Driving for long periods can be uncomfortable. Back pain, neck pain, and displaced hips are some problems that long-distance drivers face, especially if their seat is poorly constructed. These issues can be even more serious for the elderly or children.
One way to avoid the aches and pains of long times spent in the car seat is by buying a quality car seat cushion meant to minimize stress on the frame. Ergonomic car seat cushions are designed to evenly distribute the downward force of sitting and relieve pressure on sensitive areas of the neck, back, hips, and legs.
There are a ton of cushions made for those with orthopedic conditions, toddlers, and injured passengers. To this end, we have put together a list of some of the most comfortable car seat cushions. These comfy cushions will let you hit the road without it hitting back.
Benefits of a ergonomic car seat cushion
Why is an ergonomic car seat a good idea? Long periods of sitting put lots of stress on the frame. The human body is not particularly engineered for sitting for very long periods so long-term sitting goes against the natural motion of the human body. Sitting in a car seat causes the bulk of the weight of the body to be distributed unequally, which puts pressure on the spine and hips. Long term sitting with this poor posture can lead to pain and disc damage.
Car seat cushions work by aligning the hips and the spine into a position that is closer to that when standing upright, exploiting the body’s natural mechanics for a comfy posture. Correcting posture also lengthens the hip flexors, so your legs don’t feel as cramped. This is one reason why comfy car seat cushions are great for people who drive as their professions, like taxi and truck drivers.
Lastly, car seat cushions are very helpful for passengers who require special accommodations, such as children, the elderly, or the injured. Not everyone has the right sized frame to comfortably fit in a standard car seat. Some people require a little extra height or extra lumbar support. An ergonomic car seat cushion lets you modify a seat to better fit multiple body frames.
What are the best car seat cushion for lower back pain available now?
1. Aylio Coccyx Orthopedic Comfort Foam Seat
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Aylio’s Coccyx seat cushion is in a league of its own and for a good reason. This orthopedically designed seat cushion is engineered with the biomechanics of the human body in mind. The seat bucket features a deep cut out design that is meant to take direct pressure off of the spine. The U-shaped rear part lifts the coccyx (tail bone) which can prevent that dull throbbing pain in the lower spine that comes from sitting too long. The contoured surface also does wonders for aligning the hips to keep you from favoring one side.
The cushion is very light, weighing only 1 pound and extremely portable with dimensions of 18 x 14 x 3 inches meaning you can take it anywhere. It will fit most normal chairs but is particularly suited for use in car seats, airplane seats, and office chairs. The dense foam has decent cushioning and molds to the contours of the body. The plush velvet cover is very soft and can be removed for machine washing, while several small micro-bumps on the body keep the cushion from slipping.
Some reviewers describe the cover as tending to bunch up and form uncomfortable folds. Others claim that over time the cushion flattens out, especially if you are a heavier person. Additionally, the front end is somewhat short, so if you have short legs, it may not be incredibly helpful for leg circulation.
- Orthopedic design raises coccyx for relieved pressure
- Very lightweight and portable
- Doubles as a booster seat for toddler/shorter adults
- Foam cushion flattens over time
- The front end is short, may not be suitable for short legs
2. LoveHome Memory Foam Lumbar Back Support Cushion
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The LoveHome Memory Foam Lumbar Back Support Cushion is explicitly designed to alleviate the lower back pain that accompanies long periods of sitting. The pillow-like design is made to strap around your chair and can be placed higher or lower, depending on your needs. The lumbar support pillow pushes the spine into its natural curved position it has while standing. The cushion is chiropractor recommended for those who suffer from lumbosacral back pain such as spondylosis. It also pushes the body forward which can relieve pressure on the knees and improve circulation.
The main cushion part is made out of a dense memory foam that has enough firmness to hold your spine in place but also soft enough to be comfy. This particular model is an update of a previous version that adds an extra backstrap, so it stays in place better. The mesh covering is pretty breathable so your back won’t get too sweaty, but it can be kind itchy, especially if you have sensitive skin. Fortunately, the cushion is very affordable (only $25!!), so you do not have to break the bank to get a quality car seat cushion. It also comes with a 60-day money back guarantee, so no worries returning it if you are not impressed.
Its pretty light at a little bit less that one and a half pounds, but it is kind of rigid and not very flexible, so it might not be the best in portability. It also has a relatively smaller cushion, so it may not be best for bigger people. You also do not seem to be able to remove the straps which can get in the way if you want to use it as a free-standing support pillow. Despite these relatively minor issues, the LoveHome is an excellent choice for people who need so extra back support while driving.
