Last updated: Thursday, December 13, 2018
The unfortunate consequence of living in this day and age is that we spend long hours in the sitting position. Research indicates this may indeed have negative ramifications for our bodies. This isn’t just an issue for gamers, those of us working in an office setting, enduring long commutes, or spending a lot of time sitting in a classroom (or a combination of all the above) are also at risk. On this page, we are going to check out some of the best ergonomic office chairs available to keep the worst of the unfriendlies at bay.
Spending large periods of time in a chair can have real ramifications. Aches, back pain, tightness in the shoulders and neck, as well as developing poor posture are just a handful of the not so friendly residual effects of too much time sitting. No worries, we are going to take a closer look at some of the best office chairs for back pain.
Ergonomic Chair Studies and Research
Show me that data. We think it always makes sense to take a scientific approach, especially when an investment in a quality chair goes upwards of $500 bucks. The big question in many individuals’ minds is this: “Are ergonomic chairs—and perhaps the ergonomics industry as a whole—a gimmick, nothing more than a marketing ploy?” It’s a fair question. Over the years, it has become clearer that intentionally designed office chairs helps thwart fatigue and back ailments. But the question still remains, how much does it help? That’s a tricky one.
As you know, us humans are unique in the physical trait department. Furthermore there’s a large variance of environmental factors such as how many sports we play(ed), back injuries sustained, activity levels, exercise frequency and type, the list goes on and on. The truth remains, not one of us is identical. A chair is going to offer a different experience from one person to the next. But if we start to look at aggregate data, the blurry picture starts to come into focus.. the chair, desk, monitor, keyboard, etc. we use on a daily basis matters.
Here’s some research we’ve compiled that is worth sifting through:
- Lis A, Black K, Kom H, Nordin M. European Spine Journal, Volume 16, Issue 2; February 2007. “Association Between Sitting and Occupational Lower Back Pain.” View at pubmed.gov.
- Groenesteijn, et al. Applied Ergonomics, Volume 40, Issue 3; May 2009. “Effects of Differences in Office Controls, Seat and Backrest Angle Design in Relation to Tasks.” View at sciencedirect.com.
- Niekerk, et al. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders Journal, August 2012. “The Effectiveness of a Chair Intervention in the Workplace to Reduce Musculoskeletal Symptoms.” View at pubmed.gov.
- Herman Miller. Ergonomics Research. A Compilation of Technology, Collaboration, and Ergonomics Case Studies. View at hermanmiller.com.
- Amick, et al. Spine Journal, Volume 28, Issue 24; December 2003. “Effect of Office Ergonomics Intervention on Reducing Musculoskeletal Symptoms.” View at journals.lww.com.
- Idsart Kingma and Jaap van Dieen. Applied Ergonomics, Volume 40, Issue 2; March 2009. “Static and Dynamic Postural Loadings During Computer WOrk in Females: Sitting on an Office Chair Versus Sitting on an Exercise Ball.” View at sciencedirect.com.
- Legg, et al. Ergonomics Journal, Volume 45, Issue 2; 2002. “Evaluation of a Prototype Multi-Posture Office Chair.” View at tandfonline.com.
This list of research will be continuously updated as new studies and data come available.
What we are getting pretty darn sure about is that an excessively sedentary lifestyle is dangerous. Research indicates that too much sitting is correlated with an increase in back, shoulder, and neck pain complaints. Research also indicates that even an hour of daily exercise does not negate the detrimental effects of sitting for 6+ hours everyday. But, for many of us, sitting is unavoidable. We’ve got to commute, work at our desk, and no one enjoys standing up for a nice meal. Sitting is a reality. So how do we fight back? Intermittent breaks—movement in general is a great counter to the demands sitting places on the body. Whether it be a trip to the restroom, coffee machine, or to see how your co-workers new puppy is doing it’s all a good idea. Make sure you’ve got that item checked off the list and built into your daily routine before you start making investments into your office equipment.
General Thoughts on Ergonomic Chairs
Ergonomic chairs may seem like a marketing trick. Just another bullet point to tack on to the marketing materials. And it some cases that is all it is. However, manufacturers of quality chairs that actually go the extra mile to make their chairs ergonomic are the real MVPs of the office chair industry. For some time, ‘ergonomic design’ was only in the realm of ultra premium chair models of Herman Miller, Steelcase, and the like. But other companies are catching on. You no longer have to spend $500+ to get a decent chair. However, a truly ergonomic chair is going to be more expensive than their basic office chair counterparts.
