down at a budget-friendly price
Brooklinen Down Pillow

SF readers get the best price at Brooklinen

For many back sleepers, down pillows – while exceptionally soft – tend to sink excessively beneath the head and neck, resulting in inadequate support and added aches and pains.

The Brooklinen Down Pillow is better suited to back sleeping than most of its competitors because you can choose from three different loft options. The mid-plush and firm options consist of chambered pillows with a feather core surrounded by soft down for a balance of support and cushioning. There’s also a plush option if you sleep on your back and prefer thinner pillows, or if you’re a combination sleeper who sometimes uses the stomach position.

The pillow’s shell is made of smooth, breathable cotton sateen, and the edges are reinforced with double stitching to prevent fill from escaping. Each pillow is given an antimicrobial treatment to stave off harmful bacteria and other contaminants.

In addition to the loft options, you can choose between standard and king sizes. Brooklinen discourages machine washing, as this can permanently damage the pillow, so you should spot clean if light stains occur or dry clean for a more thorough cleaning.

Compared to other down pillows with this quality of construction, the Brooklinen model is very reasonably priced and shipping is free of charge for U.S. orders. Brooklinen allows returns within 365 days of your original purchase, even if you’ve used the pillow, and return shipping is free for all customers.

Boll & Branch Down Alternative Pillow

Best Value

Boll & Branch Down Alternative Pillow

Boll & Branch Down Alternative Pillow
Price: $80 - Standard $95 - King
Fill: Primaloft Synthetic Microfibers
Firmness: Soft, Medium, Firm
Who it's best for:
  • Value seekers
  • Sleepers with allergies
  • Eco-conscious consumers
Highlights:
  • Available in three firmness levels
  • 100% organic cotton cover
  • PrimaLoft down alternative fill is lightweight
Boll & Branch Down Alternative Pillow

Use code CLOUD15 for 15% off orders of $150 or more on Boll & Branch pillows.

The Down Alternative Pillow from Boll & Branch is a well-made pillow with a reasonable price-point compared to other high-end models. Shoppers can purchase this pillow in three firmness levels: soft, medium, and firm. The multiple firmness options make this pillow suitable for various sleep positions, but back sleepers in particular may enjoy the balance of comfort and support offered by the medium firmness.

The synthetic PrimaLoft fill mimics the plush and airy feel of down but is suitable for people who are allergic to down. The cover is 100% organic and features attractive piping and embroidery. The pillow has a durable design and retains its shape well even after substantial use.

The Boll & Branch Down Alternative Pillow is machine-washable using a gentle cycle. The pillow may also be tumble-dried on low, though it may take several cycles to fully dry out.

Boll & Branch offers free domestic ground shipping and returns within the United States. The pillow comes with a 30-night sleep trial.

Saatva Memory Foam Pillow

Best for Neck Pain

Saatva Memory Foam Pillow

Saatva Memory Foam Pillow
Price: $155 - Queen $175 - King
Fill: Shredded Gel Memory Foam
Firmness: Medium
Who it's best for:
  • Side and back sleepers
  • Those with neck pains or pressure points
  • People who usually sleep hot on memory foam pillows
Highlights:
  • Chambered design offers multi-level support and excellent cushioning
  • Graphite-infused core helps to dissipate body heat
  • 45-night sleep trial and 1-year warranty
Saatva Memory Foam Pillow

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Uncomfortable heat retention can be an issue for memory foam pillows, but this model from Saatva sleeps relatively cool thanks to its chambered design. The pillow’s outer chamber contains memory foam infused with graphite, which has natural cooling properties, while the core is cushioned with shredded gel-infused memory foam. The entire pillow is encased in organic cotton cover that is also quite breathable.

The thick profile and medium feel of this pillow makes it best suited to back and side sleepers. The close contouring will also be ideal for people who experience aches, pains, or pressure points along the neck. The pillow has received CertiPUR-US certification, so you won’t need to worry about any harmful substances in the foams.

