1 April 2021

What Office Chair is Best for Back Pains
&
How to Select an Ergonomic Office Chair 

Woman stretching on ErgoTune ergonomic chair to relieve back pains

Breathe a sigh of relief — you’ve finally found the solution to your back pains: this guide.  

By now, you most probably know that your chair (or lack thereof) is somehow causing you persistent backaches.

It’s not comfortable, it lacks firm back support, and you can’t sit in it for long periods without feeling like your back got trampled on, right? 

To make sure that this is a problem of the past, we’ll let you in on why exactly you get upper and lower back pains, and how you can shop for the right chair to prevent that.

Say goodbye to nagging pains, bad posture, and — not many may realise this — poor productivity! 

Table of Contents

1. Why is your chair causing back pains

 

2. Why you should take immediate action

 

3. How to choose an ergonomic office chair for back pains

3.1 Know what good posture looks like

3.2 Choose a chair that helps you maintain good posture naturally

4. List of the best ergonomic chairs available

4.1 Introducing ErgoTune: An ergonomic chair at an economic price

5. Proof that ErgoTune really helps

 

6. Extra tips to feel better while working

Why exactly is your chair causing back pains?

First off, I’m no expert on the human body. I can’t tell you how ergonomics affects your aching back.

But you know who can?

Georgina Hannigan — a Certified Ergonomics Assessment Specialist (CEAS III) with an Honours degree in Occupational Therapy and Masters of Science (MSc) in Hand Therapy!

Why do I say that she’s the real deal?

Because she’s also the founder of Fit for Work, a team of globally-recognised Ergonomists that optimise workplace set-ups for both large corporations and individuals like you and me.

So, what’s her professional take on the number one cause for most back pains?  

It’s sitting with poor posture for prolonged periods.

To illustrate why, Georgina gave us this little exercise to try:

Bend your head forward and look down at the floor for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

You’ll notice that your head gradually begins to feel heavy. You may even find it painful to maintain that position!

This is because when a muscle is engaged and placed under strain for an extended period of time — in this case, your neck muscles are stretched and straining to fight against gravity — it gets fatigued and results in pain.

How your spine looks in good and slouched postures

If your posture is good, the bones of the spine — the vertebrae — are correctly aligned. 
​Source:  Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School 

Similarly, sitting with bad posture and misaligned joints means that your muscles work extra hard just to keep you in place. Over time, said muscles tire and break down, which leads to the pain that you’re trying to relieve.

Mystery solved! 

Why it's important to take immediate action

Back pains from poor chair ergonomics

Okay, I know a nagging pain in your back doesn’t seem like a life-threatening situation, but hear me out.

Georgina recommends taking action as soon as possible. Why?

It’s because discomfort and pain have a much scarier impact on us than we think, and it affects us not just physically, but also psychologically and emotionally.

That’s right. Can you believe that so many of us have been unknowingly sabotaging ourselves by not getting help right away?!

According to a study by UpJohn Institute, participants experienced substantially less pain and enhanced productivity when they were given ergonomic chairs that provided the necessary support for their bodies.

This is a simple cause-and-effect endorsed by Georgina:

Being more comfortable while working naturally lifts your mood, boosts morale, and reduces distractions.

In turn, all these increase your job satisfaction and work quality! 

So, how do I choose an ergonomic office chair for back pain?

Ah, here comes the confusing bit.

With so many chairs on the market, we understand that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

So unlike other articles that dump on you a list of "best ergonomic office chairs" or "best office chairs" that only serve to further befuddle, we let you in on the two-part secret to having a breakthrough instead:  

1. Learn the correct sitting posture. The one that places the least amount of stress on your muscles.

2. Once you know the ideal sitting position, knowing what features to look out for in a chair will naturally come to you.
 

Let’s dive deeper into this. 

Step 1: Know what good posture looks like

We’re not going to lie.

Owning an ergonomic chair is not going to magically make your back pains disappear. You need to be seated in good posture too, and what an ergonomic chair does is make it easy for you to achieve and maintain that posture!

So let’s get that proper posture drilled into your mind. Without it, your muscles are forced to go into overdrive and fatigue, and you’d probably feel like you just wasted money on an expensive chair.

According to Georgina, a good posture should involve:   

  • Sitting in an upright position in the chair, with your back in contact with your backrest
  • Making sure that your hips, arms, knees, and ankles are all at a 90-degree angle
  • Ensuring that your feet are flat on the floor or on a flat surface
  • Having a 2-3 finger width gap between the back of the knees and the front of the seat pan/cushion.

Being unable to meet all of her guidelines means that your chair is not fitted to suit your body shape and size.

