Will sitting on a doughnut help or hurt hemorrhoids?

Medically reviewed by: Gary H. Hoffman, MD

Doughnut-shaped hemorrhoid pillows are an affordable over-the-counter item many people believe will help cure their inflamed hemorrhoids. We get questions regularly about how to use these pillows, and how long to sit on them. But many people fail to ask the most important question: Will sitting on a doughnut help or hurt hemorrhoids?

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Using a doughnut-shaped hemorrhoid pillow is common because it often does bring some temporary relief from pain and itching. However, it is not a good idea for most people. Because of the shape of these pillows, they cannot provide adequate support and may actually make your hemorrhoids worse. We recommend sitting and leaning back on a soft but supportive cushioned surface such as a bed or couch instead.

Types of Hemorrhoid Cushions

The doughnut cushion is the most common type of hemorrhoid cushion. They are round designs with a hole in the middle, like a doughnut or the letter O. Sometimes, they are also known as ring pillows because of their shape.

The theory behind these pillows is that someone who suffers from inflamed hemorrhoids can sit on the soft cushion to relieve the pressure on the swollen tissues. Because of their shape, there is no cushion to press against the affected tissues. However, the pillows do not properly support the area, either.

Other companies make hemorrhoid cushions that are different shapes, looking more like a normal pillow. This type of pillow provides gentle support of the anal area, and is in general a better choice than the doughnut-shaped cushions. However, they offer no benefits over your couch, your bed, or another soft but supportive surface.

These Cushions Offer a Little Pain Relief

Many people who do opt to use a ring-shaped pillow experience some temporary relief from pain and itching, which makes them believe the cushion is helping. When you’re struggling with pain from hemorrhoids, you’re willing to do anything that offers a few minutes of instant relief. The good news is you could get the same relief from a ten minute sitz bath in warm water or a little while with an ice pack applied to the affected area, with no ill side effects.

The pillows are inexpensive and often come in inflatable versions, allowing users to take them wherever they go by folding them into their bag or even a coat pocket. Still, they are not the best option for most people who suffer from hemorrhoids. Witch hazel pads are also easy to carry with you, and offer quick relief.

Using a Doughnut Cushion Can Make Your Condition Worse

The reason we do not recommend doughnut cushions for our patients is because they can actually make hemorrhoids worse. Getting superficial, temporary relief is not worth it when it means you will suffer in the long term. If you have prolapsed hemorrhoids, especially, sitting on a doughnut pillow could cause problems. You may require more intensive treatment, or your hemorrhoids may take longer to heal.

Because the shape of a toilet seat is similar to the doughnut cushion, the same issue can arise if you spend too much time sitting on the toilet. While we work to prevent constipation, it is important not to sit on the toilet longer than you have to. No reading, checking social media, or other activities you can do elsewhere.

The Final Verdict on Hemorrhoid Cushions

Hemorrhoid pillows offer only temporary relief of pain from minor hemorrhoid issues. They do not help you hemorrhoids heal, and may even make them worse. There are a number of better options to get the same relief offered by a doughnut pillow.

It is important to note that any prolonged sitting can cause problems if you have inflamed or prolapsed hemorrhoids. We recommend that our patients get regular exercise, even if it means stopping at a rest stop on a trip or strolling around the workplace while dealing with hemorrhoids.

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