The Ultimate Office Chair Buying Guide

1st March 2019

Did you know, a study in 2015 by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) discovered that out of 2,127 British Adults, 82% of them said they had suffered from neck or back pain in the office? That was up from 75% in the year before

It’s alarming when you think about it that people do not know how to take seating precautions in the office when working long hours at a desk. In this guide, we will help you choose the right office chair for working at or just using casually.

Executive Office Chairs

Executive style office chairs from different angles Is an executive-style chair more suited to your office?

Advantages:
Executive office chairs, more often than not, are large leather chairs with high back support and armrests that come with a cushioned seat. They are good for long days in the office as they can recline, have casters and are height adjustable.

Executive office chairs are usually very durable due to the quality of the leather used and a good one will last you upwards of 5 years if maintained well.

Disadvantages:
These chairs can be very costly, depending on how high a quality you want the materials to be. If you wanted a top range executive office chair you could easily be paying upwards of £2,000.

These chairs usually have a limited colour selection and will be quite dark naturally due to the type of leather used.

Conclusion
Executive office chairs are good if you want a chair that will be comfy and support you for hours of sitting but can carry a higher cost. You can pick these up on a budget, but make sure you aren't buying too cheap. If you work at an office job, then this chair more times than not will not be needed as there will be cheaper and more suitable options listed in this guide.

Ergonomic Office Chair

This is a type of chair that we recommend that everyone working long hours in the office consider as they offer a good mix of maximum support and comfort.

Your back and posture will begin to suffer eventually if you get your chair wrong, and ergonomic office chairs are made with back and neck health in mind.

Advantages:
A massively important benefit of these chairs is how adjustable they are.

You can adjust the armrests, your backrest and the height. They also allow you to swivel around as any normal office chair would. You might also want to look for ones with extra back support options or extra seat-pad adjustments.

They are just as comfortable as executive office chairs but can be picked up at a more reasonable cost. Usually, these have a mesh back mixed with fabric for extra support.

Ergonomic office chairs have been proven multiple times to prevent back issues due to how they can be adjusted for your specific comfort needs.

Crossing your legs or just sitting in an uncomfortable position often leads to you cutting off circulation to your legs, this is not at all good for you when it comes to chairs, so ergonomic chairs sometimes allow you to tilt the end of the seat down until it’s comfortable for you and to ensure blood flow is not restricted in any way.

Disadvantages:
Ergonomic office chairs can be relatively costly but are nothing compared to the price of a good executive chair - of course, there are always exceptions.

A nice ergonomic office chair would set you back about £300, which when you consider how good it is for your posture, makes the purchase all the more worthwhile.

Whilst ergonomic chairs are good for your spine, neck, and back, they do more often than not lack customization options. For many people, this isn’t really a major issue.

Kneeling Ergonomic Chair /Stool

Kneeling chairs are very healthy for your lower back and spine. They are made without back supports and rely on the user sitting upright of their own accord. They are also proven to improve the curvature of your spine due to how they force you to sit.

Advantages:
An important aspect to remember about kneeling ergonomic chairs is that they correct your leg, pelvic and lumbar position. They are adjustable to almost any desk so makes it very easy to get comfortable whilst also improving your spines' curvature.

You do not need to have your feet on the floor to use this chair/stool. There is no individual adjustment, meaning that multiple people can use it.
Very inexpensive, you can pick one up easily for around £70, probably quite a bit less if you do some shopping around in the right places!

Disadvantages:
Anyone that has knee problems should automatically be excluded from use without at least looking into this first. You also really need to wear trousers to use these and can initially be tiring on back muscles, but builds them up over time.

Saddle Chairs/Seats

The saddle chair has become a favourite when it comes to dentists and anaesthetists as they are shown to reduce spinal pressure and thus prevent spinal injury. When you sit on one, your legs and body create a 135-degree angle that is both comfortable and beneficial for your legs and spine.

Advantages:

  • Correct leg/pelvic/lumbar position
  • You sit in it like a normal chair so it doesn’t feel too alien to your body and will provide adequate comfort.
  • No individual adjustment, therefore multiple people can use it without the need to re-adjust each time.

Disadvantages:

  • When using this you will need a higher desk more often than not or a height adjustable on
  • This chair/seat is very tiring on your spinal muscles so constant use would not be recommended
  • A nice saddle will cost you about £300. So they aren’t the most cost-effective chair on this list, but what price can you put on keeping your spine safe?

Exercise Ball/Ball Chair

The use of these unorthodox chairs has risen in popularity over recent years. They have shown that they improve spinal posture and increase the use of your spinal muscles. Many people say that using an exercise ball is like exercising at work.

Advantages:

  • Proven benefits to your spinal posture
  • Increased muscle activity

Disadvantages.

