Which Office Chairs Are Best for Chronic Back Pain?
May 2021

Sitting all day at work with poor posture might be the main contributing factor for your chronic back pain. Choosing the perfect ergonomic office chair might not be a miracle cure for your back pain, but it may be a significant element in your overall back pain management plan.

Ergonomic Office Chairs

Ergonomic furniture is designed to reduce the risk of developing back, neck, joint and other musculoskeletal problems. Ergonomic furniture should be both comfortable and easy to use for prolonged periods.

The ideal ergonomic furniture should:

  • Offer support that encourages the S-shape of the spine and prevents C-shaped slouching postures
  • Feature adjustable height, backrest angle and arms so the posture-enhancing benefits can be enjoyed by people of different sizes and proportions
  • Emphasize healthy posture over convenience or aesthetics

The Features an Ergonomic Office Chair Should Possess

Adjustable seat height – The pneumatic adjustment lever is one of the few basic ergonomic features built into the majority of office chairs. An office chair should offer at least five inches of seat adjustment. The ideal seat height range is between 16 inches and 21 inches off the floor for most sitters.

Seat size – The actual width and depth of office chair seats are a frequently overlooked characteristic. There should ideally be between two to four inches of space between the back of your knees and the edge of an office chair’s seat when your feet are planted flat on the floor.

Backrest – Of all the office chair features, backrests might be the most important. The backrest should encourage and support the natural S-curve of the sitter’s spine. It should particularly support the lumbar spine (low back). Look for office chairs with adjustable backrests.

Armrests – The height of armrests should be variable on ergonomic office chair. Someone sitting in the chair should be able comfortably rest their arms with shoulders relaxed instead of scrunched up around the neck. When the sitter is in the typing position only their elbows and not their forearms should be resting on the armrest.

Seat and backrest material – Although it’s not specifically related to position of the spine, materials are important in that they make chairs more comfortable for prolonged sitting in the proper posture. That’s why office chairs featuring breathable cloth surfaces are preferable to those with hard surfaces.

Rotation – Although this may seem like a given with modern office chairs, easy chair rotation is important. One of the problems with COVID-19 remote work was it caused many people to work at kitchen tables in static chairs that weren’t designed for long hours. An ergonomic office chair should allow the sitter to swivel so they don’t need to contort themselves to reach things they need elsewhere on their desk.

Common Types of Ergonomic Chairs or Sitting Devices

Some of these ergonomic options might not qualify as traditional chairs, but they are all viable sitting options for workers who want to improve their posture at work.

The Exercise Ball “Chair”

Whether you consider this ball a chair depends on your definition of chair. It’s something you sit on, so in that respect you could call it a chair.

Although balls don’t have back support, they do force the users into active sitting, which means it forces movement and balancing while sitting. The unavoidable bouncing motion keeps the legs moving and promotes muscle use and circulation throughout the day.

The slight but sustained muscle use may reduce stress and fatigue for some individuals. Despite not having a back, the physics of sitting on a ball makes slouching difficult. It is important for sitters to get a properly sized ball so their feet can rest flat on the floor.

There are modified ball chairs with optional backrests and wheels.

Ergonomic Kneeling Chair

Some kneeling chairs have backs and others don’t, but they all have two “seat” like areas – one to sit on and the other to rest the knees on. The position forces the sitter to slide their hips forward which creates a natural alignment of the neck, shoulders and back.

Ergonomic kneeling chairs also distribute the sitter’s weight between the knees and pelvis instead of focusing all the weight on the pelvis. This distribution can reduce the potential risk for damage from spinal compression, which can be a major contributor to sitting-related low back pain.

Ergonomic Saddle Chair

Saddle chairs force sitters into a semi-standing position similar to the posture of a person on a horse saddle. The legs drop naturally on the sides of the saddle instead of bending at the knees. Saddle chairs are especially popular among office workers with low back pain since it also strengthens back muscles to improve overall lumbar stability and support. People sitting in saddle chairs also maintain better circulation throughout the day since they aren’t able to slouch forward.

Get Help With Your Low Back Pain in Carrollton or Marietta

The orthopaedic and pain management specialists at Non-Surgical Orthopaedics have experience with all types of back pain. As experts in the musculoskeletal system and posture we’d be happy to provide advice on which types of chairs would be best for alleviating your back pain. If you’re looking for non-invasive solutions to manage your low back pain or neck pain, fill out our online appointment form or give us a call at 770-421-1420.