Mayo Clinic Dr. James Levine is credited with coining the phrase, “Sitting is the new smoking”—a concise, memorable analogy that’s intended to wake us up to the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle. His mantra has spurred greater awareness about the risks of sitting for long periods of time—that it is linked to high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol and other ailments—and fueled the development of things like standing desks, walking meetings, and more solutions to get us upright. But the reality is, we’re all probably sitting more than we should, and more than our backs can handle. I know that’s the case for me. I’m fortunate to work from home and have the freedom to work in any position—seated, standing, reclined—and yet I spend the majority of my day sitting in an office chair behind a desk. After many years of this, I now start to feel a dull, aching pain in my lower back by about lunch time.
Here’s what I’m trying to alleviate the pain: I get up at least once every hour, whether to refill my water glass, step outside for fresh air, or just to stand at my desk and do some simple stretches. I’ve also started to pay attention to my posture when I sit, focusing on keeping my head and neck straight instead of leaning forward or sagging. Along with these things, I’ve been testing a variety of seat cushions for my chair. What a difference they have made! There are ones that you sit on and others that are meant to slide in that space between your lower back and the chair—the lumbar region. I’ve become so hooked on them that now I also keep one in my car, throw one in my carry-on for long flights, and even use one on my patio chair if I’m going to be outside for a long time. In fact, they are great on any sort of firm seating surface. So for those times when you just can’t avoid sitting for long periods of time, grab one of these cushions. Your back will thank you!
Royal Purple Cushion
You may have heard buzz about this company’s products—including seat cushions, mattresses, pillows, and more—that are made from a stretchy, purple material known as hyper-elastic polymer. Whatever it is, I’m here to tell you it’s really, really comfortable under my derrière. Unzip the washable cover and you’ll see that the polymer is made in an open column design, which the company says facilitates air flow and keeps the cushion cool. At 16- by -18-inches, this is one of the largest cushions we tested.
ComfiLife Coccyx Cushion
Coccyx is another word for your tailbone, the spot at the bottom of your spine. The small open U-shape in this memory foam cushion goes toward the back of your seat, so your tailbone doesn’t touch the hard surface of your seat, which is often the source of soreness. The removable, washable cover is soft on top but has rubber nubs on the bottom to keep it from sliding around on your seat. And the built-in handle makes it easy to take the cushion with your wherever you go.
SensorGel Gel-Infused Memory Foam Lumbar Pillow
This is one pillow I’ve been moving from room to room. Inside the super-soft removable knit cover is gel-infused memory foam that provides really great support. It cradles my lower back and doesn’t slide around on my chair. And since I’m a side-sleeper, I also use it at night between my knees.
Technogel Seat Pad
This cushion is made with a soft-solid gel that is molded to a memory foam base. The gel acts as a thermal conductor, dispersing your body heat so the cushion is cooler than just sitting on memory foam alone. A generous 16- by 16-inch square, this seat pad is definitely heavier than most of the other options, but still easy to transport with the attached handle on the washable cover.
Tempur-Pedic All-Purpose Pillow
This peanut-shaped pillow is a great option if you are looking for something versatile and portable. Use it for lumbar support, under your knees, as a neck roll—really anywhere you want firm support. It’s just 5- by 13-inches and weighs less than a pound, making it perfect to take with you.
SensorPedic Carousel Stripe Standard Patio Chair Cushion
Stay comfortable even when you’re sitting outside with this memory foam cushion that’s made for patio chairs. The filling is a special memory foam that is waterproof, and it’s covered with durable Sunbrella fabric in a cheery stripe.
Aylio Coccyx Seat Cushion
Here’s another option to alleviate pressure on the tailbone and provide support for your buttocks, hips, and thighs. The contour design is super comfy, as is the soft velvet cover, which zips off for washing.
Tempur-Pedic Lumbar Cushion for Travel
At just 10- by 11-inches, this pillow is great to leave in your car or carry on trips. It has an ergonomic shape that’s made to support your mid- and lower-back when sitting. The cover is removable and washable (and the dark color blue cover will be less likely to show dirt.)
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