Distribution of forces on components
Side loading is unequal pressure that is not centered on the cylinder rod. This off-center strain can lead to bending of the rod in extreme cases, but more commonly causes leaking due to warping the circular seals into an oval shape. It can also damage and enlarge the bore hole around the rod and the inner cylinder wall around the piston head, if the rod is pressed hard enough sideways to fully compress and deform the seals to make metal-on-metal scraping contact.
The strain of side loading can be directly reduced with the use of internal stop tubes which reduce the maximum extension length, leaving some distance between the piston and bore seal, and increasing leverage to resist warping of the seals. Double pistons also spread out the forces of side loading while also reducing stroke length. Alternately, external sliding guides and hinges can support the load and reduce side loading forces applied directly on the cylinder.