The top ergonomic features to look for in a chair are adjustable seat depth, arms, lumbar support, tilt tension, and of course seat height. These will be the best chairs for back pain. With chairs, one size does not fit all. That’s why having the ability to customize your chair to your body type is desirable. Dynamic adjustment is even better, the chair will not only fluidly adjust to your body but also your posture. These chairs accommodate a wide variety of postures and activities whether you are intensely forward facing focusing on gaming or slightly reclining relaxing in between matches. The downside? These chairs command extremely high prices and refurbished models aren’t always available.
An example of a dynamically adjusting chair is the Steelcase Leap. The best thing about this chair is that no matter your posture or how much you are moving around, the chair moves with you to reduce pressure on the spine. The chair employs the use of what Steelcase has dubbed the Natural Glide System. The Natural Glide mechanism puts the chair in the running for the title of best office chair for lower back pain. This permits the user to lean and recline as much as they please throughout the day. The feature is great for getting the right distance between yourself and the monitor without straining your eyes or neck.
Another state of the art ergonomic chair you may have already heard of is the Herman Miller Aeron. This chair incorporates Herman Miller’s PostureFit SL and 8Z Pellicle suspension technologies. The 8Z Pellicle tech is essentially eight zones that run across (latitudinal) the seat and back of the chair. These zones have varying tension, tightest along the edges and more relaxed where your body makes contact. PostureFit SL describes the adjustable individual pads that support the lumbar and sacrum. These two ergonomic design features help encourage a sound posture and comfort throughout the day.
Chairs such as these are expensive, but may be well worth the investment if you spend a ton of time at the desk. We are going to take a look at a number of options in different price ranges in our next section.
High Ground Perspective
Unfortunately, until VR technology advances to the point where we start to wear full body suits with sensors on every limb (or something of the sort) and retain a full range of movement, our bottoms will be glued to our chairs for the foreseeable future. Frankly speaking, ‘ergonomics’ never crossed my mind when I bought my first and subsequent office chairs. Heck, there’s times I’ve used task chairs and even kitchen chairs because I didn’t have the money to get something better. When I was younger back pain never was an issue, but in my mid twenties back pain creep caught up to me.
Looking back I probably should have just bit the bullet and bought a nice chair from the get go. I probably would have saved money because I wouldn’t have needed to replace all the cheap chairs that fell apart along the way. Oh well, hindsight is 20/20. I definitely recommend spending a bit more for a chair that’s going to take care of your body. Very much like a mattress that you spend a good chunk of your life using, you want to go for a quality chair. I eventually bought a refurbished Steelcase Leap and it is the best chair for back support I’ve experienced so far.
Our Top 10 List of the Best Ergonomic Chairs of 2018
Without further ado here is our top ergonomic chair picks.
The Modway Mesh Chair is a great starter ergonomic chair. This is one of the best ergonomic desk chairs for the money. It hovers around the $100 price point. Modway provides this chair in seven colors so you can get exactly what you’re looking for. Have a penchant for lime green? They’ve got you covered.
So what do you get ergonomic-wise for the $100? Passive lumbar support, tilt lock to recline and incline, tilt tension, arm height adjustment, and of course seat height adjustment. For the money, that’s about as good as it gets. The fact that the chair looks professional, modern, and clean is an added bonus. A breathable mesh back and ample padded vinyl seat round out this chair nicely.
This stylish chair from Office Factor is a tad more expensive than the Modway but you get a choice between a quality leather or mesh seat. Aesthetically, this chair is much more pleasing to the eye. However, the ergonomic features are somewhat lacking. The arms flip out of the way, but cannot be adjusted height wise. While it may not be the best desk chair for back pain, the quality of the back rest and the back lock adjustment feature is the big win here. You can lock the back at a multitude of angles with the double handle mechanism.
If you’re in love with leather, Serta’s Back in Motion Chair is one of the best chairs for back pain. Designed for optimal pelvic tilt, chiropractors have said this helps reduce spine compression and increase circulation. This chair is approved by the American Chiropractic Association. It is a sharp black bonded leather chair with a neutral high gloss base in a lighter color. The plush and deep layered cushioning is extremely comfortable and looks sharp. The BIM Active lumbar module pivots with the user’s movements. The arms are adjustable with slick push buttons to position them to your desired height level.