The cover can be removed and laundered in your household machines, but the other components should only be spot cleaned as necessary. Customers may add sateen pillowcases to their purchase for a small extra charge.

Queen and king sizes are available for this pillow. Those who buy two with their order will receive a discount of $20 to $40, depending on which size they choose. Saatva provides free ground shipping throughout the contiguous U.S., and every purchase is backed by a 45-night sleep trial and 1-year warranty.

Zoma Pillow

Best for Active People

Zoma Pillow

Zoma Pillow
Price: $75 - Queen $95 - King
Fill: MicroCushions shredded foam and fiber blend
Firmness: Medium
Who it's best for:
  • Those who prefer pillows that offer a balance of cushioning and support
  • Hot sleepers
  • Physically active individuals
Highlights:
  • Excellent pressure relief
  • Shredded fill and breathable cover prevent overheating
  • Reasonably priced
Zoma Pillow

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Zoma pillows

Measuring 6 inches thick, the high-loft Zoma Sports Pillow offers great support for back sleepers. The core contains MicroCushions, a proprietary blend of shredded foam and fiber fill that gives the surface a plush yet supportive feel. The MicroCushions mold to the head and neck for close, even contouring that can alleviate aches and pains for athletes and other physically active people. This material has earned a CertiPUR-US certification, meaning it does not contain any harmful chemicals.

The cover is composed of a breathable polyester-spandex mesh blend to help regulate your temperature and keep you cool at night. The cover and MicroCushions core can both be washed and dried in your household machines, though Zoma notes you only need to clean the latter every six months or so. The pillow is available in queen and king sizes.

The Zoma Sports Pillow has a very reasonable price-point and ground shipping is free of charge for all orders in the contiguous U.S. Each customer receives a 100-night sleep trial for testing out the pillow, as well as a 10-year warranty that covers structural defects.

Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Cloud Pillow

Most Comfortable

Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Cloud Pillow

Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Cloud Pillow
Price: $79 - Standard/Queen
Fill: Solid Memory Foam
Firmness: Extra Soft
Who it's best for:
  • Side and back sleepers
  • Frequent travelers
  • People who suffer from neck pain
Highlights:
  • Extra soft foam conforms closely
  • Five-inch loft provides consistent neck support
  • Compressive and easy to pack
Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Cloud Pillow

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Tempur-Pedic pillows

The TEMPUR-Cloud is Tempur-Pedic’s most popular pillow. It’s crafted from a soft formulation of TEMPUR foam that’s designed to cushion and conform. The pillow has a 5-inch loft that holds back sleepers’ heads and necks at a comfortable angle throughout the night. It has a traditional rectangular shape and is one of the most affordable pillows in Tempur-Pedic’s product line.

The TEMPUR-Cloud Pillow is considered extra soft, though the memory foam still provides enough support to help prevent neck pain. The all-foam construction may also give it a longer lifespan than other extra soft pillows. The TEMPUR-Cloud Pillow is ideal for back and side sleepers under 230 pounds. People over 230 pounds may find it too soft, while many stomach sleepers will find the loft too high.

The removable cover is made from washable polyester and the whole pillow compresses easily to fit into a travel bag. Tempur-Pedic does not offer a sleep trial or returns for this pillow, though it’s backed with a 5-year limited warranty. Shoppers get free UPS ground shipping within the contiguous U.S., while customers in Alaska and Hawaii are subject to additional shipping fees.

Amerisleep Comfort Classic Pillow

Best Cooling

Amerisleep Comfort Classic Pillow

Amerisleep Comfort Classic Pillow
Price: $90 - Queen $115 - King
Fill: Bio-Pur memory foam
Firmness: Medium
Who it's best for:
  • Side and back sleepers
  • People who prefer pillows with high loft
  • Hot sleepers
Highlights:
  • Above-average temperature control thanks to open-cell memory foam and a breathable cover
  • Mid-range firmness offers a balance of contouring and support
  • Accessible price-point and 5-year warranty
Amerisleep Comfort Classic Pillow

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Amerisleep pillows

For all of memory foam’s strengths as a pillow material, consistent temperature control usually isn’t one of them – but some models are designed to sleep cooler than others. The Amerisleep Comfort Classic Pillow features breathable core and cover materials that trap a minimal amount of heat, so you can enjoy the even contouring and pressure relief of memory foam without feeling uncomfortably warm.

