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Back Pain Guide

How to Choose an Office Chair for Back Pain

Selecting the wrong office chair for your body type and typical tasks can lead to severe back problems. It’s important to review many ergonomic considerations before purchasing an office chair, especially if you plan to sit in it for extended periods of time. As you should already know, your arms, legs, and neck are all connected to your back in important ways. Therefore, it is important to set up the sections of your chair which support those body parts to reap the best benefits for back health. For basic ergonomic considerations, see our guide to ergonomics. This article will not focus on basic ergonomics; it will instead focus on the most important considerations for people with sore backs.

People who already experience back pain on a regular basis must take special consideration when selecting an office chair. They will want to make the best ergonomic decisions possible, ensuring that the chair they select is perfectly suited to their body and their task. Our ergonomic guide is meant to help you understand the basics of ergonomics in relation to your entire body and in relation to a healthy body. If you have back problems, it will still benefit you to read the ergonomic guide. This guide promises to go into more depth about what is best for alleviating your already sore back and not causing it any further aggravation.

Whether your back pain is related to your old, poorly designed chair, a previous accident, or some sort of muscular disease, you need to find a chair that will reduce any further pressure on back discs, tension in muscles, and pulling on nerves. If you find yourself experiencing pain, tingling, or numbness when sitting in your chair (and only when sitting in your chair) it is a definite sign that your chair is not set up in a way which promotes good back health.

The Importance of Lumbar Support

Lumbar support is one of the most important considerations in selecting a chair for someone with back pain. I truly feel as if I cannot stress this point enough. Inadequate and inappropriately-placed lumbar support can even cause back problems in individuals with healthy backs.

First things first – make sure that the chair you choose has some sort of lumbar support. A flat-backed chair will promote one of two things that are not good for you – slouching or trying to hold your back impossibly straight. Both habits will place undue pressure on the discs between your vertebrae and will pinch or pull on nerves.

The best lumbar support will be fully adjustable. It is rare to find, but some chairs do have lumbar support which is adjustable in height, depth, and angle. Some chairs require you to raise and lower the back rest to adjust the lumbar support. Other chairs provide a separate adjustment that allows you to adjust the height of the lumbar support independent of the height of the back rest.

Lumbar supports adjust in depth by pushing a lumbar rod closer to you or pulling it farther away, thereby adjusting how large of a bulge exists in the lumbar region of the chair. Basically, lumbar support is a lump near the bottom of a chair’s back rest. You want to be able to adjust this lump to make it bigger or smaller so you can match the curve in your own back.

Some chairs also feature lumbar support which is adjustable in depth. If you experience back pain, this is actually a rather important feature. As someone who experiences regular back pain, I can attest to the fact that the lumbar support in some chairs is too shallow and the lumbar support in other chairs is too deep. Of course, what constitutes too shallow and too deep will vary from person to person. Like Goldilocks trying out different beds in the three bears’ house, it can be very difficult to find the right fit. You could find yourself trying out chair after chair after chair before you are able to find one which properly matches your back. One of the major benefits of lumbar support with adjustable depth is that it will save you the time of trying out different chairs.

Only people with severe back problems, such as scoliosis, will require lumbar support with adjustable angles. This type of lumbar support allows you to adjust the amount of pressure being applied to either side of your lumbar spine to make up for any unnatural curves in your spine. This feature is even more difficult to find than depth-adjustable lumbar support but it is out there, if you are willing to pay for it.

The Best Back Rest

Aside from lumbar support, you may want to consider the way the back rest is constructed. Chairs with flexible backs are one of the best options for people with back pain. Flex-back chairs are created to bend backward and forward as you bend backward and forward. In doing so, the back rests of these chairs are able to support you in any position you take. Regular chairs are only able to support your back when you are sitting straight. In reality, no matter how well-built and ergonomically-correct a chair may be, as the day wears on, you will find yourself slouching a little bit.

Some flex-back chairs are equipped with adjustable tension. By adjusting the tension on the back rest you can change the amount of ‘push back’ it exerts as you lean backward.

The Best Type of Chair For Back Pain

Let’s summarize what we just learned. Alleviating back pain and preventing further damage to your back is about more than just the back rest and lumbar support your chair has to offer. Many other ergonomic factors play a role in good back support. The best chairs will not only have lumbar support, they will also have lumbar support which is adjustable in height and depth. For people with extreme back problems, lumbar support which is adjustable in angle may also be important.

The best chairs will be created with flexible back rests. The flexible back rests will have adjustable tension, allowing you to adjust the amount of push back you experience as you lean backward.

It is also important to remember that your chair should not be your only consideration when it comes to maintaining a healthy back. It is especially important for people with back pain to research office space ergonomics. Everything from the height of your monitor to the location of your keyboard will factor into this equation.