  • Spinal shrinkage after as little as an hour of use.
  • No height adjustment
  • No positive effects on your upper body
  • Large and cumbersome
  • The majority of people using it report they feel discomfort after as little as an hour of use. They lack armrests and back supports, meaning your upper body might not be properly supported.

Tips and Tricks for finding the right Office Chair for you

Ergonomic Chairs.

There are lots of different ergonomic chairs. They are specially designed to fit anyone’s body and provide support to your lower back, spine and to maintain a healthy posture for your body.

When choosing an ergonomic chair, you must take into account that the chair needs to fit your body. We recommend that your chair seat should pan about 1-inch (3cm) wider than you are on each side.

The edge of the seat must allow you to sit touching the back of the chair with a 1-inch gap behind your knee. If it’s too deep then you could possibly cut the circulation to the rest of your legs off and cause knee problems in the future.

As you can see, there are a number of considerations to take into account when choosing an ergonomic chair that fits you. Most have plenty of adjustments that cater for a wide variety of people.

For example, some come with the additional option of adding a cushion that is shaped to fit your spine. The only downside to this, however, is that it makes the shape of the backrest redundant, therefore choosing the right one for you initally is pivotal.

Seat-pan tilting is important as it allows your thighs to point down. This is advantageous for your lower back/lumbar spine as well as your bloodflow. We recommend you tilt your seat pan downward around 30-degrees to make the most of the advantages it gives.

The chair should be adjustable for your height…

Pneumatic adjustment (gas adjustment) is seen in most office chairs nowadays. It allows for small adjustments while you’re sat in the chair. To know if the chair is at the right height for you, when you stand in front of the chair, the chair pan or seat should be level with your knees. More often than not, this will be the correct height for you to have your chair.

If your chair doesn’t have tilt adjustment, you can get a cushion that is angled downward as well, to help maximize blood flow to your legs. It must be as wide as the chair and fit the criteria above.

Tips for your seat back…

Only a fraction of chairs have adjustable back heights but a large majority of them do not.

Numerous chairs have compensated for this by having oversized backs, this is all well and good, but do they support you in the most crucial places?

Some ergonomic chairs have backs that are able to adjust forward and backward as far as 180-degrees! But for the most part, the adjustment is set in relation to the seat pan. This is very useful for many people with differentiating heights that use the same chair but not necessary if you’re the only person using it.

The ability to adjust the seat back from an upright position is an important consideration to take into account if you plan on using the seat to recline. If you choose to opt for this ability, the chair must be able to recline back at an angle of at least 135-degrees (plenty of people prefer their chair at 110-degrees).

Back support is what separates ergonomic chairs from normal chairs. If when you’re sitting in an optimal position for your back and it is still feeling strained and aching, then it is a fairly obvious sign that you require more support as your muscles cannot maintain the position you are sat in.

You may need to consider the main lumber and thoracic curvature of your spine. Some researchers argue about how your lower back should be positioned and claim there are 4 ways of sitting on a chair for your lower back.

  1. A slumped posture is one of the most commonly see. This is considered to be bad for your posture which can lead to increases in your spinal pressure which have been proven to lead to back injury over a prolonged period of time and should be avoided.
  2. A flat posture is pretty self-explanatory. It’s where your lower back and spine are in an upright position. This posture requires little muscle activity, the whole spine will require support from the chair. A good number of authors recommend this posture. The main issue with this posture being the increased lumbar spine disc pressures, this makes it not as popular with medical and rehabilitation communities.
  3. Long Lordosis is a posture that creates a curve in the lower back that carries on at the same angle into the rib cage. This posture has the advantage of reducing spinal disc pressures. The main issue with this posture is a simple fact, it’s very hard to maintain this type of posture for a long period of time. Studies have shown that this posture needs extensive coaching by an expert and that many people simply cannot achieve it with a large majority of people not being able to maintain it by themselves.
  4. Lordotic is the posture most people agree works best for the position of your lower back, as well as your thoracic spine, rib cage, and neck. According to experts, this is the seating position to go with. When sat in this position, your lower back curves in one direction, whilst your rib cage curves in another. This reduces stress on the discs in your lower back, keeping the centre of gravity over the pelvis to reduce muscular work and strain and puts the neck into a more natural position that will feel more comfortable for you. This posture is considered all around to be the best for you as the curves in the spine mean the lower back would be away from the chair back.

What makes a good Ergonomic Chair?

Having a back on your chair that fills the curvature in your spine, is what some people consider a focal point in any good ergonomic chair. Of course, people come in all different shapes and sizes, so what one person considers the perfect ergonomic chair may be very uncomfortable for another person.

So, the key is adjustability. Almost all, if not all ergonomic chairs come with a wide range of adjustments that can be made for them to suit a vast range of people.