Bio-Pur memory foam forms the pillow’s solid core. This proprietary material is fairly dense, ensuring both durable structure and even contouring, but the open-cell composition prevents too much heat from building up. The cover is ventilated for added airflow. You can remove and machine-wash the cover whenever it needs to be cleaned for quick, convenient care.

The Comfort Classic Pillow has a 6-inch profile. This level of loft is a sweet spot for side sleepers because it aligns the neck and shoulders with the spine without elevating the head too much. Back sleepers who enjoy thicker pillows should also find this one comfortable. The foam’s medium feel creates close contouring around the head and neck without the “hugging” sensation people often notice with low-density foam.

The Comfort Classic Pillow has an approachable price-point compared to other solid memory foam models. Customers in the contiguous U.S. also qualify for free ground shipping. All sales are final and returns are not permitted, but Amerisleep includes a 5-year manufacturer’s warranty with each purchase.

Parachute Down Pillow

Softest

Parachute Down Pillow

Parachute Down Pillow
Price: $109 - Standard $149 - King
Fill: European white down ~85% Down/feather blend ~15%
Firmness: Soft, Medium, Firm
Who it's best for:
  • Every type of sleeper (side, back, stomach, combination)
  • Sleepers that prefer the feel of down
  • Hot sleepers
Highlights:
  • Choice of three firmness levels
  • Luxuriously soft, lofty feel
  • Airy design sleeps cool
Parachute Down Pillow

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Parachute pillows

The Parachute Down Pillow is a good option for back sleepers who enjoy the luxurious feel of high-quality down. This pillow consists of 85% European white down and 15% down and feather fibers. The pillow comes in soft, medium, and firm options. The firm option is one of the best extra firm pillows for back sleepers.

Most back sleepers prefer the medium Parachute Down Pillow. This provides support without pushing the head too far upward. Of course, some larger and heavier sleepers might sink into the medium pillow more deeply than the average person and prefer the firm pillow as a result.

Because it’s a down pillow, the Parachute feels fluffy and light. It’s an airy pillow that won’t retain much heat, making it a good option for hot sleepers. The Parachute works well for sleepers who like a pillow they can “fluff.”

Like most down pillows, the Parachute tends to cost a bit more than competing pillows made of other materials. It should last a very long time, however, which could make the additional cost worth it. Also, the Parachute Down Pillow comes with a three-year warranty.

Parachute offers free shipping on all of their products. They allow returns within 60 days of delivery.

Pluto Pillow

Best Customizable

Pluto Pillow

Pluto Pillow
Price: $85 - Standard $105 - King
Fill: Ventilated solid foam
Firmness: Varies
Who it's best for:
  • Every type of sleeper (side, back, stomach, combination)
  • Sleepers who are unsatisfied with conventional pillows
  • Hot sleepers
Highlights:
  • Custom designed for your weight, sleep position and comfort preferences
  • Ventilated foam for better cooling
  • 100-night sleep trial
Pluto Pillow

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Pluto pillows

The Pluto Pillow is unique because it’s created specifically for your body and sleep preferences. Shoppers fill out a questionnaire on the Pluto website, then Pluto creates a custom pillow based on each individual’s unique information.

In the questionnaire, Pluto asks your age, height, weight, current pillow style, firmness, and loft, satisfaction level with your current pillow, heat sensitivity, pillow surface preference, sleep position habits, and more. Shoppers can also leave specific notes about their preferences.

Pluto uses a proprietary algorithm that results in 35 different pillow designs, so the pillow you receive is not generic. For this reason, the Pluto pillow is a good choice for sleepers who haven’t found comfort on conventional pillows.

