Best Chair for a Bad Back

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Best Chair for a Bad Back

A wide variety of ergonomic chairs cater to people with both poor backs and individual unique needs in mind. Chairs should be purpose-built and prioritize human factors in design, as there is no universal ergonomic chair. What may be beneficial for a bad back in one context may not always be acceptable in another. In a word, your chair needs to be comfortable!

As a general rule, the best type of chair for someone with a bad back is one that has an adjustable seat height, a forward tilt, and an adjustable seat depth. The foam density or mesh fitting needs to allow a certain degree of conformity.  

As an ergonomic adviser, chiropractor, and designer, there are things I have learned about how to find the right office chair. Presented here are some research-based sitting methods that can relieve your discomfort when seated.

I believe that there is no one “ergonomic” posture for people with back problems. Your seat must support multiple positions while you move. It must conform to your needs and not the other way around.  I will list each of the four most important factors for consumers looking for chairs for bad backs based upon my decades of research.

Sitting with a Bad Back: 4 Important Factors

1. Adjustable Seat Height

Your priority must be to find a comfortable seat height. In general, it is always a good idea to place your chair at the highest position possible while keeping your feet flat on the ground. You can make this change by using your adjustable seat control. The gas cylinder can adjust its height in the chair, which makes the seat rise and fall. These chairs compress air as you sit down and release it when you get up. Most chairs have a control lever.  

adjustable seat height

Many people overlook the gas cylinder when purchasing an ergonomic chair, but it is a vital component of your chair. A gas cylinder can be customized to fit your body shape and height if installed correctly.  

2. Forward Seat Tilt 

An ergonomic office chair with a forward tilt will help relieve pressure on your back. Some standards recommend up to 20 degrees of forwarding tilt. By adjusting the chair’s seat angle in a forward tilt, you will reduce back pain

Sitting with a forward tilt will also help you maintain a good posture while sitting. Besides, it increases blood circulation in your legs and feet. It also enables you to maintain a good posture while sitting.

forward tilt

Your pelvis is in a more neutral position with an upright seat tilt, which helps relieve the load on your spine and disperses your weight into your core muscles. This posture encourages a more active posture all day long.

You might consider sitting on a seat wedge if your chair doesn’t have this feature. Make sure it has more thickness towards the back of the chair. 

3. Ideal Seat Pan Depth 

In my clinical experience, I have found that the seat pan depth is one of the most comfortable adjustments you can make on an ergonomic chair to help with a bad back. This comfort is primarily due to increased surface area.

seat depth

Seat depths that are too short may aggravate back pain. Seat lengths that are too long may reduce blood flow to your legs and feet.

How to seat your seat depth right:

  • Make sure your back is firmly pressed against your backrest.  
  • Between the edge of your seat and your knees should be a 3cm to 5cm gap.

 4. Lumbar Support

Backrests should have the lumbar support set around the L3/L4 vertebrae, depending on the width of the seat. 

Poorly fit lumbar supports can adversely affect the spine’s natural curve (lordosis) if placed too high. Low lumbar support may cause back pain since it will exert too much pressure on the base of your spine. 

natural latex lumbar pillow

Because the difference in people’s preference for lumbar support in a seated posture seems to be minimal, the elevation of the lumbar support is not critical, regardless of the resistance provided. A variety of lumbar support designs are available.

If you do not have lumbar support, use a small cushion or a rolled-up towel. Be creative and effective here.

How to Choose a Chair for Back Pain

Ergonomic chairs for back pain are easily the best investments you can make if you suffer from back trouble, aches or injury. There is a difference between ergonomic chairs and chairs that have just a few adjustable features. Ergonomic chairs provide support and resistance to the user to avoid excessive strain on the user.

You should also keep your office chair in top shape by adjusting your settings so that you get the most out of it while working, sitting, or resting. Even if you are only experiencing back pain, you need to make sure the chair you choose can accommodate your needs.

