For millions of people, back pain is exacerbated by time behind the wheel. The average American drives about an hour each day and the effects of a misaligned spine during hundreds of hours on the road can lead to chronic pain. One of the simplest and most effective solutions is a lumbar support cushion, which aligns the spine from its base all the way into the neck.
With hundreds of lumbar support cushions on the market, how do you know which is the best at addressing pain while driving? To help you with your decision, we researched the most effective lumbar support cushions for cars and came back with a list of favorites.
- Features to Consider in a Lumbar Support Cushion
- Top 9 Best Lumbar Support Cushions for Cars to Buy In 2020
- 1. Everlasting Comfort Lumbar Support Pillow
- 2. LoveHome Memory Foam Lumbar Support
- 3. Tempur-Pedic Lumbar Cushion
- 4. RS1 Back Support Pillow by Relax Support
- 5. The Original McKenzie Lumbar Roll
- 6. ComfiLife Lumbar Support Back Pillow
- 7. Feagar Ergonomic Lumbar Support Pillow
- 8. Samsonite Ergonomic Lumbar Support Pillow
- 9. Samsonite Half Moon Lumbar Support
- Guide to Buying the Best Lumbar Support Cushions for Cars 2020
Features to Consider in a Lumbar Support Cushion
Support is the most important factor when choosing a lumbar cushion for your vehicle. The two qualities that influence the degree of support are the shape and depth of the cushion. The shape of the cushion affects how it will support the areas around your spine. Depth, which refers to the thickest part of a cushion, affects to what degree the curve supports your spine. The best cushions are described as ‘hugging’ the curve of your back, while the worst ones poorly align with your spine.
Adjustability is important to properly fit the lumbar support cushion to your body. Without it, cushions can negatively affect posture and comfort. Cushions should have a durable and strong attachment mechanism that will hold up to repeated use. This is sometimes referred to as the retention system. Lumbar support cushions need to stay in place during use, so adjustable buckles and clips that can hold a cushion in position work better than an elastic strap.
Cushions can get uncomfortably hot, especially when driving for long periods. So it’s important to have a lumbar support cushion that is breathable and conducts heat away from the body.
Lumbar support cushions should be firm and supportive while still being comfortable, but shouldn’t be so soft that they don’t provide the necessary structure to align posture. Most of the cushions on our list utilize memory foam, but it’s important to take into account the quality of each memory foam, as some degrade faster than others. Other, less common materials used for cushions should be evaluated for these same structural properties.
Since the support cushion will be traveling with you everywhere you go, it’s important to get a cushion that holds up over time. Some cushions degrade and collapse after heavy use, which makes them ineffective in providing back support. Cushions should be stain-resistant and easy to clean when dirty.
Top 9 Best Lumbar Support Cushions for Cars to Buy In 2020
Material: Memory foam with washable cover
For aligning the spine, preventing pain, and providing comfort while driving, this lumbar support tops our list. Coming in at a below-average price, the cushion’s level of lumbar support is impressive, thanks to its ergonomic shape and firm structure. There’s clearly a high degree of attention given to the stitching, foam, and retention system. The product is easy to install and adjust.
Support: With structurally rigid memory foam and a well-contoured cushion, this lumbar pillow has one of the highest degrees of support in our lineup. Although it sacrifices some plushness for its rigidity, it does a great job of aligning the spine and improving posture while driving. It takes a few drives to get used to this lumbar support due to its firmness but over time the cushion notably helps improve posture and reduce symptoms of lower back pain behind the wheel.
Adjustability: The retention system has two solid buckles and straps that are easy to use when adjusting the cushion for fit. Although the Everlasting Comfort support is a favorite for use in cars, due to the relatively large pillow size, users with shorter torsos might prefer some of the smaller offerings in this category. See our best pick for shorter torsos here.
Durability: We are continually impressed with Everlasting Comfort’s commitment to quality. The foam, straps, and cover are all very durable and hold up to heavy use. The cushion’s cover is removable and machine-washable, so periodic cleaning is a breeze. We have no reason to question the cushion’s durability, but it’s still great to see that Everlasting Comfort is willing to back up its product with a lifetime replacement guarantee.
- Great support at an affordable price point
- Firm memory foam helps with pain and posture
- Buckle based two-strap system is sturdy and adjustable
- Washable cover
- Lifetime replacement guarantee
- Not made for users with short torsos
- Firm cushion provides more support than plushness
Material: Memory foam with washable mesh cover
This lumbar support cushion was one of our favorites due to its degree of support, ease of use, and adjustability. The fact that it’s at a below-average price point for the category is simply a bonus. While some other cushions are too firm or too soft, this cushion is comfortable yet provides effective support.