Pluto Pillows are built with a “pillow within a pillow” hybrid design. Pluto uses different types of foam support cores and outer fiber fillings, depending on your body’s unique needs. They also offer a cooling cover for people who tend to sleep hot.

Pluto Pillows ship for free and come with a 100-night risk-free sleep trial. That said, the company recommends you sleep on the pillow for at least two weeks before making a decision. This time frame allows for you to adjust to your pillow and vice-versa.

Noble Head Pillow

Best Luxury

Noble Head Pillow

Noble Head Pillow
Price: $349 - Standard $374 - Queen $399 - King $449 - Scandinavian King
Fill: Wool or shredded latex
Firmness: Medium
Who it's best for:
  • People with sharp pains or pressure points in their neck
  • Hot sleepers
  • Sleepers who prefer pillows with adjustable loft
Highlights:
  • Adjustable loft and firmness
  • Zoned construction keeps fill evenly distributed
  • Recessed center cradles the head and encourages spinal alignment
Noble Head Pillow

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Noble pillows

The Noble Head Pillow is another model that offers adjustable loft. Customers can choose between two different types of fill, wool clusters or shredded organic Talalay latex. The pillow is constructed with nine individual chambers, and you can add or remove fill from each chamber to adjust the pillow’s thickness. This level of customization allows any back sleeper to optimize their pillow for the most comfortable loft.

The wool and latex are both quite breathable compared to other fill types, such as foam, and the shell is composed of organic cotton for added cooling. The wool is ethically sourced, making that design a good choice for animal-conscious individuals, while the latex contains no animal-based components and is ideal for people who identify as vegan.

The chambered design of this pillow also ensures a more comfortable night’s rest for people with pain and pressure points around the head and neck. Noble Pillow will provide complimentary wool or latex fill whenever you need to replenish your supply.

The Noble Pillow’s sticker price is a bit steep, but the company provides free ground shipping anywhere in the U.S. and Canada. You can return your pillow within 30 days of the original purchase, and those who opt to keep it will also receive a five-year warranty that protects against structural defects.

The Benefits of Back Sleeping


Back sleepers tend to enjoy spinal alignment more readily than side and stomach sleepers. For this reason, back sleeping is considered the most healthy position. Still, if their pillow’s loft is too high, even back sleepers can experience pressure points in their neck.

One drawback to back sleeping is that those prone to acid reflux are more likely to experience it while lying on their back. Eating a light dinner or at least four hours prior to lying down can help prevent this, however.

Unfortunately, back sleepers tend to snore more than side and stomach sleepers. Snoring is especially an issue in people who have sleep apnea but aren’t using a CPAP or BiPAP machine. Snoring in back sleepers can be reduced by sleeping on a slight incline.

There are special considerations to keep in mind when pillow shopping as a back sleeper. Many back sleepers want a pillow with a high enough loft to help reduce snoring, but low enough to maintain spinal alignment.

How to Choose a Pillow for Back Sleepers

As a back sleeper, there are particular pillow features you should take into consideration when shopping. In their advertising, pillow brands make all pillows sound good, even though not all will work well for your body. It’s important to bypass the hype and focus on what’s important.

Learn which pillow features are truly impactful for your sleep experience, then judge prospective pillows on those features rather than manufacturer claims about comfort.

What to Consider When Purchasing a Pillow for Back Sleepers

Sometimes companies use copywriting to make their pillows sound wonderful without actually telling you what you need to know about the pillow. Instead of buying a pillow because it feels “like a cloud” or will make you “sleep like a baby,” assess the characteristics that are most important to you as a back sleeper.

Before purchasing a pillow, make sure you have an understanding of its loft, firmness level, shape, and materials. Determine how supportive the pillow is and how well it relieves pressure. Also, be sure to take into consideration the cost to ensure you stay within your budget.

When you focus on the key characteristics of a pillow rather than poetic, abstract claims, you’re more likely to end up purchasing a pillow that will provide the support and comfort you’re seeking.