This brings us to the next step, which is knowing what to look out for when you’re chair-shopping.    

Part 2: Find a chair that helps you maintain good posture naturally

Woman with ergonomic home office set-up

For a chair to alleviate or prevent back pains, it needs to be highly adjustable so that you can tailor its support according to your body requirements.

Just like how one-size-fits-all clothes are a blatant lie, different people of different sizes need different chairs to keep them in a good posture for long periods of time.

Case in point — you and your family members are blood related, but I bet that you are not of the same height as any one of them. I bet that the curve in your spines are not identical either!

So in order for your chair to be genuinely good for alleviating your back problems, here’s a checklist of must-have features:

1. Adjustability

Above all else, your chair must be adaptable.

The more adjustable your chair is, the more you can personalise and tailor it to your needs.

That said, the adjustments must be easy to learn and executed, or else you won’t feel compelled to use them, which defeats the purpose of an ergonomic chair.  

2. Lumbar Support

Adjustable lumbar support for lower back

This highlighted bit of the chair is the lumbar support!

You know that curve at the small of your back?

That’s known as the lumbar region, and it needs to be properly supported so that you don’t end up slouching or hunching, and then aching hours later.

A chair’s lumbar support is meant to be flushed against your lower back, so find a chair with an adjustable lumbar support that allows you to move it up and down to match your height.

The protrusion of the lumbar support also needs to be adjustable so that it can fit snugly into your spine’s natural curvature, and while most chairs offer manual adjustment for that, we recommend looking for one that does it automatically.

​Just think about it!

​Imagine if you had to constantly fiddle with knobs and levers with every single slight change in position — that’s hassle that nobody needs.  

3. Backrest Recline & Tension

Ergonomic chair adjustable backrest recline angle and tension

Sit upright and lean back whenever you want with a proper backrest

There are two key features to look for in a chair’s backrest:

(i) Recline lock & angle adjustability
Locking the backrest in your preferred angle gives your back constant contact and support with both the backrest and lumbar support.

Otherwise, you may find yourself unconsciously hunching forward or slouching, because you can’t get into the position you want!

A recline lock (when left unlocked) also allows you to rock in your chair — which brings us to the next point.

​(ii) Recline tension adjustability
Being able to adjust the recline tension of your backrest gives you control over the amount of resistance you feel when you push or rock against the backrest.

But hey, aren’t you supposed to sit still in your chair?

In an ideal world, yes, we’d all be seated like monks meditating.

But the reality is that we’re made to move and fidget throughout the day.

Rocking in your chair, with the right amount of tension, allows you to fidget freely in a way that’s healthy and supported.

ErgoTune Ergonomic chair seat height and depth adjustability

It's important to be able to tailor your chair's height and depth to your body!

4. Seat Height Adjustment

When seated, your feet should be flat on the floor with your ankles and knees bent at a comfortable 90-degree angle. In doing so, you’ll relieve pressure from your hips, preventing upper body aches, spinal or knee misalignments, and help with conditions like sciatica.

Such a posture — whether you’re tall or petite — can only be achieved when your chair has an easily adjustable seat height

5. Seat Depth Adjustment

In terms of the seat depth, a chair with an adjustable seat pan is a must. This allows you to comfortably sit down with your back against the backrest, and still have about 5-10cm (2-3 fingers’ width) between the back of your knees and the seat cushion.

If you have a chair seat that’s too long for you, you’re likely to sit forward in the chair and disengage from the backrest.

If it’s too short, it will result in a focus of pressure on a small part of your thighs, which is also highly uncomfortable.   

BONUS FEATURES

We may have covered what’s necessary for preventing back pains, but the last thing you want is to resolve your backaches only to develop neck pain and shoulder aches, right?

For a completely pain-free body, try keeping a lookout for these ergonomic features too:   

6. Armrests

ErgoTune ergonomic chair with adjustable armrest

Your armrests should be easily adjustable so that you can switch  between positions with ease

Your chair’s armrests should have a high level of adjustability in terms of both height and angle.

Ideally, when you’re seated at your table, your elbows need to be at a 90-degree angle with your shoulders feeling absolutely relaxed and not scrunched up.

By being height adjustable, your armrests can be flushed against the desk for your arms to create the perfect right-angle while fully supported, thus relieving the strain on your shoulders!

They must also be able to swivel with ease and be angled to your input device, so that whether you decide to tuck your arms close to your body or jut your elbows outwards, your arms are never left hanging without support.    

7. Headrest

ErgoTune ergonomic chair with adjustable headrest

Relieve the strain on your neck with a headrest!

Do you know how heavy your head is?

