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How do I Choose the Best Orthopedic Seat Cushion?

M.C. Huguelet
Updated: May 17, 2024

If you suffer from pain in your tailbone, buttocks, or lower back, you may find that sitting, particularly for long periods, is uncomfortable or even impossible. For many people, an orthopedic seat cushion can help make sitting more bearable by encouraging proper spinal alignment and relieving painful pressure points. If you would like to purchase such a seat cushion but are uncertain which model would best suit you, you may find it useful to first consider which type of cushion material you prefer. Then, decide whether you want a cushion with special features, such as built-in heating or massage, and establish a price point.

While orthopedic seat cushions may vary widely in appearance, most are intended to perform two central functions: encouraging the spine to align properly, and relieving pressure from the tailbone, lower back, and buttocks. Many feature a cut-out space at the center of their rear edge which serves to alleviate tailbone pressure. Others are shaped like two flattened ovals with an inverted groove running between them, a design intended to direct pressure away from the tailbone and the spine. The rear part of the seat cushion is often thicker than the front part, a feature which may reduce lower back pain by promoting good posture.

To choose the best orthopedic seat cushion for you, you may find it helpful to first decide which type of cushion material you prefer. The most commonly used materials are medium- to high-density foam and a semi-solid gel. Deciding which material is better for you is generally a matter of personal preference. Some people argue, however, that foam cushions offer superior comfort but are bulky, while gel cushions are less comfortable but more easily transportable.

Once you have decided which seat cushion material is best for you, decide whether you would like a cushion with special features. For instance, consider whether you want a cushion that includes a cover. Generally, foam seat cushions include a removable cover made from a material such as cotton or fleece, while gel cushions are covered with a nylon material that cannot be removed. Removable covers may present an advantage because they can be easily washed if needed. Other special features found in certain orthopedic seat cushion models include built-in heating and a massage function.

After deciding what kind of shape, materials, and features you would like your orthopedic seat cushion to have, set a maximum price point. Once you have established all of these factors, you can begin shopping. Try visiting orthopedic accessory shops and Internet-based retailers, and consider only those cushions which meet your criteria. With a bit of persistence, you will likely soon find the right cushion for you.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
M.C. Huguelet
By M.C. Huguelet
Cate Huguelet, a Chicago-based freelance writer with a passion for storytelling, crafts engaging content for a wide range of publications, including WiseGeek. With degrees in Writing and English, she brings a unique perspective and a commitment to clean, precise copy that resonates with readers. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a valuable asset to any content creation team.
Discussion Comments
By fify — On Sep 22, 2014

For those shopping for an orthopedic seat cushion right now, make sure that the cushion is not too thin.

I made the mistake of purchasing a rather thin one. Not only did it not provide enough support for my spine, but it also became even thinner as I sat on it.

I think thicker ones will be much better and will last longer. Those who are heavy like me need to select something durable and firm.

By serenesurface — On Sep 21, 2014

@discographer-- The seat orthopedic seat cushions today still have an opening so that when one sits on it, the tailbone is not touching anything.

There are of course different variations but those with tailbone issues should definitely select this type of cushion. Those made of memory foam are quite good. They are very comfortable and work for most people. I use one at the office and in the car.

By discographer — On Sep 21, 2014

Tailbone pain is called the trucker's illness in some medical circles. It's caused by sitting too much. The tailbone can even be deformed or misaligned from excessive sitting.

When I was young, people used a bagel pillow to avoid this issue. It was basically just a pillow with a hole in the center so that the tailbone would not touch the seat. I'm not sure if these are still used.

By Talentryto — On Sep 15, 2014

@heavanet- You may be able to find some styles of orthopedic seat cushions at a retail store, but I think the inventory will be limited. I have found them available at pharmacies and medical supply stores. These are good places to shop for specialty seat cushions because the staff members have knowledge about them that they can pass on to the customers.

By Heavanet — On Sep 14, 2014

Do retail stores carry these types of seat cushions? I would like to feel the support of various cushions before committing to buying one, so I would rather shop for one in person than online.

By Ocelot60 — On Sep 14, 2014

I use an orthopedic seat cushion when I am driving in my car, and I have found that using one that is firm helps to control my lower back pain. I think that this is because a firm cushion provides support to keep your back in line and to keep your posture straight.

I use to use an orthopedic seat cushion that had a lot of flexibility, and my lower back was still in pain after long car trips. The soft seat cushion did not provide the benefits of pain relief, because it did not have the necessary support I needed.

M.C. Huguelet
M.C. Huguelet
Cate Huguelet, a Chicago-based freelance writer with a passion for storytelling, crafts engaging content for a wide...
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