Patients often ask us, “What is the best chair support I can buy, or what is the best back support I can get?” With respect to your back health, the most important aspect of sitting is having proper alignment. Chair supports help you sit up straighter or sit up taller, but their goal is for your back to have proper alignment.  Surprisingly, sometimes it doesn’t take an large, expensive chair support to help your back achieve good alignment.

Here is a great way for you and a friend to test your Alignment! It’s called the Elbow Flexion Test!

The Elbow Flexion Test:

The purpose of this test is to determine how hard your back is working when seated. The idea is to have enough support to minimize the amount of work your back is performing.

Test 1:

  1. First you want to have someone being tested, and someone conducting the test.
  2. If you are being tested, find a comfortable chair that has basic back support.
  3. Next, sit in the chair with your back flush against the back of the chair sitting up nice and tall.
  4. Bend your arms and put them to your sides as if you are trying to elbow the person behind you with both arms. Make sure both arms are touching the back of the chair.
  5. Next, the test conductor will push down on your arms with moderate force; your job is to not let them move you.
  6. Chances are, they were able to move you.

Before test two can be administered, you are going to get the easiest and best back support for sitting. Ready, drum roll, please…. A WASHCLOTH! Before you ignore this advice, TRY IT! First, fold the washcloth in half making a rectangle, and then fold it three ways, trifold, into a smaller rectangle and follow the steps in Test 2.

Test 2:

  1. Lean forward in the chair so that you can put the washcloth behind you in the chair.
  2. Line the washcloth up with your sacrum (tailbone), and lean back securing it in that spot.
  3. Now retest! Have the person testing push down on your arms again. Notice a difference?

During this test, you were most likely able to resist more effectively. Even if the chair is not the most ideal for you, the extra back support was enough to make a noticeable difference. It is ideal for car rides, conferences, or sitting in the office.

If you are someone who takes long car rides, and you want even more support, grab a normal sized towel, and fold it long ways (horizontal) making a long tube shaped towel and follow the steps in Test 3.

Test 3:

  1. Lean forward putting the towel around your buttocks, and slightly under your thighs.
  2. This will give you good base support for your pelvis.
  3. Retest again. Have the person testing push down on your arms for a third time.

Using these techniques will help you save your back!

It is cheap, effective, and you should give it a try!

For a better visual, check out Aaron’s video of the Elbow Flexion test at