5kg.

That’s a sack of rice!

Headrests are meant to lift this load off your poor neck muscles, all while allowing you to work with your head and neck centered over your spine, which places the least amount of strain on your neck, upper back, and lower back muscles.

For that to happen, the headrest must be adjustable in terms of height, depth, and rotation so that it fits nicely at the base of your head. Otherwise, you can feel like your head is being pushed forward, and this may do more bad than good for your posture. 

Ideally, a chair's headrest should be removable or able to swivel out of the way if you do not wish to use it! 

Finding the best ergonomic office chair

Now that you know what’s proper posture and what ergonomic features to look out for in a chair, it’s time to put your new-found knowledge to the test and make sense of what’s available in the market.

​According to your personal preferences (Do you prefer plush leather or cooling mesh?) and budget (Are you willing to fork out over a thousand dollars?), suss out which of these ergonomic office chairs is the best fit for you!

1. Herman Miller Aeron

Herman Miller Aeron

Source: XTRA

A recognised name in the ergonomic furniture industry, the Herman Miller Aeron is known for being a premium ergonomic chair that has high quality at an equally high price.

Available in 3 sizes, the chair is highly adjustable according to the user’s natural curvature and movements, has a sleek design, and can last decades.

Good for those who like to lean towards their desk, the chair also has a unique feature that allows the chair and user to tilt forwards, but it can give the feeling of falling from the chair, so it might not be for everybody!

Unfortunately, the Herman Miller Aeron does not come with a headrest (only available as an add-on from compatible brands) and has seat depth limitations as well, which some may find unacceptable for the astronomical price that they have to fork out.

Herman Miller Aeron 
Lumbar SupportYes, adjustable
Backrest
Yes, able to recline and lock in place
Seat HeightYes, adjustable
Seat DepthNo, not adjustable
ArmrestsYes, able to adjust height, move forward/back, and pivot left/right
HeadrestAvailable as an add-on (must source from compatible brands)
Price$1989 - $2339

2. NeueChair

NeueChair by Secretlab

Source: Secretlab

Known for their gaming chairs, NeueChair is Secretlab’s take on ergonomic office chairs. It gets the job done with its many adjustable features, such as its backrest reclination (that can be locked in place), lumbar support, and seat pan depth.

If you’re not a fan of having to reach for the chair’s adjustment levers, you’ll appreciate this very special feature of NeueChair’s: its adjustment levers are placed under its armrests instead!

Alas, where it pales in comparison to other competitors is also its armrests, which can only be adjusted up and down and left and right to a certain extent, instead of having a wider range to suit all positions and movements.

It also doesn’t come with a headrest by default; the headrest is only available as an add-on for another $180.

NeueChair
Lumbar SupportYes, adjustable
Backrest
Yes, able to recline and lock in place
Seat HeightYes, adjustable
Seat DepthYes, adjustable
ArmrestsYes, only able to adjust height
HeadrestAvailable as an add-on for $180
Price$739

3. Steelcase Gesture

Steelcase Gesture Chair

Source: Steelcase

Rated as the Best Office Chair by The New York Times, the Steelcase Gesture is another high-end ergonomic chair that belongs to the premium-priced tier.

​Boasting all the adjustability required to ensure a good posture regardless of your body size, what’s extra good about the Steelcase Gesture is that it comes with a flexible seat edge that bends to relieve the pressure on your thighs when you sit.

This can help improve blood circulation, making it especially helpful for users with pain that extends to their legs.

That said, the Steelcase Gesture offers a comparatively shallow degree of recline of 120-degrees and has a backrest that is unable to lock in place at a reclined angle. This means that the chair is good purely for work — forget about kicking back and relaxing in the Steelcase Gesture!

Again, the headrest is only available as an add-on for at least another $192, bringing the sky-high cost just a notch higher.

Steelcase Gesture
Lumbar SupportYes, adjustable
Backrest
Yes, able to recline up to 120-degrees, but cannot lock in place
Seat HeightYes, adjustable
Seat DepthYes, adjustable
ArmrestsYes, able to adjust height, move forward/back, and pivot left/right
HeadrestAvailable as an add-on for $192 - $282
Price$1680 - $2303

4. Ergohuman Classic

Ergohuman Classic Chair

Source: Ergohuman

If you’re looking for a fuss-free, no-frills chair that covers all the bases for decent ergonomics, the Ergohuman Classic is a popular choice that has been in the market for close to two decades.

It’s fitted with an automatic lumbar support and adjustable seat base, armrests, and headrest, and most importantly, comes with a synchro-tilt mechanism that allows the backrest and seat pan to be linked and adjustable with a single lever — good for those who prefer straightforward usability, not so ideal for those who prefer finetuning every component for utmost personalisation.

