When your hemorrhoids act up, applying ointment over and over can be annoying, especially when you’re away from the comfort of your own home. That’s where a hemorrhoid pillow comes in. It’s a simple way to ease the pain of hemorrhoids without a trip to the bathroom.
A proper pillow for hemorrhoid relief will fully support your lower body in order to move pressure off of your perineum. However, when searching for hemorrhoid pillows online, it seems like every pillow has a big hole in the middle, aka a hemorrhoid donut or donut pillow. In this post, we’ll explain why you should avoid donut pillows and what to try instead.
What Causes Hemorrhoids?
About half of all people (yes, all people, everyone, the whole population of the earth, etc!), experience some sort of hemorrhoid trouble by age 50. The main causes of hemorrhoid flare-ups are lifestyle factors like diet and exercise, as well as situations that put pressure on the anorectal region.
That could include sitting on the toilet for a long time, carrying the weight of a growing baby during pregnancy, obesity or weightlifting, to name some examples. The excess pressure from these activities causes blood to pool in the veins along the anal wall, eventually causing the veins to swell. Those swollen veins are also known as hemorrhoids!
The Best Hemorrhoid Pillows, Cushions, and More
To relieve some of that anorectal and lower back pressure that both causes hemorrhoids and makes hemorrhoid symptoms worse, there are specialty-made hemorrhoid pillows and other products available to buy. Different products do different things, of course, so picking the right product for your specific problems is key.
Let’s go over the different options now, explaining which ones are right for hemorrhoids and which ones aren’t so good. While we’re mainly focusing on the pros and cons of different pillows, we also don’t want to skip over solutions nearly as easy as grabbing a pillow, so we’ll also talk about hot and cold packs.
STAY AWAY FROM DONUT PILLOWS. A quick search for hemorrhoid support pillows online leads you to many different kinds of donut pillows. However, they can actually make hemorrhoids worse.
These kinds of pillows increase the pressure put on hemorrhoids, much like sitting on the toilet increases pressure. A donut pillow may sound ideal in theory because you remove some contact between your hemorrhoid and the surface you’re sitting on, but because it increases the overall pressure in your anorectal region, we cannot recommend this pillow.
Hemorrhoids Cold Compress / Hemorrhoids Ice Packs
Use of a cold compress (aka ice pack) is recommended for newly swollen hemorrhoids to stop blood flow to the area and to provide rapid numbing relief. Think of the traditional use of an ice pack for a fresh wound or injury. The cold reduces pain. The cold also shrinks swollen tissue by constricting blood vessels.
Because of these properties, an ice pack or cold compress is a great solution for hemorrhoid pain as well.
There are many kinds of ice packs available for perineum and hemorrhoid support. Purpose-made reusable ice packs with a fabric sleeve will work well for hemorrhoids, but so will a freezer pack placed on your desk chair, so long as you make sure the pack won’t ruin any of the chair’s materials.
The only use of an ice pack we don’t recommend is placing it directly on the skin, as this may be too intense for a swollen hemorrhoid. And while it’s fine to use an ice pack over your clothes, make sure you opt for light breathable materials instead of thick fabrics like denim so that the cold is actually effective.
Heating Pad For Hemorrhoids
Use a heating pad for hemorrhoids once you’ve reduced the initial swelling. Heating pads dilate blood vessels, allowing fresh healthy blood to circulate to the area bringing in needed nutrients to help spur healing. Not for nothing, heat also feels good on the area!
Heating pads or warm gel pads are especially useful in the case of an external thrombosed hemorrhoid, where the blood begins to clot in the swollen hemorrhoids. Heat will, as explained just above, get the blood flowing by dilating blood vessels, which helps the body reabsorb the clotted blood and replace it with new, healthy blood.
Many heat packs come in the form of microwavable gel packs and can be applied in the same way as an ice pack (with a fabric layer or through clothing — be sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidance on each product).
Other Hemorrhoid Pillows
That said, there are pillows that will help. Instead, you want a pillow that is fully supportive and comfortable.
A pillow anatomically designed to relieve pressure on the hemorrhoid affected area will ease you into a naturally supportive position. This means that your lower back and legs will be guided to support your weight, rather than your perineal area (where your hemorrhoids are). Get a pillow that remains comfortable all day; fidgeting will not help hemorrhoids.
Most seat cushions should work for this purpose, so our recommendation is to try a couple and see if there is one that works for you. Be sure to also get up and walk around fairly frequently. While a seat cushion will help relieve perineal pressure, sitting all day is still not recommended.
Memory Foam Cushion
If you can, go for a memory foam cushion when picking out a hemorrhoid pillow.
It’s more supportive and comfortable than a typical cushion because it can target pressure reduction specific to your anatomy. One could hypothetically engineer the perfect non-memory foam pillow for their body, but this is a much simpler solution.
At Doctor Butler’s, we’ve engineered a supportive memory foam seat cushion specifically for hemorrhoid relief with a built-in pocket for cold/hot gel packs. In fact, it comes with two packs so you can keep one cold in the freezer while the other is snugly fit in the pocket providing relief.
How to Prevent Hemorrhoid Pain in the Future
What’s amazing about a hemorrhoid pillow is that by relieving pressure from your perineum, you’re already taking action to prevent future flare-ups. As we’ve talked about, extra pressure on the area puts pressure on the veins lining the anal wall. Those veins, when exposed to high pressures, can swell up and become inflamed hemorrhoid.
Final Thoughts on Finding Pain Relief
In summary, do not buy a donut pillow. Instead, try a mix of hot/cold pack treatments and a supportive seat cushion. The idea is to guide your body into a proper sitting position, as that’s the best way to get up off of the sensitive perineum area. A donut pillow puts unnecessary pressure on the perineum.
Find a comfortable pillow that distributes the weight between your lower back and legs. Memory foam is a great material as it will form to your anatomy. The pillow you buy doesn’t need to be for hemorrhoids specifically, though if you want to combine hot/cold treatment with a supportive pillow, our proctologist-developed memory foam seat cushion is a convenient solution to “Leave the Pain Behind”!