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The Difference Between Low-Back,
Mid-Back and High-Back Chairs

Something that many people find confusing when they begin researching certain products is terminology. Certain words are used to describe certain products, which may seem simple and straightforward to manufacturers and marketers but leave the rest of us confused. In this article we are going to discuss the following terms: low-back, mid-back, and high-back.

When I first heard these terms I began picturing chairs in my head. To me, a low-back chair was one whose back rest came up to my lower back. I believed that a mid-back chair was one whose back rest stopped somewhere around the middle of back. I believed a mid-back chair could not possibly have a back rest taller than about 12 inches. I thought that a high-back chair was anything which came higher than the 12-inch maximum I had assigned to the mid-back chair.

For the most part, I was wrong. Yes, low-back chairs typically have shorter back rests than mid-back or high-back chairs. Mid-back chairs typically have shorter back rests than high-back chairs. What is interesting is that low-back chairs actually have back rests which come up to about the middle of your back. Mid-back chairs often feature back rests which extend up to your shoulders. High-back chairs normally include some sort of a head rest.

So, why name them the way they did? It turns out that the terms low-back, mid-back and high-back do not refer to the height of the back rests. Instead, they refer to the area of your back the chair has been designed to support. Let’s take a brief look at each of the three types of chairs so that I may fully explain this concept.

Low-Back Chairs

Also commonly referred to as ‘task chairs,’ low-back chairs typically feature back rests which come as high as the middle of your back. They are built to offer support to your lower back. The back rest on these chairs is usually quite small and will flex backward and forward while you are sitting. The entire back rest is designed to be a type of lumbar support.

Most of these chairs are created for people who sit in them for short periods of time, or who maintain movement while in the seated position. They are not often constructed for maximum comfort. They are, instead, an economical option designed to get the job done.

Unfortunately, these chairs do not support your upper back, neck or head. If you have pain or problems in these parts of your back, it may be necessary to look into purchasing a mid-back or high-back chair.


Mid-Back Chairs

Mid-back chairs are designed to support the middle of your back as well as your lower back. It is normal to see mid-back chairs with some sort of built-in lumbar support. They also support the shoulder-blade area of your back, so that you may lean back into them without placing pressure or strain on your spine.

Interestingly, it appears that low-back chairs are most cost-efficient, high-back chairs are usually the most expensive, and mid-back chairs exist somewhere in between. This is also part of why most mid-back chairs are not as adjustable as most high-back chairs. They offer some of the luxuries of high-back chairs, such as lumbar support, but do not often make those luxuries as customizable.

Mid-Back Mesh Chair


High-Back Chairs

Often the most expensive of the three types of chairs, the high-back chair usually features more adjusting options for a personalized and customized seating experience. The head rests on high-back chairs support your upper back by allowing you to relax your neck and trap muscles whenever you need to. These chairs support your middle back, because they come higher than your shoulder blades. Your lumbar spine is often supported with some type of built-in lumbar support. Sometimes, this lumbar support (among other things) is highly adjustable so that you can create a chair which fits you like a glove.

It appears that a high back chair is the best choice, but some things must be taken into consideration. First, what do you do when you sit in your office chair? If you have a highly mobile job, you may be better served by a less constrictive mid-back or low-back chair. If you do not plan to sit in your chair for extended periods of time, the extra costs associated with a high-back chair may not be beneficial to you, either. It is important to consider your particular needs when you make a decision to purchase an office chair.

High-Back Executive Chair