The 4 Best Seat Cushions For Back Pain

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If you experience back pain, then you know how uncomfortable it can be to sit down. Regular activities like driving or working at a desk can be particularly tough to handle. The best seat cushions for back pain may offer some relief so that you can sit with greater ease as you go about your day, but it's hard to know which ones are the real deal — which is why I reached out to three experts to learn more about how seat cushions can address back pain.

Dr. Eric Robertson, PT, DPT, told Bustle in an interview, "Generally back pain is very different from one person to the next," (aka what provides relief for one person may not for another), but a specialized seat cushion is certainly worth a try. Dr. Karena Wu, PT, DPT, explained to Bustle that one of the main benefits of a seat cushion is that it can reduce compression in the spine, which can help to provide back pain relief. Dr. Wu specifically mentioned that these cushions can be helpful if you have pain from arthritis, since the cushion "will reduce the compressive load which means there can potentially be more space in between the joints or bones." Pain caused from sciatica or herniated discs could possibly be helped by a seat cushion, too. That said, while a seat cushion could offer significant pain relief, it's always a good idea to consult a medical professional if you are experiencing severe or chronic pain.

Shape

Seat cushions for back pain are typically available in two shapes: a flat cushion and a contoured U-shaped cushion, sometimes called a coccyx seat cushion. For back pain, Dr. Wu recommends selecting a contoured cushion since a flat cushion provides only a softer sitting surface, while a contoured one also "helps maintain a good posture and relieves the pressure in the tailbone area."

Materials

Cushions come in a few different materials, and it’s worth considering which might best suit your needs. Memory foam and gel are the two most common options, and are sometimes combined.

  • Memory foam: Memory foam is a good material for a seat cushion because it contours to your body, Dr. Wu explained. Robert A. Hayden, DC, PhD, FICC, told Bustle that memory foam seat cushions are one of his favorites, but that the material also has some drawbacks. "The downside might be that when they have some age on them, memory foam seat cushions may sag like a mattress might," he explained. Memory foam cushions also tend to trap heat, so they can quickly get warm.
  • Gel: Seat cushions made from gel boast many positive features. "Gel seat cushions stay cooler, are durable, lightweight, and can be cleaned easily," explained Dr. Wu. Gel and memory foam have different textures, though both mold to the shape of your body while you sit, so it ultimately comes down to choosing the material that feels best to you.

Thickness

Before selecting a seat cushion, you'll also want to consider how thick you'd like your cushion to be. Cushion thickness typically ranges between 1 and 4 inches. Thicker cushions might seem luxurious, but there’s something to be said for thinner cushions, too. Dr. Hayden pointed out that "if the cushion is too thick, it may push you to the edge of the seat or actually cause misalignment of spinal segments." That said, all bodies are different, and a thicker cushion might be right for some people.

With this expert advice, I’ve compiled a list of five seat cushions that thousands of Amazon users swear by for back pain relief.

1. The Best Overall Seat Cushion For Back Pain

This seat cushion from ComfiLife combines the superior cushioning of memory foam with the ultra-cooling quality of gel. The end result is a cushion that has Amazon reviewers raving. With more than 8,500 reviews on the site and a solid 4.3-star rating overall, reviewers say that this ergonomic seat cushion offers support and reduces pressure on the tailbone, which makes a big difference when it comes to their back pain. This pick helps to promote good posture, too, another plus when it comes to back pain reduction.

The 2.8-inch thick ComfiLife seat cushion features a nonslip rubber bottom that won’t budge when you move, plus a built-in handle for easy transport. The velour cover is even machine-washable.

Enthusiastic Amazon review: "I'm very impressed with the high quality foam used and the construction of the cushion. [...] I purchased this because I suffer from chronic lower back pain that quickly becomes unbearable when I sit for a length of time. The cushion instantly started to relieve my back pain and has actually improved my overall condition tremendously. [...] It starts out very firm and softens up a bit after about 30 minutes but does not go flat. I have to say it again - I am impressed!"

2. The Best Memory Foam-Only Seat Cushion

Made of memory foam without gel, this seat cushion from Everlasting Comfort is indeed comfortable; the 2.8-inch thick cushion molds to your body, which can make sitting for extended periods of time much, much better. The contoured shape helps with your posture and relieves pressure in the tailbone area. And Amazon reviewers? Many of them are big fans. They give it a standout 4.5-star rating, with 12,000 and growing reviews, many championing this seat cushion for its ability to help with back pain.

This pick features a soft exterior cover that is machine-washable and a nonslip gel rubber bottom that holds it in place. Use it as an office chair cushion or even a car seat cushion, but just be aware that it doesn't have a carrying handle, so toting it around can be slightly cumbersome.

Enthusiastic Amazon review: "I originally bought this cushion for my wife (who was 7 months pregnant at the time). She would often complain of lower back & tailbone pain. We tried a few other memory foam cushions that did not work half as well as this one did. She no longer complains about her hour long commute to & from work and is no longer uncomfortable sitting 8+ hrs daily at an office. In fact, I find myself wanting to use it more often now that I need to buy one for myself. This cushion literally has given us the 'everlasting comfort' we needed and the cushion isn't flat, maintaining its original shape & comfort after 3 months of daily use."

3. An Extra-Wide Seat Cushion That's Great For Larger Bodies

At 19 by 16 inches, this seat cushion from Orthopedic Seat Cushion is a bit larger than the other picks, which makes it great for anyone who might want a little more space to work with. It's also a bit thicker than the other options, offering more cushioning for those who might prefer a softer sitting surface. If 3.8 inches of super-amazing memory foam and gel cushioning sounds like your sitting dreams come true, then this one is for you.

The cushion has a nonslip bottom to ensure it stays in place. Plus, the built-in handle makes for easy transport, although it is the heaviest pick on this list, weighing 3 pounds.

Enthusiastic Amazon review: "The best orthopedic seat cushion on the market that I have ever purchased. I purchased one for my car, one for my desk, and one for my deck. It is extremely comfortable right from the wrapper it came in. [...] I love also that it is an extra large size seat cushion. You can sit for a very long time on it without discomfort and your bottom does not get sweaty. It even has a handle on the side to easily transported it from one place to another. It was a great buy at an excellent price."

4. The Best Non-Contoured Seat Cushion

If you don’t love the idea of a contoured seat cushion but are still are seeking some pressure relief and cushioning, this non-contoured seat cushion from Purple is your best bet. The 2-inch thick cushion is made from an extra-elastic polymer that reviewers on Amazon report makes for a truly unique sitting experience that is shockingly comfortable. Plus, the distinctive column design is said to provide support for your back and spine, as well as air flow that prevents sweating.

This pick comes with a breathable black cover with a handle for carrying. Both the seat cushion and cover are machine-washable, too.

Enthusiastic Amazon review: "If you're going on a road trip, you NEED this. You might be like "oh, my car is pretty comfortable, not the end of the world." Listen. I've literally sat in the car for 40,000 miles upon this PRECIOUS purple pad. [...] I will literally never do a car trip longer than a few hours without it ever again."

Expert sources:

Dr. Eric Robertson, PT, DPT, American Physical Therapy Association spokesman and director, Kaiser Permanente Northern California Graduate PT education

Dr. Karena Wu, PT, DPT, president and owner of ActiveCare Physical Therapy

Robert A. Hayden, DC, PhD, FICC, American Chiropractic Association media spokesperson, owner of Iris City Chiropractic Center

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