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The best seat cushions to alleviate lower back pain, according to editors and experts

Sitting on one of these cushions can make you more comfortable and increase productivity at work, experts say.
Instead of investing in a new office chair, you can buy a supportive seat cushion to make you more comfortable while sitting all day.
Instead of investing in a new office chair, you can buy a supportive seat cushion to make you more comfortable while sitting all day. Fomi; Purple

The average full-time worker spends over 40 hours a week at work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And depending on what your job entails, a majority of those hours may be spent sitting, which can lead to back pain and muscle stiffness, experts told us. While investing in a standing desk and taking short walks throughout the day may help overall discomfort, you likely won’t be able to totally avoid sitting, so making your office chair more comfortable is key. That’s where seat cushions come in. They help evenly distribute your weight across your seat, decrease pressure on parts of your lower back and can encourage proper posture.

To help you find the right seat cushion for your office chair, we consulted experts about what to look for while shopping. In addition to rounding up expert recommendations, the NBC Select staff tried a handful of seat cushions over a three week period to get firsthand experience with them.

SKIP AHEAD How to shop for seat cushions | The best seat cushions to shop

Selected.Our top picks

How to shop for seat cushions

While shopping for a seat cushion, experts recommend considering the following factors.

  • Material: Seat cushions tend to be made of foam, gel or memory foam, materials that experts told us support your bottom and spine.
  • Firmness: The material a seat cushion is made from directly impacts its firmness level, and ultimately, what you find comfortable is the best option. Keep in mind, however, that if your cushion is too plush, you may find that you start to sink in on yourself as you sit. “You want a semi-firm support system that also provides comfort,” says Dr. John Rotundo, the founder and director of physician services at Hudson Family Chiropractic, Physical Therapy & Acupuncture in New Jersey.
  • Size: Pay attention to the depth and width of a seat cushion, and how its overall size compares to the chair you plan to put it on and your body, says Karen Loesing, a licensed physical therapist assistant and the owner of The Ergonomic Expert, a consulting company for ergonomic office evaluations. Seat cushions that are too big or too small won’t be comfortable to sit in all day. Also keep in mind that putting a seat cushion on top of your chair elevates you to some degree, which means you might have to adjust the height of your chair so your legs don’t hit the top of your desk.
  • Shape: While some seat cushions are solid and mimic the shape of a typical office chair’s seat, others are contoured and/or have cutouts. Contours help evenly distribute your weight across the cushion, while cutouts take direct pressure off specific parts of the body, says Loesing. For example, many seat cushions have coccyx cutouts to eliminate pressure on your tailbone. Think about your pain points and use that to determine what seat cushion shape is best for you.
  • Stability: Your seat cushion should stay in one place and not slip or slide around as you’re sitting. Some options come with velcro straps to keep them secure, while others have a non-slip rubber bottom. If a seat cushion has neither of these things, it may be hard to keep centered on your chair while you’re using it.
  • Cooling features: If the back of your thighs feel sweaty every time you get up, you might benefit from a cooling seat cushion. Look for options covered in mesh, which increases airflow, or one that’s constructed with cooling gel, experts told us.

The best seat cushions to shop

To recommend the best seat cushions, NBC Select staffers tried a handful of options that brands sent us. We tried each seat cushion at our desks over a three week period.?Experts also shared their favorite seat cushions.

Best overall seat cushion: Tempur-Pedic Seat Cushion

What we like
  • Firm support
  • Removable, washable cover
Something to note
  • Molds to your body over time

When NBC Select staffers first sat down on this seat cushion, they were surprised by how firm it felt, but eventually got used to its feel.? “Over a couple of hours, I felt myself sink in just enough so that there was still some firmness there to encourage a taller posture,” says Nikki Brown, NBC Select SEO editor. “Now, days later, it feels like the cushion has molded to my backside and I enjoy the support.” Harry Rabinowitz, NBC Select reporter, also adds that using the cushion eliminated the typical lower back soreness he feels at the end of the work day. Jordan Bowman, NBC Select editor, recommends giving it some time to adjust to your body — once it does, you’ll immediately notice the difference if you had to give it up, he says.