With excellent attention paid to the little details like the buckles, straps, and cover, it is a standout product in the category. By focusing on a user-centric approach that aims to please frequent drivers, this lumbar support cushion combines remarkable value with a moderate level of support. We also appreciated the risk-free 60-day return window.
Support: This support cushion provided a moderate degree of support for users. Although it’s not the thickest or most rigid cushion in our lineup, its lack of depth is countered by using an ergonomic shape to conform to the back. The combination of a body-conforming structure and softer cushion provides mid-range support, but some drivers, especially those who drive longer distances, might prefer support that’s more structurally rigid.
Adjustability: The two adjustable straps fasten with buckles, providing a snug fit when attached to your car seat. The straps are durable and the buckles are easy to use. It’s also easy to adjust the height of the cushion for a good fit. Compared to some of the other cushions, which utilize elastic straps or forgo straps entirely, this lumbar support has one of our favorite retention mechanisms.
Durability: The LoveHome Lumbar Support Cushion utilizes memory foam with a mesh covering. The well-ventilated cover is removable and washable, catering to heavy users who will be periodically cleaning the cushion. The mesh is effective in keeping the back cool, leading to a more comfortable experience.
- High-quality memory foam providing moderate support
- Premium quality at a mid-range price point
- Washable, ventilated cover
- Sturdy and adjustable attachment buckles
- 60-day return window
- Some users preferred a firmer cushion
Material: Tempur-Pedic Memory Foam with allergen-resistant cover
As one of the most expensive offerings in this category, the Tempur-Pedic Lumbar Cushion lives up to its strong reputation due to its excellent cushion. The cushion’s material was our favorite as it provides a great level of support while still being comfortable. Although there aren’t any specific features to ventilate the cushion, the cover material does a good job of regulating temperature. The cover is comfortable and allergen resistant. It’s travel-sized, so it has a bit smaller form factor and is more portable than other options.
Tempur-Pedic is renowned for the strong attention to detail that they put into their materials and it’s definitely noticed in this product. Thanks to their patented, multi-layer memory foam, this lumbar support does a best-in-class job of conforming to the user’s spine. This not only makes the support more comfortable against the back, but it also makes the cushion more effective in improving posture and reducing pain.
Support: The cushion itself is a bit smaller (15 x 15 x 4 inches) than most of the other cushions. We find that this size was preferred by drivers with shallower lumbar curves that still needed a high level of support. The pillow isn’t as thick as some of the other offerings but does a great job conforming to the back.
Adjustability: One of the biggest cons is its lack of straps. The cushion is designed to rest against the bottom of the car seat, so its adjustability is limited. Tempur-Pedic eliminates some of this problem by creating a product with a more universal shape, but tall users and users with longer torsos should consider other options.
Durability: Tempur-Pedic’s well-tested and well-reviewed material is renowned for its ability to hold up for years, and we have no doubts this car-focused lumbar pillow won’t be any different. Since the support is designed to sit against the bottom of the seat, there’s no retention system to wear out. The sturdy cover holds up to wear and tear well, and it’s removable and machine-washable.
- Tempur-Pedic memory foam conforms to each user’s back
- Smaller cushion works well for users with shorter torsos
- Cover is machine-washable and allergen-resistant
- Material is durable and won’t wear out over time
- No straps or buckles to change cushion placement
- Minimal ventilation
Material: Temperature-sensitive memory foam with machine-washable cotton cover
While other lumbar support cushions come in roughly the same form factor, this support maintains the best features of our favorite products but in a smaller size. The memory foam utilized is heat-sensitive and softens as it warms, molding to the back of the user. The material provides ample support while still being comfortable.
This product has another feature that we don’t see in many other lumbar support pillows: it’s available in two levels of firmness, with a standard firmness as well as a softer option. Although it comes in at a premium price point, Relax Support does a great job of making a product that serves a specific customer base-those with shorter torsos.
Support: The RS1 Back Support Pillow balances comfort with support, making a cushion that is firm enough to improve posture and pain while still being comfortable against the surface of the back. The smaller cushion is effective for users of all sizes, and while users with longer torsos don’t necessarily prefer bigger or smaller lumbar cushions, those with shorter torsos appreciate the smaller size of this cushion.
Adjustability: The cushion is designed for a wide range of adjustment, which works for both smaller and taller users. It attaches to the car seat with a single clip and strap, and although it gets the job done, we prefer a buckle-based system. The memory foam does a good job of adjusting to the user’s back, and we value the fact that there are two levels of firmness available. The manufacturer recommends the softer material for shorter or more petite users, and we agree with that assessment. The firmer option ends up being a bit thicker and works best for users with longer torsos.
