When you’ve injured your hip, whether it’s broken from a fall or ‘merely’ severely dislocated and not quite settled, sitting down can be an activity that requires extreme judiciousness. There are a number of reasons why — let’s look at the biggest ones and how the best chair for hip pain will neatly sidestep them:
Bucket Seats and Contoured Seats Put Undue Pressure On The Hips
When you look at the seat pan (a.k.a. “butt rest”) of a chair, there are two basic types: the flat kind, which may have a small amount of contouring but nothing dramatic, and the ‘bucket’ kind that have fairly dramatic upward sweeps on the sides and sometimes a substantial upward bump in the middle to keep your legs apart.
The problem here is that if you’re even slightly wider in the hips than the butt that the contouring was modeled after (and it’s likely you are), those upward sweeps are simply too curvaceous. They’ll push rather nastily into the outsides of your hips and exacerbate any issues your hip joints are having. The ideal chair for hip pain might have a small indentation for your gluteus maximum muscles, but won’t press at all into the sides of your hips.
Slouching Hurts Your Hips
If you reach your fingers under your body while you’re sitting and poke around just toward your knees from your butt muscles, you’ll find the ischial tuberosites — the upper knobs of your thigh bones, also known as your ‘seat bones.’ There are essentially three ways to sit: you can sit on your seat bones, you can lean slightly forward so that your weight is on your thighs in front of your seatbones, or you can slouch. Slouching puts your weight on your gluteous maximus — your butt muscles — and causes you to curve your lumbar region outward rather than the natural inward direction.
Sitting on or in front of your seatbones actually stabilizes your pelvis and takes some of the pressure off of your hips — pressure that slouching redoubles. The best chair for hip pain, then, will offer a proper depth of seat pan so that your lower back is snuggled right up against the lumbar support, strongly discouraging slouching.
Holding Your Knees Above Your Hips Compresses Your Hip Joints
If you sit with your knees even slightly above your hip sockets, it causes your hips to compress slightly. Even if you don’t already have hip pain, this can actually cut off or slow down circulation to your feet, causing them to fall asleep. If you do have hip pain, it can make getting up extremely painful.
A hip pain chair, then, will have a seat pan that is flat or tilts just slightly downward toward the front, so that your knees are parallel with or even just slightly below the hip sockets. That keeps the hips released and avoids the problem of standing up again.
Are there other attributes of the “best” chair for hip pain that we didn’t cover here? Sure — for example, it should continue to support your lumbar region even if you have to lean forward or backward, and it should be affordable, and it should look good in your office…but none of those are directly hip-pain relevant — just very nice to have.