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Is a Hard Chair Better for Your Back?

   This post has been quality checked in line with our Editorial and Research Policy.

Is a Hard Chair Better for Your Back?

Feeling comfortable entails sinking into a super-plush cushion, but what if it’s actually bad for you? Getting comfortable on a soft chair only lasts for so long. As the hour’s pass, you will begin to feel the aches and pains. 

As a general rule, soft chairs are more likely to exacerbate poor posture because they do not provide sufficient support. In the long run, hard chairs are better for your health. Good posture and a pain-free back are more important than short-term gains from a soft and comfortable chair.

Having been a chiropractor, ergonomic adviser, and ergonomic designer, I’ve learned a few things about back issues and sitting posture! You can use the data provided in this article to decide if a hard or soft chair is more comfortable. 

In studies, people who sit upright in a firm chair are more comfortable than those who slouch. If you are going to sit for a long period of time, it will be best for your back that you sit on a firm chair.

Support and comfort can be different things, and the way a chair feels depends on how firm it is. Support refers to how well your chair supports your spine and keeps you upright. A soft seat may seem comfortable at first but will likely wear down rapidly over time.

If you are used to soft, lacking support seats, it may take you some time to adjust to a chair with good support, but once you get used to it and adopt good posture, you will feel much better.

Why Soft Seats are Bad 

soft backed office chairs

A surprising number of people suffer from lower back pain after sitting in a soft seat. That might seem counterintuitive since soft seats feel pretty comfortable at first, so many people still experience discomfort.

This pain happens because a softer seat is terrible for your posture. The seat is too soft, making it difficult to support the natural curve of your back. You end up hunching over and developing a C-shape instead of a normal S-shape. 

Furthermore, a good chair will cause you to tense your whole body subconsciously, causing you to try to keep your head and shoulders up, resulting in a stiff neck and shoulders.  Also, sitting puts up to three times more pressure on your spine than standing does, which is why you feel the effects of a bad posture standing up more than you do sitting down.

 Can a Hard Chair Cause Back Pain?

hard backed office chair

Sitting on hard surfaces without a cushion, such as a wooden bench or a metal folding chair, or leaning back against a wall puts added pressure on the tailbone, causing pain to worsen. In general, your tailbone (coccyx) can become injured when sitting. 

Injuries to your coccyx can result in a condition called coccydynia, where the tailbone and its surrounding tissues are damaged. Sitting for prolonged periods in certain positions, such as driving or working, can result in discomfort and unease.  

When you sit incorrectly, the bones and surrounding tissues and muscles can get injured, or they can get damaged as well. So if you suffer from tailbone pain, make sure your chair has these features to prevent exacerbation:

  • Height adjustability – The best way to improve comfort is to get your seat height right so that your hips and low back are in a healthy position while sitting. The height of your chair can adjust your hip’s angle during sitting, affecting the position of your pelvis and your spine’s natural curvature, causing discomfort. So the height of your chair is relevant to posture-related back discomfort.
  • Seat depth – It is crucial to adjust the seat depth to access support from the chair back without cutting off circulation around the knees. With a chair that supports your body correctly, you won’t have to work as hard to stay upright.
  • Forward tilt – In prolonged sitting, it is common for your posture to slump due to slouching naturally. A good chair that tilts forward can help you improve your posture.  A forward tilt allows you to adjust the angle of your chair at your discretion. Some standards recommend tilting your hips higher than your knees when sitting. This way, your back won’t feel stressed while sitting. Additionally, your legs and feet will have improved blood circulation.
  • Cut out for coccyx – Designed with seats that have a coccyx cut-out, this chair offers greater support and comfort for those suffering from coccyx problems.
  • A soft gas shock cylinder – A replaceable gas shock that’s intended for a softer bounce and increased comfort for your office chair

Takeaway

The chair you choose to work with can have a significant effect on your back health. If you feel like the soft, plush chairs are making it difficult for you to maintain good posture and if your lower back is sore in the morning or after sitting at work all day, consider using a hard chair instead. This may be more uncomfortable when first trying it out but will greatly improve your health over time. For even better guidance on ergonomic information visit my blog!

 

Sources

  1. Snijders, C.J., Bakker, M.P., Vleeming, A., Stoeckart, R. and Stam, H.J., 1995. Oblique abdominal muscle activity in standing and in sitting on hard and soft seats. Clinical Biomechanics, 10(2), pp.73-78.
  2. Hartvigsen, J., Leboeuf-Yde, C., Lings, S. and Corder, E.H., 2000. Is sitting-while-at-work associated with low back pain? A systematic, critical literature review. Scandinavian journal of public health, 28(3), pp.230-239.
  3. Burton, A.K., Balagué, F., Cardon, G., Eriksen, H.R., Henrotin, Y., Lahad, A., Leclerc, A., Müller, G., Van Der Beek, A.J. and COST B13 Working Group on Guidelines for Prevention in Low Back Pain, 2006. European guidelines for prevention in low back pain: November 2004. European Spine Journal, 15(Suppl 2), p.s136.
  4. Jun, Y.D., Cho, E. and Park, S.H., 2017. Comfort evaluation of a coccyx seating mat based on body pressure measurements. International Information Institute (Tokyo). Information, 20(5B), pp.3657-3666.
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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