Which lumbar support should I buy?
Although it is still unclear whether lumbar supports are more effective than other interventions for treatment of low back pain, we do frequently get the question, which lumbar support is best for my back.
This creates a half truth in positing that lumbar support can decrease the susceptibility of future lower back pain and having the right ergonomic set up will place less burden on your lower back. However, there are trailing questions confirming that there is moderate evidence that lumbar supports are not more effective than no intervention or training in preventing low-back pain, and conflicting evidence whether they are effective supplements to other preventive interventions.
So, what is our stance on it?
While we have established the former two ideas, potentially lumbar supports may help with lower back pain. And we’ve tried a few lumbar supports. There are memory foam ones that mould to the contour of a slouched back, there are ones that are identical to reinforced plywood, others along the polar spectrum of the two, which one would be best? But all these work very similar to each other. Generally, the idea behind lumbar support is that when you are not conscious of your lower back and the posture of your lower back, there is a bolster or rest for you to sink back on and be comfortable. For the ones that are very plush and lenient there is no wish for you to have better posture, but full agreement that comfort is best. For the ones that are outrageously rigid and upright, there is all the emphasis on posture and good anatomical position, however less of a care for comfort. But none of these will ever be as good as the active reminder from ourselves that we are slouching and a self-discipline to perform exercises that will help us get out of back pain. Lumbar chair supports should only be thought as an adjunct to exercises as opposed to be a quintessential to solving back pain.
For those who are looking for lumbar supports, since there is limited evidence on its efficaciousness, I would try to spend as little money as I need on finding a suitable lumbar support.
Therefore, my suggestion is of three ways:
- Firstly my recommendation is to find a cheap pillow or cushion and fit that between your back and the chair. Financial efficiency makes the most sense, if there is no remote emphasis that having the best lumbar support lined with gold will give you special healing effects, then getting the most expensive equipment will not help. All gear no idea, is not the way to go. The cheap pillow should only be used as a reminder for yourself that you are slouching, the discipline to fix posture should come from yourself. This active reminder will be the most natural and independent avenue of dealing with back pain secondary to posture also picking up exercises as well
- Second, if that discipline is not there to remind yourself to sit up straight, or you are moderately dependent on using a lower back chair support, I would either recommend purchasing a firm pillow or any generic lumbar support. There are a few on amazon and Kogan here and there, however our stance is that the price does not really change the effectiveness of the product. In the end you are still relying on it, and it will be harder to pick up the discipline for good posture autonomously.
- Thirdly, if pain is severe and comfort is most sought after, I would simply purchase any plush pillow that can mould to the contour of you back to maximise comfort (however this would be least productive to fixing posture).
Written by Joshua Shum Physiotherapist