- Very affordable
- Height adjustable
- Chiropractor recommended for alleviating lower back pain
- Mesh covering is somewhat scratchy
- Can make chair depth shallow
3. FORTEM Lumbar Support Pillow
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Designed for cars, planes, offices, and home use, the FORTEM lumbar support pillow is perfect for men and women, young and old alike. Made out of 100% memory foam, this extremely portable lumbar support cushion is great for long car trips and plane trips alike. The firm foam cushion pushed the back of spine out to mimic its natural curvature. The unique foam is activated by body heat, so when your spine makes contact, it begins to flex. It has an outstanding quality build so the cushion will maintain shape.
The 3d mesh covering is breathable and does an excellent job of wicking away moisture, so you don’t get sweaty. Some reviewers find the cushion a bit too firm, but others praise how well it holds the spine. The straps can be a bit loose which unfortunately means you may have to readjust it periodically if it slides down. Luckily it’s easy to put on and off; just slip the straps over and tighten, no buckles to worry about.
It’s also very lightweight, so it’s portable. It’s a bit bulky so it might not be the easiest thing to carry around, but it shouldn’t cause you too much trouble, especially considering its orthopedic benefits. It also doubles as a footrest if you have tired and swollen legs. Lastly, it just a pretty decent job of easing hip-pain, though it is primarily focused on back issues.
- Very Affordable
- Corrects damage from spinal injuries
- Heat activated foam response to body
- Might be too firm for some
- Straps are difficult to tighten and may come loose
4. Xtra-Comfort Lumbar Support Pillow
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If you are looking for something with excellent lumbar support, then the Xtra-Comfort is for you. Made out of a heavy duty dense contoured foam, the Xtra-Comfort lumbar support pillow gives an excellent mix of support and cushion for a very reasonable price. The ergonomic design supports proper posture which alleviates strain on the muscles and associated pains. It’s perfect for those who have to sit for a long time or are recovering from back conditions such as sciatica, arthritis, stenosis, and herniated discs.
The heavy-duty foam is pretty resilient so it won’t lose its shape over time. It has a single elastic strap that, while a bit on the flimsy side, makes attaching/removing and adjusting pretty simple and straight forward. The mesh cover is moveable and has a pattern of tiny perforations that draw water in to keep your back dry. The cover is removable and machine washable as well so no worries about cleaning.
The biggest drawback of the Xtra-Comfort is its size. The cushion face runs a bit on the smaller size so it may not be best for bigger and heavier people. The elastic strap also has a tendency to snap if stretched too far, though it is noted you can still use the support pillow fairly well even if this does happen. Even though it is small, it pushes out pretty far which can make your seat bucket a bit too shallow, especially if you have a longer torso and legs.
- Single elastic strap design is easy to operate
- Lots of support
- Small cushion face
- Elastic strap is somewhat flimsy
- Might be too firm for some
5. Millard Lumbar Support Pillow
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The last item on our list is a fantastic lumbar support pillow from Millard. The specially shaped cushion straightens out the spine for extra lumbar support. The lightweight frame and design are very portable and easily fits on all kinds of chairs. The U shaped cushion forms a natural bucket that the spine sinks into, aligning the lower back and hips in the process.
The Millard does a good job of correcting posture, especially the slumping that is common after sitting for a long time. The dense memory foam gives a generous amount of cushioning but is still firm enough to keep your back aligned without sinking from your weight. As a bonus, the memory foam will mold to the specific shape of your back over time for a tight custom fit.
The mesh covering is fairly breathable, but can be a bit scratchy. Unfortunately, the single strap is not that tight and often comes loose. It is also nonadjustable and may not fit around larger seats, like those in a truck for example. The pillow is described as pretty firm, which is great for those who need some extra support but may be lacking in cushion for some people.
- Very affordable
- Lightweight and compact; portable
- Very breathable
- Somewhat small, not for larger people
- Maybe too firm for some
Things to Consider When Buying a Car Seat Cushion
It can be hard to know where to start when looking for a car seat cushion. Before you buy, keep in mind the following features.
- Back Support
This is the key thing that you should check on first before anything else. The whole point of an ergonomic car seat cushion is to prevent wear and tear on the spine. Make sure you find something that has the right amount of support to put your spine in its natural curved position. An extra lumbar support cushion may feel strange and take some time getting used to particularly if you are used to a chair without one. It’s worth getting used to though as a good support cushion can go lengths towards alleviating back issues. Many of the reviewed products are orthopedically designed for people with back problems. The best car seat cushions both align your spine and alleviate pressure on the hips and neck.