How to Sit With Low Back Pain

I get asked how to sit with low back pain questions every day in my private practice. Here’s what I tell my patients:

  • Start with getting your seat right (as instructed above). Set your seat height, depth, forward lit, and lumbar support in the most comfortable positions.
  • Stand as much as possible. Try to get up every 15 minutes.  
  • Schedule stretches into your day.  The key thing here is to keep moving.  I always tell my patients that the best posture is a moving posture!
  • Sit with back support (such as a rolled-up towel) at the curve of your back.
  • Keep your hips above knees with feet flat on the floor. Put your feet directly under your knees or slightly in front of your knees.
  • Lastly, keep your legs shoulder-width apart or wider. Think of a sumo wrestler here. 

Best Living Room Chair for a Bad Back

Massage Chairs might help you with your back pain. Just make sure that the chair has patent lumbar support. These chairs have vastly improved over the last few years and give you a thorough massage.

You can also combat back pain with reclining chairs. You can recline these chairs in a position known as ‘zero gravity,’ which enables your heart and legs to be on the same level so that you can relax. Likewise, being in this position for a long time helps relieve the pressure on the spine.

best chair for living room

If you need further back pain relief, it is possible to find chairs with both vibration and heating effects. Moreover, the vibration and heat of the massage relieves your muscles and relaxes your spine. The back pain may be a consequence of abnormalities at several levels, like the shoulders and the low back. Proper, thorough, and consistent heat and massage would be helpful to you.

Why Lower Back Pain Gets Worse When Sitting

cad bad office chair cause low back pain

The back’s problems are usually caused by bad posture while sitting. It is being hunched over or slouched over while sitting can strain the discs. The discs around your spine are fluid-filled cushions that protect the vertebrae from rubbing together. Back pain may be exacerbated by an underlying medical condition such as osteoarthritis (DJD).

Takeaway

I hope this information has been helpful in your search for the best chair to alleviate back pain. Of course, there are a wide variety of ergonomic chairs on the market that cater to people with both poor backs and individual needs in mind.

Chairs should be purpose-built and prioritize human factors in design — as there is no universal ergonomic chair! What may be beneficial for one person’s bad back may not always be acceptable in another context. In a word, you’re looking for comfort! If you need more guidance on which type of seat will work best for your specific situation, we invite you to visit our blog where we’ve compiled all sorts of great resources about what makes an office chair “ergonomic.”

 

  1. Helander, M.G., 2003. Forget about ergonomics in chair design? Focus on aesthetics and comfort!. Ergonomics, 46(13-14), pp.1306-1319.   
  2. Drury, C.G. and Coury, B.G., 1982. A methodology for chair evaluation. Applied Ergonomics, 13(3), pp.195-202.  
  3. MANDAL, Å.C., 1976. Work-chair with tilting seat. Ergonomics, 19(2), pp.157-164.   
  4. Tissot, F., Messing, K. and Stock, S., 2009. Studying the relationship between low back pain and working postures among those who stand and those who sit most of the working day. Ergonomics, 52(11), pp.1402-1418.
**As a service to our readers, Axial Chairs provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of the last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.
Dr Lawrence Woods DC

Dr Lawrence Woods DC

Founder

My goal is to create the highest quality ergonomic office chairs and accessories for unmatched comfort.

With 30 years of spinal healthcare experience in Ireland as a chiropractor, I learned the value of high-quality sitting for living a happy and healthy life.

I have a Chiropractic Degree from Life Chiropractic College West and I am NBCE Physiotherapy certified.

 

Dr Lawrence Woods

My goal is to create the highest quality ergonomic office chairs and accessories for unmatched comfort. With 30 years of spinal healthcare experience as a chiropractor, I learned the value of high-quality sleep for living a happy and healthy life. I have a Chiropractic Degree from Life Chiropractic College West and am NBCE Physiotherapy certified.

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