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Eliminate Back Pain: Better Back Support for Office Chairs

Learn how to achieve the right back support for your office chair to stay comfortable throughout the day and minimize aches and pains.

A good office chair should provide ergonomic back support to protect your spine during long periods of sitting. Long hours spent in a low-quality office chair with poor lower back support can lead to pervasive back and neck pain. And if you found yourself rolling your shoulders or stretching your neck while reading that, you're familiar with this already!
Anyone who works from a computer needs an office chair with good back support and an ergonomic design. And those who use standing desks are no exception, since the current standard advice is to spend one hour standing for every one to two hours spent sitting. Extended periods of sitting when you work from a computer are inevitable, so you want a high-quality chair to help with proper posture.
In this article, we'll offer some of our favorite tips to find the best office chair for back pain prevention. We've also highlighted simple ways to help you hack your current chair for neck and back pain relief — that is, if you haven’t yet invested in a proper ergonomic chair!

Why Ergonomics Matter

Ergonomics is the study of people in their working environments and how to create furniture that fits the worker. So, an ergonomic office chair and workstation should have a design that helps you maintain proper posture whether you're sitting or standing.
Since we're talking about office chairs, let's look at the numbers for time spent sitting at your desk: If you work eight hours a day, five days a week, you'll spend 160 hours per month in your chair. That comes to nearly 2,000 hours per year. And if you keep the same chair for five years, that's almost 10,000 hours that you spend sitting in your office chair!
An ergonomic design shouldn't be optional when you're spending 2,000 hours per year in your office chair. Your body will thank you for taking the time to consider and implement ergonomics in your workplace. We've highlighted a few must-have ergonomic features for an office chair below:
  • Adjustable armrests: Armrests should adjust to keep your arms level with the keyboard and your elbows at a 90-degree angle. But they should also move down or away when needed


  • Adjustable seat height: The seat should adjust so that your feet are on the ground and your thighs are level with or slightly below parallel with the floor. You may also want a 360-degree swivel chair on casters for more effortless movement.


  • Comfortable, well-fitting backrest: The backrest should be a sufficient size and shape to encourage a natural curve in your spine. It should also move and recline with you.


  • Comfortable, well-fitting seat pan: The seat pan should be well-contoured for even weight distribution and not be too large for your legs. The seat depth should allow the seat to end about 0.5 inches from the back of your knees and avoid placing excess pressure on your coccyx.
Check to see if your current office chair meets these requirements, or take the Ergonomic Assessment at the bottom of our Ergonomics page to check your whole workspace.

Levels of Support

Desk chairs offer different levels of support, and the right chair will depend on your body and spinal health. The three most common grades of back support for office chairs include light, medium, and firm.


Office chairs with light lumbar support may feature a slight curvature in the mid-back and lumbar regions with a soft foam or a breathable mesh fabric backing. Chairs like this might gently remind you to sit upright, which is excellent for those with naturally good posture. But they're not ideal for those who struggle with poor posture.


Office chairs with medium support are comfy, and they'll support you with a more pronounced natural curve. They might feature a firmer lumbar back support to encourage awareness of slouching and poor posture, but the chair should still conform to your natural shape. If you sometimes struggle to maintain proper posture but can correct it quickly, medium support could be a good fit.


Office chairs with firm support help adjust you to improve your posture. For example, they might include a built-in memory foam lumbar support cushion or feature a firm, contoured back cushion.
In addition, the chair will likely feature a high back with lower, middle, and upper back support in a natural curve and possibly a headrest. Office chairs offering firm support can help you maintain good posture throughout the workday, especially if you struggle with poor posture.

Picking the Right Level of Support

There’s no right answer when picking a level of support, as different people will need and prefer different chairs. Note that your current posture habits are not the only thing to consider when picking a support level. Comfort is key. For example, if you never enjoy firm seat cushions or pillows, an office chair with medium support might be a better fit.
If you're experiencing back or neck pain, it's best to consult your healthcare provider, chiropractor, or orthopedist for specific advice on the right level of support for your spine.

3 Ways to Add Better Back Support for Office Chairs

If you're experiencing upper or lower back pain, your current office chair might not have the best lumbar support for your body. You might be using a dining room chair, a folding chair, or an old office chair that you’re not ready to replace yet. Unless you have a quality ergonomic chair, the discomfort will probably set in after an hour or two of working. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Hacking your current office chair for back pain relief can help you start eliminating nagging aches and pains. It's an excellent first step toward working smarter when you're not ready to invest in a new chair immediately.
Keep reading to learn about three ways you can add better back support to your existing chair.

1. Lumbar Support Pillow

If you often notice low back pain or slouching in your lower back, a back support pillow could help improve your office chair ergonomics. Options you'll see include high-density foam, adjustable straps, and unique shapes (e.g., a cylindrical lumbar pillow).

