Are you choosing an office chair for your work? Do you know how to choose an office chair for your back and what actually matters?
If so, you are making a critical life decision.
Let’s say you work 8 hours per day and about 75% of the time you are sitting in your desk or office chair. This means about 25% of your waking life is going to be spent in that chair.
People tend to care a lot about their mattresses when their back hurts. And rightfully so. The average adult sleeps roughly 6.5 hours per night.
But you are likely going to spend even more time in your desk chair. And studies have shown that good desk chairs clearly support optimal back health.
But, regarding good desk chairs for your back, what actually matters?
We’ve got some answers for you. And, as always, we will hyperlink it up so that you can dig deeper and understand our sources if you want to double check us.
Here’s what actually matters for your back when buying a desk chair:
#1: The seat pan itself tilts forward
The seat pan itself tilts forward: Of all the actual so-called features, this one is perhaps the biggest non-negotiable.
You need to be able to tilt forward the actual angle of what you are sitting upon in order to properly execute the “Home Base” position of sitting on the edge of the seat. In this position, your knees are below your hips and you are sitting on the edge of the seat.
NOTE: the ability to tilt the seat forward can also help reduce the knee pain that you often feel during long bouts of sitting.
How does it do that?
The angle of the chair better aligns your whole leg so that your patella tendon isn’t pressed against the back of your kneecap with the same amount of force.
#2: Solid lumbar support
This will allow you to sit with your knees at the same level as your hips but with your back resting against your lumbar support.
Ideally, the lumbar support is independently adjustable from the backrest. But it’s also fine if the lumbar support is adjustable insofar as it can move up and down with the backrest.
#3: Ability to sit in multiple positions
You CANNOT stay in one position all day. As we always say at Posturre, “We are made to move.”
So, besides supporting the two “home base” sitting positions, your desk chair needs to be able to support general adjustments in how you are sitting throughout the day.
Side note: that’s the problem with rigid desks — you typically can’t raise your chair and still sit with your knees underneath the desk. (this is why the adjustable desktops aren’t as great as a standing desk)
#4: Adjustable armrests
It’s important to be able to rest your arms or have them share the load throughout the day. So, armrests are a good thing. But, they need to be at an appropriate height and width from your shoulders so that you aren’t forced to slouch when using them. You shouldn’t have to move your elbows away from your trunk to use the armrests as this would put a strain on the rotator cuff muscles.
It’s also important that they are adjustable so that you can roll your chair close to the desk and have the chair be able to go under the desk surface.
#5: High maximum seat height
You’ll want to be able to adjust your chair height — that’s a given. But, it’s not a given that all chairs will go high enough so that your knees are below your hips.
At a minimum, your chair should have a max seat height of 20 inches.
#6: Non-mesh or high quality material
Like a mattress, you don’t want your chair to lose its support and sag over time. Unless it is very well-made, mesh material in the seat of the chair can be a cause for concern as it often stretches over time.
Mesh material for the backrest is a bit less concerning so long as there is a good lumbar support and/or the mesh is likewise high quality.
#7: Reconsider high-back and “Executive” chairs
High backs and so-called “Executive” chairs are not good choices because they will keep you from your often subconscious back-arching (i.e. back extensions) and stretching throughout the day.
That kind of stretching is like a natural, mini-antidote to a bulging disc as it helps take pressure off the walls of your spinal discs!
High backs can also be detrimental in that they often encourage slouching back into the chair rather than proper posture.
#8: Avoid or remove headrests
It’s generally a good idea to avoid headrests for all the same reasons that you should reconsider high-back chairs: they encourage slouching and prevent back/neck extensions.
In addition to those reasons, headrests frequently push your neck forward and improperly round your shoulders.
Ready to make a good desk chair decision? We reviewed all the lists we could find on the internet, thoroughly examined 40+ contenders, decided on 8 finalists, and then decided on 3 desk chair winners.
The result? We have what we believe to be the best desk chair recommendations for your back on the internet.
Check it out here.