In many cases, people use the office chair that is provided at work, or if they are at home, the chair that is available. It’s about identifying what’s right for you.
At work, this may mean borrowing a colleague’s chair with features that interest you. For a home office, that means asking the salesperson at the store if they can test drive a demo model for a few days before committing. To buy one, she says.
There’s a lot more to consider than comfort when trying out a chair. Check out its materials for ergonomic design, adjustable parts, and of course cost.
One of the first things to consider when trying out a new office chair for back pain is the material.There are many options, including leather, polyester, mesh, and foam.
“For chair padding in particular, I like breathable materials and nice, firm, contoured cushions,” says Jacobs. “Make sure it’s comfortable yet breathable.”
She adds that it’s especially important to find out what the chair is made of if you’re allergic to certain materials or fabrics.
An ergonomic and well-designed office chair is essential. But just because a chair is labeled “ergonomic” doesn’t mean it really is, says Jacobs.
“Anyone can use [term] to the product,” she says. “So we need to understand what consumers want.”
She recommends bringing an ergonomics expert into the workplace to assess workstations and educate employees on proper workstation setup and use.
“One of the best ways to make sure your office chair is ergonomic is to find one with lots of adjustable options,” says Jacobs.
“Consider putting your back on the back of the chair and then adjusting everything else,” she says.
Adjustable areas include seat height, seat pan tilt, removable armrests, headrests, and seat recline options.
Pay close attention to your knees. Your knees should be bent 90 degrees with your feet flat on the floor or footrest in front of you. Also, keep the knee crease away from the seat pan. If you use a seat pan that adjusts and tilts, make sure it can be locked so it doesn’t move once properly adjusted, says Jacobs.
She also prefers a chair that can swivel. This makes it easier for people to move the chair around when they need to reposition rather than turning their heads, which is an unnatural way for people to move their bodies.
Tuning is not a one-time thing that you set and forget. In fact, that’s why Jacobs helped design a mouse pad for Boston University with recommendations on how to set up your workstation.
“Ask yourself if your chair is comfortable every time you come to the office,” she says. “Remember how the computer set up her workstation.”
Office chairs that relieve back pain range in price from under $100 to over $3,000. Some materials like leather are more expensive, and a chair with more features and adjustment options can certainly be more expensive.
Jacobs doesn’t endorse any particular office chair, but she says you can find good office chairs for back pain at varying prices. She says it’s all about finding what works for you because everyone is different.
Don’t be afraid to get creative to save money, she adds. Using pillows in your seat or chair back is not only good for supporting the correct body position, but also greatly increases comfort.