You can add specialized cushions to them, adjust your armrests, adjust your seat, adjust the height and even in some cases adjust the backrest on it.

Many people recommend trying chairs with built-in backrests and seeing if you like them, but how a chair feels for you for 5 minutes may now be ample compared to how it may feel in a few hours.

This is why ergonomic chairs are so important when maintaining a composed posture while working away for long hours at a time. Some people may prefer working with their spine curved so it is resting, while others may feel that sitting up straight keeps them focussed and on the task at hand.

If your chair has adjustable lumbar support, it should fit perfectly into your lower back and create a curve away from the back of the chair.

The trick here is finding out how big the curve should be. (This is where things get more technical!).

Researchers found that the best angles are those between 3.1 degrees and 3.6 degrees, the trick is finding out how to do this in the real world.

The general rule of thumb is if you were to sit fully back and press your back all the way back into the chair so it was flat, the amount of curve that’s needed would be equivalent of you pushing your hand flat into the small of your back between your lower back and the chair.

If you can’t get your hand into the gap comfortably then you don’t have enough curve. If you can get your forearm into the gap then the curve is too big.

In a perfect world, you’d want your chair back to be shaped enough just to fill the gap. Some chairs allow you to adjust this whilst others do not.

Getting the correct type of Lumbar Support

If you struggle to get this correct, then the first way of achieving this would be by using a type of lumbar support which is called a “D Roll” or “Lumbar roll”. There are cushions that you can get to fit the curvature of your spine more naturally.

Pictured here is a “D Roll”, which as you can see would support the lumbar of your back D rolls come in small and large, depending on the size of your chair.

Secondly, you could choose what’s called a “Lumbar Cushion”. This is bigger than the Lumbar roll and provide more low/mid back support instead of just lumbar and lower back.

They come in various shapes and sizes. Here you can see the solid and ventilated types. The ventilated lumbar cushion, as you can see, hugs your body more than its solid counterpart.

Protecting and supporting the Thoracic Spine and Rib Cage

Research has shown that a chair back that fits you perfectly should be the same height as your shoulders when you’re sat upright. If you’re sat with the correct pelvic and lumbar spine posture then your thoracic spine/rib cage should be over your centre of gravity. This means that your upper body doesn’t need as much muscular support.

Over time, however, the muscles supporting the upper body will tire out, some support from the seat back can help. It is also beneficial if you get up and stretch your back out and have a walk every once in a while.

You have no real need to worry if your chair back isn’t high enough to support your thoracic spine/rib cage - just putting your pelvis and lumbar spine in the right position has shown to help your rib cage.

There are shaped supports for this area of your back that curve your spine gently to provide additional support.

Your ribs should curve in the opposite direction to your lumbar spine so that the area can be supported with a plain chair back.

How to protect your neck and head with an Ergonomic Chair (tips & tricks)

In ergonomic chairs, support of the neck/head is rare. Where there are head supports (cars etc), people rarely use them. We generally tend to sit with our head supported by our neck muscles, in some cases, supporting the neck is not always necessary. Correct positioning of a desk or monitor is, however, much more important.

Regardless, ergonomic chairs with headrests are available and the same with normal ergonomic chairs (without headrests), it’s better to get one where you can adjust the headrest.

When using a chair with a headrest and sitting upright, it’s important that your neck is in the neutral position with the earlobe positioned between the collar bone and muscles of your neck.

How to position your armrests

If you spend some of your time NOT at your desk, then armrests are very important. But, they MUST be in the right position.

Firstly, the armrests need to be at the right width. If they are too far apart your arms will be at an unnatural position and at an odd angle, which obviously isn’t ideal for sitting at for hours on end. Permanently having your arms out to the side can lead to shoulder and neck fatigue.

Secondly, the armrests should support your arms at the right height. This, however, is not what is always comfy for you but what experts have proven is the perfect angle and height.

If your shoulders are too high, they will shrug and force the shoulders out of position. This will create stress in the shoulders where the baseline muscle tension increases as the muscles are constantly held in a short position.

Finally, the relaxed position is where the shoulders are level with the armrests and the shoulders are just slightly below your collar bone line. The armrests should also be large enough to support most of your forearm and soft enough to allow support of soft tissues, but not so hard that it becomes uncomfortable.

Conclusion

Ergonomic Chairs come in all different shapes and sizes. They also come in copious price ranges, some from around £100 upwards, whilst others will easily reach into the thousands. Of course, not everyone can afford that, and for the most part, a mid-range budget office chair will suffice for the average office worker. But the main thing to remember is to maintain a good posture throughout the day.

If you have followed all this advice on correct seating postures and the different types of chairs, the benefits they come with etc., then you are now more than qualified to go out there and buy the perfect chair for youself.

Thank you for taking the time to read this in-depth office chair buying guide for 2019! We hope it helps you find your perfect chair!

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