Loft
The loft of a pillow refers to how thick the pillow is without anything on top of it. Back sleepers tend to prefer medium-loft pillows, which are those that measure between 3 and 5 inches thick. With a medium-loft pillow, most back sleepers will maintain spinal alignment.

Support
A supportive pillow will hold your head and neck in place, rather than allow them to sink all the way down to the mattress. In a pillow, support generally results from a combination of a pillow’s loft, firmness level, and materials.

Firmness Level
Most back sleepers prefer medium-firm pillows. The firmness level of a pillow determines how it feels and how much it flattens in response to weight. Pillows of all material types can be firm or soft. Often, the density of the pillow’s materials are what determine firmness.

Pressure Relief
A pillow provides pressure relief by evenly distributing weight. Pressure relief is often closely tied to a pillow’s loft and firmness level. When a pillow is too thick or firm for a sleeper, they tend to develop pressure points in their neck. Pressure points can lead to discomfort or even pain over time.

Shape
Most bed pillows are rectangular, though their loft and shape can vary. Down and down alternative pillows tend to look more rounded. A gusset, or a fabric panel surrounding the edge of a pillow, can give the top of these pillows a flatter look and feel. Molded memory foam and latex pillows tend to be flat and rectangular, unless they are molded into a rounded shape. Specialty orthopedic pillows frequently feature irregular shapes designed for particular sleep positions.

Price
Pillows sell for anywhere from ten to hundreds of dollars. Price is largely determined by the costs associated with the pillow’s materials and construction. Down and latex pillows tend to cost more than down alternative and memory foam pillows. Organic pillows also tend to be more costly.

Quality Materials
Within each type of pillow material, there are varying qualities available. Higher density memory foam is usually higher quality than low-density foam, for example. Also, down pillows with a higher percentage of down are higher quality than those with a lower percentage of down.

What Pillow Materials are Best for Back Sleepers?

There is no single material type that works best for back sleepers overall. Back sleepers should opt for the material type that provides the feel they most prefer.

Memory Foam: Memory foam often conforms closely to the body. Memory foam is quiet and tends to provide pressure relief. The downside of memory foam is that it can trap heat if it isn’t infused with something cooling or intentionally designed to promote airflow. Also, memory foam tends to off-gas more than other pillow materials.

Buckwheat: Buckwheat is an all-natural pillow fill made of the shells from buckwheat kernels. Some liken the feel of a buckwheat hull pillow to that of a beanbag. One advantage of buckwheat pillows is that they often come with extra hulls, so increasing or decreasing their loft is usually easy. Buckwheat is also a cooler pillow material. Buckwheat pillows often come with higher price tag and some sleepers dislike the sound the hulls make when you change positions.

Feather: Feather pillows should not be confused with down pillows. Goose and duck feathers differ from down plumage. Feathers are larger with stiffer, longer quills. Feather pillows tend to be less expensive than down. They also tend to remain cooler. The feather quills can stick through the outside of the pillow, however, causing discomfort.

Latex: Latex is naturally derived from rubber trees, then processed into a springy material that supports the body. Molded latex pillows retain their shape and do not require any fluffing. Shredded latex pillows are more down-like. They tend to provide good support and pressure relief. Latex pillows are long-lasting and come with a higher price tag.

Down: Down refers to the small plumage found on a goose or duck beneath their larger feathers. Down is very soft and fluffy. Down pillows are usually a mix of down and feathers, though they must contain at least 75% down to be called a down pillow. Down can retain heat, but not as much as memory foam does. These pillows are often the longest lasting and the most expensive.

Polyester: Polyester fill pillows are a synthetic alternative to down. These pillows usually feel soft and are inexpensive and widely available. Unfortunately, they aren’t long-lasting. Although they might be comfortable at first, they need to be replaced more often and tend to become misshapen or flattened.

What Size Pillows Are Available?

As you pillow shop, you might notice that bed pillows come in several sizes. The most common are standard, queen, and king. Some brands offer other sizes such as super standard, European sizes, or unconventional sizes, such as large body pillows.

