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Are Cooling Gel Cushions Better Than Memory Foam Cushions?

   This post has been quality checked in line with our Editorial and Research Policy.

Are Cooling Gel Cushions Better Than Memory Foam Cushions?

Have you considered buying a new seat cushion? What about neck pillows or lumbar support pillows? The choice between gel cushions and memory foam cushions is the most common one today.  They both claim to offer comfort for a stiff back or neck. Despite their similarities regarding comfort and form, they offer very different functions and features.

As a general rule, memory foam and cooling gel foam are similar petroleum-based polyurethane foams. The gel foams would generally have a higher density than memory foams. Both memory foam and Gel foams are designed to mould to your body for pressure relief. Both foams may are also known to off-gas VOCs.

Memory Foam and Gel Memory Foam: A Comparison

Which will you choose? Gel or memory foam seat cushion, that is the question. Weighing up the pros and cons can be a difficult task for anyone not well versed in modern foam technology but don’t worry! I’m here to break it down so all of this makes sense.

Having designed orthopedic seat cushions for decades, I know what I’m doing! The success of a Kickstarter campaign even led to the inclusion of one of my designs. Further, I have been treating patients with back pain for 30 years. Here are some tips that come from my research, design and experience in order to find the right seat cushion to reduce pain when sitting at work or at home. Here I’m going to share two simple ways you can avoid low back discomfort when sitting.

Densities of Memory Foam vs Gel Foams

The foam determines the comfort of a cushion. In addition to lifespan, foam quality is determined by its weight (density). Generally, the density foam can be divided into three categories: 

density chart for gel and memory foams

  • Low-density foams that do not provide much support
  • Medium-density foam with a reasonable price but average comfort
  • High-density foams that can withstand heavy usage and last longer

Resilience 

Resilience is the ability to return quickly back into its original shape after being compressed. It absorbs and distributes pressure evenly, making it perfect for people who like bouncy foams. The open-cell structure ensures a high degree of durability, so these foams are very springy on impact, but still provide enough support over time as they gradually deteriorate and soften.

High-resilience foam is the ideal material when it comes to creating a cushion that will offer absolute comfort. Foam of this type is the most durable and expensive type offered today. It is a great option if you don’t have a lot of money or if your current seat is in need of some serious improvement.

High-Density Foams

High-density foams are the most common foam used for seat cushions because they’re inexpensive and provide a small bit of support. They just won’t compare to High Resilience Foam which provides more firmness, comfortability, durability than high-density foam.

seat wedge for car

High-density foam will generally regain its original shape after being compressed at a medium rate. When you sit on a high-density cushion more than a year old, it may become softer over time,  causing you to bottom out. Purchasing furniture from big online giants may result in low-quality seat cushions made up of Polyurethane which has lower quality.

Memory Foam for Seat Cushions

memory foam seat cushion with gel cooling cushion

Memory foam or polyurethane foam is a rigid foam that is made of polyurethane. Cushions made of polyurethane foam are the most commonly used type. 

What is a Memory Foam Cushion?

Memory foam is a viscoelastic substance that was originally developed for NASA in the 1970s. The material provides supplemental cushioning and protection to passengers on aircraft seats, as well as pilots who need to sit long hours during flight time!

memory foam seat wedge bad

The basic kind is made out of a polymer known as polyurethane and is typically derived from crude oil. This particular petrochemical material is commonly found in most sofas, mattresses, car seats and even spray foam! 

When it comes to pressure relief and comfort, some memory foams are durable if they have an adequate density as seen in this chart:

foam pressure density chart

Memory Foam’s Benefits

My experience with memory foam goes back many decades and I have tested several memory foam cushions, pillows, and mattresses on my clients to see how they respond to it.  The subjective nature of comfort makes measuring it difficult. While there is no universal solution, the following general consensuses were reached:

  • May Offer Pain Relief

Some of our clients found that memory foam is helpful in terms of relieving the pain on pressure spots.  As an example, our testing of memory foam mattresses showed that our clients were less likely to be bothered by their partner getting up or tossing and turning. A large part of this is due to the fact that the mattress is denser than polyurethane foams to start with, so its movements are absorbed instead of transferred.

Disadvantages of Memory Foam

Traps Heat

Memory foam has a tendency to trap heat, which is why it feels so warm in the summer. Latex does a better job of staying cool and feeling more like your own skin.  Polyurethane, unlike natural latex foams, has a closed-cell structure that traps air rather than properly aerates it.

Slow Response Time

Memory foam is a tricky material. When you try to move, it doesn’t change right away because your body has been moulded into one position for so long that the memory foam takes time to adjust back to its original shape. It’s not elastic like regular foams which are known for their springiness but can sometimes take up only seconds or minutes before they return back!

foam comparison chart

Off-Gassing

This sort of foam product sometimes emits a chemical odour. The chemicals are called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and come from the polyurethane used in your seat cushion foams as well as other chemicals like flame retardants and plastics that make up its composition. 

There has been new research that suggests that your body heat may trigger the release of harmful VOCs from this type of material, which can have harmful health effects if you have prolonged exposure. This means you might want to consider what kind of foam products will best suit all aspects before making any purchase decision.

What is a Gel Seat Cushion?

Gel-infused seat cushions are a little firmer than your average memory foam cushion because they have been infused with silicone gel. This makes the surfaces of these seat cushions feel cooler to the touch.

cheap memory foam seat cushion

Gel memory foam is a type of material that many people use to make their mattresses comfortable. In fact, it’s found in most bedding these days! But the density and texture can vary from one mattress company to another. 

One popular way for companies to add more comfort or support is by using gel-infused memory foam instead – this means there are tiny beads mixed into the surface, which makes it feel softer but also provides additional cushioning so you won’t sink too far down when lying on your side.

Takeaway

Gel cushions and memory foam both offer comfort for the back or neck, but they are vastly different in terms of function. Memory foam is more durable than gel because it doesn’t break down over time as some gel products do. However, this durability comes at a cost to weight-bearing capacity.

Gel on the other hand has much better support since it conforms to your body shape while you sleep. It also absorbs pressure points which can be good if you have chronic pain from sitting all day long at work or driving all day long in traffic as well as poor circulation caused by physical restrictions such as arthritis or injury recovery after surgery. The choice between these two types of seat cushions really depends on what’s most important for you!

**As a service to our readers, Axial Chairs provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of the last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.
Dr Lawrence Woods DC

Dr Lawrence Woods DC

Founder

My goal is to create the highest quality ergonomic office chairs and accessories for unmatched comfort.

With 30 years of spinal healthcare experience in Ireland as a chiropractor, I learned the value of high-quality sitting for living a happy and healthy life.

I have a Chiropractic Degree from Life Chiropractic College West and I am NBCE Physiotherapy certified.

 

Dr Lawrence Woods

My goal is to create the highest quality ergonomic office chairs and accessories for unmatched comfort.With 30 years of spinal healthcare experience as a chiropractor, I learned the value of high-quality sleep for living a happy and healthy life.I have a Chiropractic Degree from Life Chiropractic College West and am NBCE Physiotherapy certified.

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