Durability: The memory foam is high quality and doesn’t deteriorate over extended periods of usage. Unfortunately, the manufacturer warns users to avoid extreme heat and cold due to the properties of the temperature-sensitive foam, which is inconvenient for users who live in more extreme climates. We prefer a ‘set-and-forget’ lumbar support that we can just leave in the car. As with our other top picks, the cover is simple to remove and its cotton/polyester material is both durable and comfortable.
- Small size works especially well for small torsos
- Temperature-sensitive memory foam
- Comfortable material molds to back
- Two levels of firmness
- Temperature-sensitive material can’t be left in the car
- Clip-based attachment system is less sturdy
Material: High-density foam with removable polyester cover
The McKenzie Lumbar Roll takes an innovative approach – where most lumbar supports have more or less the same design, this cushion uses a completely cylindrical shape to support the back. The 5-inch diameter cushion is a welcome departure from some of the bulkier cushions in the category.
It’s thicker than other cushions, which makes up for its small size and its lack of supportive geometry. It still manages to be effective, and it’s portable while coming in at a budget price point. Drivers can use this lumbar cushion in the car, but many take advantage of its transportability and use it in the office, at home, or even in restaurants to provide support while out and about.
Support: This lumbar roll has an enthusiastic following. For many people it’s a vital part of their back care routine. It works more by promoting conscious postural improvement than via direct support. For this reason, it’s often recommended by sports medicine doctors, chiropractors, and physical therapists. It comes in both firm and standard versions.
Adjustability: The strap is stretchy and made of latex, and instead of having a fastener, the strap only expands and adjusts. This mounting system isn’t particularly sturdy and can slip around during use. When positioned properly, this cushion does a fantastic job of supporting and aligning the spine, but its unconventional shape and stretchy strap system make it difficult to position properly. One solution for its touchy attachment issues is to fasten the cushion around your waist instead of your seat.
Durability: The cushion itself is made of high-density foam, and the wicking polyester cover is easy to remove and wash. The seams aren’t heavily reinforced, and the stretchy strap might experience some wear and tear over time. There’s no warranty, but it’s made in the USA, which definitely inspires some confidence.
- Cylindrical shape is effective and unobtrusive
- Can be attached to waist instead of seat
- Comes in Firm and Standard versions
- Recommended by health professionals
- Moves around during use
- No warranty
Material: High-density memory foam with ventilative cover
The ComfiLife cushion represents a ‘Goldilocks’ combination of softness and firmness, as it is thick enough to improve posture but soft enough to be comfortable for long-term use while driving. It’s relatively large, so it may not fit in some smaller, conventional bucket seats. Make sure the back of your seat is wider than 15 inches when considering the ComfiLife Lumbar Support. The cushion’s cover is well ventilated and keeps the temperature comfortable.
Support: This cushion takes a slightly different approach to aligning the spine. Since firm cushions can sometimes be uncomfortable or difficult to get used to, this cushion is both soft and supportive enough to provide a brace for the back.
Adjustability: The elastic straps on the ComfiLife cushion are a little inconvenient to adjust in the car, as they can be somewhat finicky and prone to movement during use. We generally prefer the buckles and straps that come standard in other lumbar supports, because this cushion has to be adjusted more frequently than other products. Also consider that its 15-inch width makes it one of the widest cushions in our lineup, and if you have a car with a smaller seat you should measure the seat before purchasing to ensure a good fit.
Durability: While the foam is durable, comfortable, and doesn’t show much wear, the seams of the cover aren’t as sturdy as we’d like. However, in a worst-case scenario the 100% money-back guarantee provides peace of mind in case the pillow starts to deteriorate.
- Comfortable while still being supportive
- High-density foam
- Ventilated cover
- 100% money-back guarantee
- Some quality concerns with the cover
- Large cushion doesn’t fit in some cars
Material: Memory foam with mesh cover
The most notable feature of this lumbar support cushion is its height. The Feagar support measures a full 17 inches from base to tip. It’s designed this way to support not only the lumbar curve, but the whole spinal column all the way up to the shoulders.
The cushion’s large surface area of contact with the back does cause one problem; the support doesn’t manage heat well. The back can become uncomfortably warm when using this cushion for long periods, making it unpleasant for longer driving outings. Although the cover is mesh, the material doesn’t wick away enough heat to make up for its large contact area with the back.
Support: The tallest cushion on our list provides notably sturdy support and engages the entire back and spine. The foam is sturdy and the cushion flares out at the sides, locking into position against the back. For those looking for a pillow that’s comfortable and supports the whole back, this is the cushion for you.