2. Seat Cushion

A memory foam pillow for the seat pan of your chair can correct improper support and alleviate pressure on your tailbone or coccyx. Popular sciatica-relief seat cushions often feature a small U-shape cutout to prevent pressure on your tailbone and reduce sciatica-related pain.
Seat cushions work well in home office setups where you might be using anything from a simple task chair to a gaming chair. But they can also modify car seats and any other chair you sit on. A seat cushion can also help with seat height adjustment by adding a few inches.

3. Footrest

If your feet don't touch the floor and your thighs aren't close to parallel with the ground, a footrest could help relieve your back pain. Find a footrest that raises your legs enough to get your knees close to a 90-degree angle. By supporting your feet, you take some of the strain off your lower back to ensure proper ergonomics from head to toe.

Quality Matters

Whether you need to use all of these hacks or just one, don't just buy the first things you see on Amazon. Instead, look for products with good reviews, machine-washable covers, and quality materials.
Once you've found products that you trust, add up how much you'll be spending. This process will help you decide if it'd be a better investment to buy a new, ergonomic office chair instead of working with what you have.

Other Ways to Reduce Back Pain

In addition to modifying or replacing your chair, it helps to change up your routine. Here are some other tips to reduce back and neck pain throughout your workday:
  • Keep moving: Staying active throughout your workday is one of the most profound changes you can make. Try walking around and stretching for a few minutes every 30 minutes. And when you can fit in a longer walk between 30-minute periods, do it.


  • Check your posture: Set up a mirror beside your desk so you can check your posture and make sure you're not slouching. Even the best memory foam lumbar support can't help if you're not actively monitoring your posture.


  • Do office chair stretches: Besides walking around, incorporate some office chair stretches into your days, especially if your back muscles feel stiff. With a set of five easy office chair stretches, you’ll have a full stretching routine to do every day or any time you feel stiff.
It doesn't matter how comfortable you are in an office chair. Static posture for long periods can contribute to back problems and muscle strain. Taking time to move and do some stretches regularly is well worth your effort, and your back will thank you.

What's the Best Office Chair for Back Pain?

The best office chair for back pain is one that supports your body, and it will depend on your needs. Modifying your existing chair for better back support is a good start, but you'll want a new chair at some point. And now that you know more about the benefits of ergonomic office chairs, you'll want a comfortable chair that helps you maintain a proper sitting position and posture. 
Maybe you've decided it's a better value to buy a new office chair before adding cushions and modifications. Or perhaps you want to find your ideal chair so you can save money for it. We're here to help either way.
Below, we've highlighted a couple of our top picks to help you find the best office chair for back pain:

1. Branch Ergonomic Chair

The Branch Ergonomic Chair was designed in Italy, and it's built for ultimate comfort with seven points of adjustment. This chair offers a remarkable range of ergonomic support for all types, shapes, and sizes of people. And with color customization options, you can design a chair that fits your personality as well as your body.
The Ergonomic Chair features adjustable height, tilt, tilt tension, armrests, and seat depth, with a removable lumbar rest. The backrest is made from double-layered mesh breathable support, and the high-density seat cushion can support up to 300 pounds for eight or more hours of work. In addition, it has a firm lumbar rest with a contoured upper backrest. It can fit bodies of all sizes, from 5'2" to 6'2".
This chair was awarded Best Office Chair by Gear Patrol, TechRadar, Tom's Guide, CNN, and WIRED.

2. Elevate Chair

The Elevate Chair is an office chair without compromise. This chair is ideal for home offices and corner offices alike, with comfort, design, and customization. It features eight points of adjustment with height-adjustable swivel armrests, a high back, and medium lumbar to prompt proper posture.
The Elevate Chair also allows you to adjust the seat pan depth, lumbar height, and weight balance. In addition, the design is suitable for larger statures, ranging from 5'6" to 6'4" and weighing up to 275 pounds. It also has a firm seat cushion rated for over eight hours of comfort and a woven mesh back with a tilt lock option.

You Deserve the Best Ergonomic Office Chair for Back Pain

If you're going to sit for hundreds or thousands of hours every year, you deserve to be well-supported. An ergonomic desk chair that encourages an upright position can serve you well for years to come.
Remember, do your research and choose high-quality products. Whether you're buying a new executive office chair for your corner office or an adjustable lumbar support pillow for your chair at home, this step matters.
When you're ready to invest in a new chair, whether you're furnishing a home office or corporate headquarters, we’re here to help. If you're not sure which chair is right for you, take our quiz. Or you can use our Build Your Office assessment for personalized office chair, desk, and accessory recommendations.

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