It may not have as many ergonomic features as those from companies like Herman Miller. Nevertheless, you get a solid well-built chair from a trusted manufacturer for a fair price. A top contender for the best computer chairs for back at this price point.
HON is a North American office furniture provider and designer. This attractive chair is a welcome middle ground between the astronomical prices at the higher end of office chairs and sacrifice of features at the lower end. HON hit all the big ergonomic wins here with seat pan adjustment (seat glide), adjustable arms, synchro tilt, and their unique ilira-stretch M4 provides dynamic lumbar support.
The seat and backrest both work to evenly distribute weight for improved blood circulation. The back rest design helps elevate this char to one of the best office chairs for bad backs. That helps big time when you’re in the thick of a 12 hour coding session. Improved circulation leads to less muscle fatigue and discomfort. If color options strike your fancy, you are in luck. The HON Nucleus is featured in 37 styles.
For full body lower back, spine, neck, and head support the Ergohuman is an excellent tiered support option. The flex zones do a top notch job of relieving the pressure points many basic chair models aggravate during long sitting durations. This is the executive series of the chair and comes in all mesh, leather seat/mesh back, and an all leather version. The all mesh is ideal for ultimate breathability and offers great weight distribution. Pivoting arm rests and an adjustable headrest are welcome additions.
Coming in a plethora of style options, Herman Miller’s Aeron chair is at the pinnacle of ergonomic design. We can make the case that this is the best chair for lower back pain. The patented high tech mesh fabric helps distribute pressure evenly for optimal comfort. This state of the art chair incorporates their PostureFit back support tech — special individual adjustable pads that support the lumbar and sacrum areas. Adjustable padded arms, forward tilt, and a tilt limiter bolster the chair’s ergonomic design. As you move, it works to adapt and spontaneously supports your posture.
Built with confidence, this chair is backed by a comprehensive 12 year factory warranty covering everything from the pneumatic cylinders to the caster wheels. The highly adjustable Aeron is simply one of the best ergonomic chairs in the industry.
The Leap Chair is Steelcase’s best selling chair of all time. It is one of the only challengers to that of Herman Miller’s flagship Aeron Chair for best ergonomic office chair. The Live Back technology is very similar to the PostureFit tech that the Aeron sports. The arm rest design is a thing of beauty, they are so easy to adjust to virtually any position preferred by the user. This chair is recommended all the way up to 8 hours of use, perfect for a full day of work or gaming. It encourages an upright position and clutches the title of the best chair for posture.
Another cool feature is that the Leap chair has two separate adjustment controls for lower back and upper back firmness. That is top in class for best lumbar support office chair. The Leap chair is up to 98% recyclable, which among other sustainable initiatives awarded it a Silver Cradle to Cradle Product Certification from McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC).
If you have an awful problem where you attract money like a magnet, you may consider Herman Miller’s Embody Chair. This graceful throne is made in the USA and backed by a 12 year warranty. Believe it or not, this chair actually lowers your heart rate and may even reduce your stress levels. Herman Miller even goes so far to claim that it will help you innovate and come up with new ideas because it promotes oxygen/blood flow. We don’t know all about that, but the fact remains it’s a gorgeous chair that offers sitters six ergonomic functions. That will enable you to find a healthy posture and prevent any onset of the Hunchback of Notre Dame look.
A fascinating chair from Duorest, the Leaders may be just the ticket to a pain free back. Those two weird looking dual backrests are actually fully adjustable so you can play around with them until you get the right individual fit. That’s reflective of the rest of the chair: pretty much everything is adjustable from the headrest to armrests to tilt settings. Another unique feature is the 6 leg-base, which actually looks really cool compared to the conventional five star base on most chairs. Duorest calls it the triple Y base, and its supposed to provide better stability to the user when the chair is reclined.
This chair is wins our pick for the best budget ergonomic office chair. For around $60 bucks, you can get a chair with adjustable armrests, a waterfall seat, adjustable back depth, and built-in lumbar support. It is sort of made to be a one-size-fits-all and if you’re shopping on the cheap, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better ergonomic chair. It’s not a showstopper in the looks department, but the four colors black, blue, red, and gray don’t look all too shabby.