Another important feature to check is the durability/quality of the product. If you find yourself sitting for very long periods of time then you will need something that can work for hours without degrading and coming apart. Nothing is worse than finding a good cushion only for it to wear out within the first month or two of using. Check product reviews to make sure that the cushion you want can handle long term use. The more durable support cushions tend to have thicker coverings made out of a mesh material.
If you are planning to use your cushion for multiple seats then you need something that is highly adjustable. This means you should not only be able to take it on and off easily but also that you can raise it up and down on your seat easily. While sitting, you may find it necessary to slightly change your posture, which can be tough if your support cushion cannot be moved around. The majority of reviewed products have some sort of adjustability strap that lets you change the height of the pillow. This feature also allows others to use it as they can adjust its height to fit their spine.
Few things are quite as cringe-inducing than the loud slurping sound when you pull you sweaty back away from your car seat on a hot day. Cars can get hot and sitting in cars for long periods of time can make you sweat profusely if your seat isn’t breathable enough. If you find yourself sweating a lot while sitting a breathable seat cover can mean the world towards comfort.
Make sure the seat cushion you get is breathable and can wick away moisture. Of course, this also means that you should make sure to regularly wash the front cover as damp cloth and fabric are a breeding ground for bacteria and funky smells.
What Other Things Can I Do To Prevent Back Pain While Sitting?
A good comfy car seat cushion can go the distance towards reducing back pain, but there are some other steps you can take to help the process along. If you sit for long periods at a time each day, consider the following tips to reduce the stress on your back and hips:
- Try not to sit with anything in your pockets; e.g. wallet, keys, phone, etc. Objects in your pockets can get in the way of sitting and force you to take on a less comfortable position. Specifically, sitting for a long time with things in your back pockets can actually pinch a nerve and cause shooting pain up the leg and back.
- If possible, avoid bumpy or poorly constructed roads while driving. The extra jostling from bumpy roads can severely aggravate existing back pain. If you cannot avoid rough roads, then make sure to drive slowly over them to avoid and shock.
- Take frequent breaks to get up, walk around and stretch your legs. Part of the reason sitting for long periods hurts is because you don’t get to stretch your muscles to alleviate stress. If possible, plan your trips ahead so you can take frequent breaks to get up and walk off the tension
- Make sure your mirrors are adjusted appropriately, so you do not have to strain your neck or back to see out of them. A frequent turning of your head to check your mirrors can put strain on the neck and back depending on how far you have to turn.
- When on the highway, use cruise control when possible. Cruise control lets your car maintain its speed without you having to keep the gas pedal depressed constantly. This lets you free up your legs if you find them getting cramped or sore.
- If necessary, bring a cold or hot pack. Sometimes even the best car seat cushion won’t cut it, and you need some extra help. A cold or hot pack can give relief to sharp shooting pains or dull throbbing pains that might arise while driving.
How To Make a Seat Cushion for Your Car
If you are really strapped for cash and cannot pony up the amount to buy a car seat cushion, you could always settle for making one on your own. While it may not be as comfy as a professionally designed cushion, a decent DIY car seat cushion can be a lifesaver if you accidentally forget yours at home or it breaks on you.
Making a car seat cushion DIY is surprisingly easy. All you need is something that can you can use for paddings, such as a towel, blanket, or foam block. The main problem with many car seat designs is that the bucket sits very far back and tends to slope towards the back of the car. The sloped seat makes your pelvis lean back which causes the misalignment that leads to back pain.
One thing you can do is roll a towel up into a cylinder an place it near the back part of the seat bucket. Sitting on the rolled up towel raises the coccyx and bring the pelvis a bit forward, reducing the unnatural curving of the spine. The same thing can be achieved using a towel or blanket. Alternatively, you can also use a normal pillow and position it right in the middle of the lower back.
So what are the best ergonomic seat cushions? The exact answer depends on your needs. The best ergonomic seat cushions are meant to reduce pressure on sensitive areas of the back, hips, and neck by aligning the spine into a position that is closer to that when walking. A good comfy car seat cushion will have a good mix of support, cushion, adjustability, and breathability. Many well-known car seat cushions are designed with orthopedic science in mind for optimal therapeutic effects. Hopefully, this guide will help put you on the right track to finding the best car seat cushion for lower back pain to suit your needs.