Have you experienced back pain or poor posture after spending your workday on an unsupportive office chair? If you’re ending the day with a sore, aching back and restless legs, a lumbar pillow might be just what you need. They can help improve your seated posture, reduce stress on your muscles, and aid your circulation.
Just as Lisa Mitro, a Physical Therapist, says “Lumbar support pillows allow the whole spine to be in better posture, starting with the pelvis. Having a support pillow forces the pelvis to have equal distribution through both sit bones, decreasing the rotation and side bending when placing more weight on one hip.”
This post may have affiliate links, meaning we earn a small commission on purchases through the links (at no extra cost to you). This does not change our opinion but does help support the site. Thank you!
“It also forces the lumbar spine into the natural lordosis curve that many people with a desk job tend to lose due to their poor posture day after day. Because the lumbar spine is in a better position, the mid back and shoulders aren’t in an exaggerated kyphotic curvature and the shoulders aren’t leaning forward, setting the neck up for failure. The lumbar support pillow brings the shoulders back and should be used while driving in the car or at a desk job.”
Why do I need a lumbar support pillow?
“When the spine is in good alignment, the load is distributed evenly and there is less wear and tear on tissues. Humans were made to move, and sitting for long periods of time without breaks can take a toll on our bodies. People also tend to slouch while sitting, putting pressure on the spine and reversing the natural curvature. Poor posture over time can lead to overuse injuries”, says Maura Blackstone, Doctor of Physical Therapy, Yoga Teacher, and Personal Trainer from Empower Your Wellness.
Unfortunately, many office chairs are not very ergometric and hard to adjust. Nonetheless, most professionals have jobs that require spending the majority of our day sitting on them, as do many creatives, whether working from an office or from home.
Adding your own lumbar support cushion means you can adjust it to fit the curvatures of your individual back and add support exactly where it’s needed.
What should you look for in a lumbar support pillow?
Physical Therapist, Dr. Tara Salay suggests “There’s a range of lumbar support pillows on the market with variations on shape, type of support and materials.”
“When looking for a lumbar support, you don’t want something too soft. You also want something somewhat rounded so that it can fit nicely into your lumbar curve.”
“A lumbar support helps you keep this natural lordosis in the lumbar spine while sitting. When you use a lumbar support, it needs to be pretty low in the lower back area and you have to sit up tall. If you slump into the support, it’s not going to do anything beneficial for you.”
Similarly, Dr. Jordan Duncan, owner of Silverdale Sport & Spine; a clinic specializing in difficult to treat musculoskeletal pain conditions, points out “You want a lumbar support pillow that can help maintain optimal sitting posture, defined as 10% relaxation from extreme upright sitting. The lumbar pillow that is best suited to create this environment is called a lumbar roll. While most other lumbar supports are too broad and don’t maintain the optimal sitting posture, lumbar rolls have the same size and feel as a roll of paper towels. In order to preserve lumbar lordosis, the lumbar roll should be placed just above your belt line with your hips against the back of the chair.”
Choose one that best fits your back pain and office chair.
Top Pick: Cushion Lab Extra Dense Lumbar Pillow
One of the most common issues with lumbar support cushions is finding the perfect one and then having the memory foam turn into squished mush a month later. Unfortunately, memory foam tends to have a short lifespan. Once it’s been flattened and lost its shape you’re stuck buying a new one.
That’s why we are so excited about Cushion Lab’s Hyperfoam*, an extra dense, dynamically rebounding, proprietary memory foam for all-day support.
While the shape might look odd, don’t be put off by it. They worked with ergonomic specialists and physical therapists to design a lumbar pillow provides better back support and also promotes better posture. The cushion has two distinct areas to support your lower and mid-back. It’s lightweight but sturdy and comes in red, gray or navy to match your office or home decor.
Best Inflatable: Lumbar Pillow Back Cushion Inflatable
An issue with memory foam lumbar supports is they are bulky and not adjustable. If the support is too firm or soft, there’s not much you can do about it. If you’re looking for more customizable support, check out inflatable lumbar pillows.
Lumbar Pillow Back Cushion Inflatable* can be inflated to be firmer and thicker or deflated to be thinner and softer based on your back’s needs. This one supports both the middle and lower back and comes with its own carrying case.
Best for Air Flow: Bod Support Mesh Back Support
Memory foam tends to retain body heat. If you’re working in a warm office or just tend to get sweaty, you might want to consider an alternative with mesh lumbar support.
Mesh lumbar support pillows* are a piece of mesh stretched over a metal frame that can be strapped onto your chair. The open mesh improves airflow and ventilation on your back, plus it’s completely washable. Great for summertime or when you just want more airflow.
Best for Warm/Cold Therapy: Vaunn Medical Lumbar Back Support Cushion
If you need additional pain relief, try warm/cold therapy in addition to support. This lumbar back cushion from Vaunn includes a pocket for either a cool or warm gel insert.
The Vaunn Medical cushion* is a contoured molded foam pillow with an extra optional padded insert. The pillow reduces muscle fatigue with support while the warm/cold insert reduces inflammation and relaxes the muscles further. If you’re looking for lumbar support that takes it one step further, try this out.
Best for Travel: Therm-a-Rest Lumbar Travel Pillow
Do you need lumbar support on the go, but don’t want to drag about a huge pillow everywhere? Check out Therm-a-Rest’s self-inflating Lumbar Travel Pillow*. If you fly or have a long commute, move desks frequently or have to work on-site at a client, having a compact inflatable lumbar support pillow can save your back.
Let it inflate all the way, then slowly deflate until it is the thickness you want. When fully deflated this pillow rolls into a cylinder about 3″ in diameter by 5″ long so it’s easy to slip into a bag.
Best for Moderate Support: LoveHome Memory Foam Back Cushion
The LoveHome Memory Foam Back Cushion is a best-selling lumbar cushion that prevents poor sitting positions by providing support for the natural curve of the spine.
If firm support pillows are too hard and irritate your back, this soft memory foam lumbar cushion* is a gentle alternative. They added a second strap to allow it to attach better to chairs. The cover is removable and can be washed in the machine with cold water.
Best roll: The Original McKenzie Early Compliance Lumbar Roll
This Original McKenzie lumbar support roll* from OPTP features a minimalist design and firm high-density foam. It measures 11″ L x 4.75″ diameter and comes with a strap that can attach to the back of your chair or your waist. Due to the design, it can fit on a wide variety of chairs including vehicles and plane seats.
The 100% polyester mesh is anti-wrinkle and moisture-wicking. The cover can be removed and washed. The pillow comes with a 60-day guarantee so you have time to try it out and see if it works for you.
Best for Shorter Builds: Relax Support Back Support Pillow
If you’re a petite person, you might find some lumbar support cushions are just too large. If the pillow does not contour to your body, it can end up causing more discomfort than it helps.
Relax Support Back Support Pillow* is 8.3″ inches high, just covering the lumbar region and giving support while avoiding being bulky.
Best for Encouraging Better Posture: BackJoy SitSmart Fabric Posture Cushions
BackJoy SitSmart Fabric Posture Cushions* take a different approach completely to lumbar support. Rather than adding support directly at the lumbar region, BackJoy encourages better posture by tilting the angle of your pelvis in the chair.
By tilting your hips upright to a neutral position, it shifts your center of gravity forward and relieves pressure on your lower back. While it might not be as comfortable as a cushy memory foam pillow, if you’re looking to deal with the underlying issues of poor posture when sitting, it’s worth a try.