The Functional Back

Back pain self-treatment featuring the Hubble Method

Try this quick trick for compressive back pain when you sit

A number of you have told me that TFB’s “How to Sit Back Pain-Free” video has helped you to sit more comfortably. But what do you do when you have severe back pain, or when you are driving cross-country, or otherwise have to sit for hours…for days on end? Try adding one thing.

A U-shaped neck cushion can make all the difference for compressive back pain. But don’t use it for your neck! Instead, turn it backwards and sit on it, so the arms are under your hips and there is space under your tailbone. That transfers pressure away from your spine and over to your hips.

The pillow below, which is a Tempur-Pedic neck pillow available at, has been my stalwart companion for years. When I had severe back pain, I used it constantly. I still use it occasionally to prevent back pain on long trips and when I’m pulling overtime behind my desk. Every few hours I alternate between sitting directly on the seat and sitting on the pillow, distributing the pressure more evenly between my back and hips.

Here is what I recommend when looking for a U-shaped neck cushion:

  • Opt for memory foam over beads, sand, or “fluff” fill. Memory foam is more resilient and won’t tilt you based on where your body pressure is. (Remember the mattress commercial with the bowling ball dropping on the bed? Same concept.)
  • Go for a dark color that doesn’t show dirt or stains.
  • Look for a split design that allows maximum arm spread for hip comfort (the Tempur-Pedic above is actually two halves held together by the pillow cover).
  • Remember that if you use the pillow constantly, your hips might get stiff. So give yourself planned breaks when using it.

Have you tried this trick yet? Share your experiences!