Adjustability: The strap system is buckle based and can be set up in a few different configurations. It’s not bulky and can be adjusted up or down based on the height of the user. This cushion does work well for bigger users.
Durability: The memory foam has a very different feel to it than the other pillows, it’s not quite as sturdy and it behaves more like a down pillow. The foam ‘caves in’ more than ‘conforms’. For this reason, we have some worries about how well the actual cushion will hold up over time. The buckles and straps are sturdy and the cover is removable and machine-washable.
- Tall cushion provides full-spine support
- High-quality straps
- Mesh cover
- Comfortable, soft cushion
- Good for larger individuals
- Poor ventilation
- Less sturdy memory foam
Material: High-grade memory foam with polyester cover
Coming from a name brand manufacturer, this lumbar support cushion for cars is well designed at a low price point, providing great value for drivers. The memory foam does everything it needs to, and the actual shape of the cushion is similar to most of the cushions at the top of our list. Even with its bottom rung pricing, it still beats out some higher-priced favorites through its use of an effective yet comfortable memory foam. It does cut some corners on features, however, including the retention system and cover.
The single strap mechanism is flimsy and relies on elastic with a buckle to attach to the seat, making it less reliable than other products. The cover is removable but isn’t made with the high-quality materials available on more expensive lumbar supports. Unlike some of the more premium cushions, there’s no warranty or guarantee.
Support: Support is definitely a strong point for this lumbar support cushion, and the high-grade memory foam shows no fatigue over time. It’s contoured to support the spinal column, and its thick 4.5 inches of padding are comfortable and stay firm during extended use, which keeps the back upright and reinforced during long drives.
Adjustability: There’s only a single elastic strap to support the cushion, which causes it to move around some during drives. As the elastic stretches out, the problem could be exacerbated. The strap can be adjusted based on user height, but it may not be long enough to fit around bigger car seats.
Durability: Coming from a household name for luggage and travel accessories like Samsonite, we trust that this product will hold up to heavy use, and its high-grade foam exceeds our standards for support. Our only hesitation is the single elastic strap, which may stretch out over time.
- High-grade memory foam
- Recognized brand name
- Thick cushion
- Firm but comfortable
- Moves around during use
- Single elastic strap may stretch out
Material: Memory foam with plush, washable cover
Samsonite takes a slightly different approach to the lumbar roll for cars by creating a small, low profile support with a flat back to keep it in place. Unlike many of the cushions available, this lumbar roll is specifically designed for cars and stays in place with a single strap. It can be used on almost any type of car seat, from the back seat of a pickup truck to the driver’s seat of a roomy SUV. The cushion is designed with a plush cover, but a firm interior, so it’s comfortable while still being supportive.
Support: The Samsonite lumbar support cushion for cars is quite a bit thinner than other lumbar rolls, measuring in at less than four inches thick. Those seeking a particularly high degree of support might want to look for a more conventional lumbar support cushion over a lumbar roll, or at least a thicker lumbar roll.
Adjustability: This cushion fastens to your car seat using a single elastic strap with a buckle. The strap is adjustable in length, but we prefer non-stretchy straps over elastic ones. We also conventionally prefer two straps over one, though with a lumbar roll instead of a lumbar cushion, the single strap gets the job done and keeps the roll firmly in place. This lumbar support will universally fit on all types of car seats.
Durability: The plush cover is removable and washable, but its material is more prone to picking up dirt. The memory itself is firm and durable, and it doesn’t lose its structure over time. The elastic strap is adequate and has a solid buckle, but may stretch out over time.
- Firm inner layer, plush outer layer
- Flat back keeps cushion in place
- Designed for car
- Doesn’t lose structure over time
- Single elastic strap
- Thinner than average
Guide to Buying the Best Lumbar Support Cushions for Cars 2020
While back pain is often thought of as merely a nuisance, it’s actually a huge problem in modern society. Whether driving or working at a desk, Americans spend a huge portion of their day sitting, which is proven to exacerbate back pain. Statistics show that back pain is the cause of almost a third of lost-time claims, affecting attendance and performance. Works with lower back pain lose around 6 hours of work a month. Those with severe lower back pain lose even more.
Scientific trials show that lumbar support cushions both decrease the reported pain of participants as well as correcting posture correlated with back pain. Seated back pain sufferers describe being more comfortable while using lumbar support cushions, while physiological data show that lumbar support improves the internal mechanics of how the spine curves. The impact of this support extends to a more healthy posture and less pain even after use.
How Does a Lumbar Support Work?
