What Is The Best Office Chair for a Bad Back?
Anyone who has suffered the agony of back pain – whether it be due to an injury ora chronic condition – knows the hassle of going about one’s day without wanting to burst into tears every time we’re required to move our backs. Chronic back pain has been on the rise, possibly due to the longer hours society has deemed acceptable for a workweek- where we are forced to spend upwards of 8 hours a day in a somewhat sedentary position.
For this reason, ergonomic chairs have gone from being an office luxury only few could afford, to a vital piece of office equipment designed to alleviate work-related back pain (LINK) and improve employee productivity.
We review the types of chairs to avoid, which to focus on and which aspects of all office chairs may alleviate or worsen your chronic back pain.
Good Office Chair Features for Back Pain
Adjustability: being able to change the height of the seat (usually done pneumatically), the lumbar support, as well as the height of the armrests (if applicable) is extremely important for you being able to find the position for you that will create the least amount of strain on your back, neck, and arms.
Quality of materials and construction: the general rule with office chairs is that you get what you pay for. Higher quality chairs will last longer and stand up to more wear and tear.
Seat depth: You should have enough room when sitting that your back is supported on the back of the chair with the lumbar support, and the backs of your knees aren’t touching the seat pan.
Lumbar support: when sitting, your chest could be sticking out and your shoulders should be pulled back so that if someone is looking at you from the side, your ears are lined up in the same plane as your shoulders. One of the ways to do this is to have the lumbar support of the chair keeping your lower back from rounding.
Overall value: there are chairs that cost thousands of dollars, which isn’t in the budget of most people. The good news is that you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a chair that will be comfortable and give you the support to keep you in the best position.
Best Office Chairs for Lower Back Pain
It would make sense that if the area of concern for your back ache focuses around the lower back, that one would add additional support in the lower lumbar region. A chair that has more than sufficient padding, or at least the presence of lumbar support (i.e. – NOT secretarial chairs) is an excellent choice to not only alleviate the pain, but to improve overall posture.
Lumbar support chairs comes in myriad of shapes and sizes, but if the chairs meet all the below criteria they are likely a good fit for those with chronic back pain:
Checklist for Chair Selection for Lower Back Pain
- Elbow measure
First, begin by sitting comfortably as close as possible to your desk so that your upper arms are parallel to your spine. Rest your hands on your work surface (e.g. desktop, computer keyboard). If your elbows are not at a 90-degree angle, adjust your office chair height either up or down.
- Thigh measure
Check that you can easily slide your fingers under your thigh at the leading edge of the office chair. If it is too tight, you need to prop your feet up with an adjustable footrest. If you are unusually tall and there is more than a finger width between your thigh and the chair, you need to raise the desk or work surface so that you can raise the height of your office chair.
- Calf measure
With your bottom pushed against the chair back, try to pass your clenched fist between the back of your calf and the front of your office chair. If you can’t do that easily, then the office chair is too deep. You will need to adjust the backrest forward, insert a low back support (such as a lumbar support cushion, a pillow or rolled up towel), or get a new office chair.
- Low back support
Your bottom should be pressed against the back of your chair, and there should be a cushion that causes your lower back to arch slightly so that you don’t slump forward or slouch down in the chair as you tire over time. This low back support in the office chair is essential to minimize the load (strain) on your back. Never slump or slouch forward in the office chair, as that places extra stress on the structures in the low back, and in particular, on the lumbar discs.
- Resting eye level
Close your eyes while sitting comfortably with your head facing forward. Slowly open your eyes. Your gaze should be aimed at the center of your computer screen. If your computer screen is higher or lower than your gaze, you need to either raise or lower it to reduce strain on the upper spine.
Adjust the armrest of the office chair so that it just slightly lifts your arms at the shoulders. Use of an armrest on your office chair is important to take some of the strain off your upper spine and shoulders, and it should make you less likely to slouch forward in your chair.
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