Standard, super standard, and queen pillows usually fit into standard pillowcases. King pillows need king-sized pillow cases, however. Body pillows also require their own specially sized pillow cases.

Keep reading to learn the measurements of each pillow size, as well as who tends to prefer each size the most.

  • Standard: Standard pillows typically measure 20″ x 26″. Standard pillows are the most common pillows bought and sold. They are also the most compact pillows. Although most people like standard pillows, some prefer a larger pillow.
  • Super Standard: Super standard pillows typically measure 20″ x 28″. They are 2 inches longer than standard pillows, making them a good option for people who roll around often or simply want a longer pillow.
  • Queen: Queen pillows typically measure 20″ x 30″. Queen pillows are 4 inches longer than standard, so they also work well for people who toss and turn and want more pillow length as a result.
  • King: King pillows typically measure 20″ x 36″. King pillows measure a full 10 inches longer than standard pillows. Two king pillows work well on a king-sized bed. A king pillow offers the most space for a sleeper who moves around at night.
  • Body Pillow: Body pillows typically measure 54″ x 20″ or 48″ x 20″. Generally, people sleep with a body pillow length-wise alongside them rather than under their head. Side sleepers and pregnant women often use body pillows so they can “hug” the pillow or put it between their knees as they sleep for increased comfort.

Other Tips for Back Sleepers

Although pillow choice is important for back sleepers, other factors also influence how well a person sleeps. Choosing the right mattress, using a pillow beneath your knees, and eating a lighter (or earlier) dinner can keep you comfortable when you lie down for the night.

Choose the Right Mattress: Most back sleepers prefer a medium-firm mattress, since they provide ample lumbar support. Without adequate support, many back sleepers experience lower back pain. Of course, body weight greatly influences how a mattress reacts to and feels to your body. Heavier back sleepers might need a firm mattress to receive proper support.

Use a Pillow Beneath the Knees: Some back sleepers, especially those who suffer from lower back pain, might benefit from sliding a small pillow under their knees while lying down. Doing so can help maintain the natural curve of the back and reduce pressure points.

Eat a Lighter Dinner: Sleeping on your back is a risk factor for acid reflux. If acid reflux is a problem for you, bypass this tendency by opting for a lighter dinner, or eating dinner at least four hours prior to lying down.

Frequently Asked Questions About Pillows for Back Sleepers

How common is back sleeping?

Unfortunately, experts estimate that less than 10% of people sleep on their backs. This is too bad because back sleeping is widely viewed as the healthiest sleeping position available (except for pregnant women). Back sleeping is beneficial because it keeps your body in a neutral position and isn’t as likely to cause pressure points.

What is the most important consideration when choosing a pillow for back sleepers?

Loft is generally the most important consideration for back sleepers choosing a pillow. Most back sleepers prefer a medium loft pillow. If a pillow is too flat, your head might tilt back and put pressure on your neck. Conversely, if a pillow is too thick, your head might be propped up too far forward.

What is the worst pillow type for back sleepers?

The worst pillow for back sleepers is one that has an inappropriate loft, meaning it is too flat or too thick. If the pillow loft is off, the sleeper will experience pressure in their neck. There is no single pillow material type that works best for all back sleepers. The material type determines a pillow’s feel, and sleepers should opt for the feel that they prefer.

Where can I find a pillow for back sleepers?

All of the pillows for back sleepers featured in this post are available online. Most pillow companies sell their pillows online directly to customers. Third-party websites such as Amazon and department store sites also sell pillows online. Customers who want to buy pillows in-person can visit brick-and-mortar mattress stores, department stores, and other stores that sell bedding.

Is back sleeping bad for pregnant women?

Back sleeping is fine for pregnant women in their first trimester of pregnancy. In the second and third trimesters, however, experts recommend that pregnant women sleep on their left side. Pregnant women who are accustomed to sleeping on their backs can use a body pillow or pregnancy pillow to help “train” themselves to sleep on their sides during pregnancy and reduce strain on the hips and lower back.