Material: Memory foam | Size: 16 x 16 x 2 in. | Removable cover: Yes, machine-washable

Best portable seat cushion: Purple Simply Seat Cushion

What we like
  • Built-in handles for transport
  • Flexible yet firm support
  • Removable, washable cover
Something to note
  • May move around on seat

If you’re looking for a softer seat cushion, this model is our favorite. Its main support mechanism is Purple’s proprietary 3D GelFlex Grid, a flexible yet firm material that cradles your bottom and adapts to your body shape, according to the brand. Lindsay Schneider, NBC Select editor, says sitting on the seat cushion is much more comfortable than sitting on a typical office chair, and she enjoys using it regularly while working. The cover has handles on either side, making it easy to move if you want to use it in different places. It also has a non-slip base, but Schneider says the cushion sometimes moves around while she’s sitting on it.

Material: Purple GelFlex Grid | Size: 17.5 x 15.75 x 1.25 in. | Removable cover: Yes, machine-washable

Best medium-firm seat cushion: Sutera Proper Posture Seat Cushion

What we like
  • Tailbone cutout
  • Charcoal-infused core
  • Rubber grips on base
Something to note
  • Can't remove or wash cover

Sutera’s medium-firm seat cushion is designed with a cutout to take pressure off your tailbone, and its shape mimics the contours in your legs to help evenly distribute weight across your chair, according to the brand. “The seat cushion almost immediately forced me to sit up straighter,” says Ashley Morris, NBC Select associate SEO reporter, who frequently hunches over at her computer. “At first it was a bit uncomfortable because I’m used to slouching, but after a day or two, I barely noticed that it was there and my back pain has definitely gone down.” The core of Sutera’s seat cushion is infused with charcoal to keep it fresh after hours of use, according to the brand, and it has rubber grips on its base to prevent it from shifting around.

Material: Memory foam | Size: 17.7 x 16 x 4.3 in. | Removable cover: No

Best contoured seat cushion: Cushion Lab Pressure Relief Seat Cushion

What we like
  • Contoured shape
  • Charcoal-infused foam
  • Tailbone cutout
Something to note
  • Nothing to note at this time

Rebecca Rodriguez, NBC Select editorial products manager, likes this seat cushion because its contours are strategically placed to cradle the hips and thighs, making it feel like it was molded for her bottom before she even took it out of the package. There’s also a cutout at the back of the cushion to take weight off the tailbone area. The seat cushion is made from charcoal-infused memory foam that prevents it from holding onto odors, according to the brand, in addition to mesh that circulates air to keep you cool.?

Material: Memory foam | Size: 16 x 16 x 3 in. | Removable cover: Yes, machine-washable

Best cooling seat cushion: Everlasting Comfort Seat Cushion and Lumbar Support Pillow Combo

What we like
  • Made with cooling gel
  • Ventilated
  • Comes with lumbar cushion
Something to note
  • Can't remove or wash covers

This seat and lumbar cushion combo comes highly recommended by Rotundo. It supports the lower back and glutes, and helps evenly distribute your weight, leading to decreased stress on the whole body, he says. Both cushions are infused with cooling gel and have ventilation holes to promote air circulation. The seat cushion is U-shaped with a cutout at the back to take pressure off the coccyx and tailbone, and the lumbar cushion has two straps to secure it to the back of your chair.

Material: Memory foam | Size: 17.5 x 14 x 2.75 in. | Removable cover: No

Meet our experts

At NBC Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

Why trust NBC Select?

Zoe Malin is an associate updates editor at NBC Select who writes about health, wellness and fitness, including stories on training shoes, Covid tests and sunscreen. For this article, she interviewed two experts about how to shop for seat cushions. Brands sent the NBC Select staff a handful of seat cushions to try over a three week period, allowing reviewers to share their firsthand experience about many of the products we recommend above.

Catch up on NBC Select’s in-depth coverage of personal finance, tech and tools, wellness and more, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok to stay up to date.

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