The whole spinal column can become misaligned when the lumbar spine is not properly positioned. A lack of lumbar support not only puts pressure on the discs of the lower back but also impacts the upper back and shoulders, causing shoulders to round. This forward posture deterioration causes pain in the lumbar spine along the lower back and places pressure on the shoulders and neck. That tension leads to stress on the discs of the back, pinched nerves, inflammation, and forward head posture, all of which can cause pain.
Lumbar support cushions mitigate this problem by stabilizing the lumbar curve. When the lumbar curve is stabilized, it aligns the lower spine and pushes the abdomen slightly forward. This realignment brings back the shoulders and neck, reducing pain and improving posture, having a positive effect on spine health both during and after use.
Who Can Benefit From Lumbar Support?
Back pain affects 80% of Americans, and people with varying degrees of pain have all found relief using lumbar supports in their vehicles. The typical user is a driver with subacute pain, which is someone who has regular, recurring back pain, but who doesn’t have pain as extreme or as long term as a chronic back pain sufferer.
This being said, chronic pain patients that work with a medical professional will often use a lumbar cushion as part of their therapy. Acute pain patients, who have shorter duration but more extreme pain can use lumbar support as a preventative measure for spasms or flare-ups.
Lumbar Rolls vs. Lumbar Support Cushions
Lumbar support cushions and lumbar rolls do essentially the same thing, but use two strategies to accomplish it. A lumbar support cushion provides more cushioning along the spine and is designed to contour to the back, supporting the whole spinal column. This increases comfort and improves posture.
A lumbar roll is much smaller and doesn’t support the whole spine, but just sits in the lumbar curve to promote posture. Whereas a lumbar support holds up the back, a lumbar roll corrects posture and acts as more of a reminder to maintain good posture with a slight reinforcement to the center of the lumbar curve. If you like the idea of one of these, this lumbar roll is probably your best bet.
How Do I Know What Lumbar Supports Will Work for Me?
Lumbar supports can be adjusted to be effective for most users. However, there are some intricacies for sizing to be aware of when shopping. Firstly, most women have a more pronounced curve in the lower back and prefer a thicker cushion. People with a higher BMI (Body Mass Index) require support higher up in the back and for this reason prefer a taller lumbar support.
Make sure you’re keeping your size and weight in mind when shopping, and choose a cushion that matches the dimensions of your back. Shorter people generally go for thicker, shorter cushions like this one and taller people prefer firmer designs that are more supportive such as this one. If you have a preference for ventilation, retention system, or material, those are all things to consider as well.
How Do I Correctly Place Lumbar Support?
The widest part of the support should go in the center of the lumbar curve – you can experiment with placement to find this point by adjusting the height of the lumbar support. Whatever position brings your shoulders and neck back, correcting your posture, is the best position for the lumbar support. Remember, it’s a support meant for correcting posture and back pain, not a pillow meant to be completely flush against your back.
When placing a lumbar support in a vehicle, remember that it might affect your position in the car. The cushion against your back will bring your whole body forward, so make sure to move back the entire seat to position your body further away from the steering wheel, which will protect you in case of an accident. You’ll also want to adjust the rearview and side mirrors because the change to your posture will affect your head position. Lastly, make sure your headrest is properly placed. Since a lumbar support will push you forward, the headrest will have to come forward as well to protect you from whiplash in a collision.
Common Mistakes with Lumbar Support
The biggest mistake people make with lumbar supports is placing the cushion too low. When the support is too low, it puts the brace in contact with the lowest part of your spine, the sacrum. In this case, the curve meant to stabilize the lumbar support ends up pushing the lower back and tailbone forward, causing the posture of the whole back to deteriorate. Over a long period of time, this seating position leads to the same result – hunching of the upper body and pain along the back and neck.
The ideal placement will position the thickest part of the support against the center of the lumbar spine. In this orientation, the support aligns naturally with the curve of the spine, promoting healthy posture with rolled back shoulders and supporting the lumbar spine itself.
What Else Can I Do to Address Back Pain?
Generally, back pain is a mechanical problem and can be addressed with mechanical, physical solutions. Lumbar supports are a big part of this, as they fundamentally alter your sitting posture, which improves all around spine health and comfort.
Another part of improving your body mechanics is by having a proper lifting technique. When moving about and lifting heavy objects, it’s important to use your muscles in your legs, squatting to pick things up instead of bending at the waist. Twisting motions can also aggravate back pain, so try to keep your back aligned with the rest of your body.
Lastly, it’s important to rest your back. When driving or working, take breaks to walk around and take some stress off of your back. Some back pain sufferers get relief from sitting down, others from lying down, others from standing. Just make sure you know how your back works and behave accordingly. Spend some effort taking care of your back, and it will take care of you.