In a similar vein, its headrest is only height-adjustable, the armrests are limited to just height, depth, and angle tweaks, and while there is back reclination, there are only 4 lockable positions to choose from.

However, without the headrest, it is one of the more affordable options on the list at $858! 

Ergohuman Classic
Lumbar SupportYes, adjustable
Backrest
Back reclination available in 4 lockable positions
Seat HeightYes, adjustable
Seat DepthYes, adjustable
Armrests3D armrests, only able to adjust height, depth, and angle
HeadrestAvailable, only able to adjust height
Price$858 (without headrest) - $1618 (with headrest)

5. ErgoTune Supreme: An ergonomic chair at an economic price

ErgoTune Supreme Chair

Not satisfied with the chairs above?

Or perhaps, are you still on the lookout for a slightly more affordable chair?

Either way, we got you covered. Cue drumrolls!

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Determined to provide a chair that ticks all the necessary boxes yet without costing you an arm and a leg, we designed the ErgoTune Supreme chair, which is known for its impressive 11 points of adjustability and equally amazing price (it’s currently going at just $599).

Think we’re tooting our own horn, aren’t you?

Well, it’s true.

It’s only natural that we feel proud of our product. We’re confident that it can bring you the back pain relief that you’ve been yearning for, and if we weren’t, something’s wrong!

So hear us out: 

Smart Lumbar Support

ErgoTune ATLAS Smart Lumbar Support feature

The ErgoTune Supreme helps to alleviate back pains because it has ATLAS™, the Auto Tuning Lumbar Area Support.  

As its name suggests, this lumbar support automatically shifts with your body’s movements to fit your spine’s natural curvature, ensuring that your lumbar is always cushioned and well-supported in proper posture. 

Limitless Adjustability

ErgoTune's 11 points of adjustability

The ErgoTune’s backrest height, seat depth, and seat height can also be adjusted so that you can maintain the correct sitting posture no matter your height or body proportions, with your hips, knees, and ankles all at a 90-degree angle. 

This is important to be rid of all kinds of pains related to bad posture, including neck, shoulder, and back pains, wrist injuries, sciatica, and more.  

ErgoTune's adjustable backrest

You can also calibrate both the recline angle and tension with the TrueTilt™ Precision Recline Controls, and of course, the backrest is lockable, exactly the way Georgina advocates so that you will be less likely to lean forwards or slouch in your chair!

Extra Ergonomics

ErgoTune's adjustable headrest

We did mention that there were 11 points of adjustability in our ErgoTune chairs, so you can also expect other ergonomic designs such as adjustable arms and an adjustable headrest to ensure full support for your head and upper spinal columns.   

ErgoTune Duraweave Hybrid Mesh for breathability

Plus, the ErgoTune uses a unique, German-engineered breathable mesh known as the Duraweave Hybrid Mesh to give you comfort, durability, and breathability, which most would agree is necessary for our humid weather.

In short, here’s the ErgoTune Supreme at a glance: 

ErgoTune Supreme
Lumbar SupportYes, automatically adjusts to fit your lumbar and lower back
Backrest
Yes, able to recline up to 138-degrees with tension control and can lock in place
Seat HeightYes, adjustable
Seat DepthYes, adjustable
Armrests5D armrests to adjust heigh, width, depth, and rotation
HeadrestAvailable, able to adjust height, angle, and depth for a precise fit
Warranty12 years
Price$599 (U.P. $850)

We’re not exaggerating, ErgoTune really helps

ErgoTune Supreme reviews from happy customers

Since the launch of our ErgoTune Supreme in 2020, we’ve garnered hundreds of verified reviews from satisfied customers on our website!

We’ve also got in-depth video reviews, press reviews from publications such as TheSmartLocal, Singapore Home Decor, and MoneySmart, and badges of approval from trusted personalities such as Jemimah Wei (@jemmawei), Teresa (@teeteeheehee), Preeti Nair (@preetipls), Sneaky Sushii, and more. 

Read them on our product review page, and then some more on our ErgoTune Instagram page!  

Extra tips to feel better while working

Zoom meetings during work from home

But wait!

While it’s undeniable that having an ergonomic chair will greatly improve your back condition, is more that you can do to feel and perform even better?

Apparently, yes, there is.  

Whether you’re in the office or working from your home office, Georgina suggests optimising your desk set-up, and emphasised that movement is the key to feeling your best. 

For starters, have your desk at the correct height, monitor and laptop screen at eye level, and mouse and keyboard easily within reach. This will make you feel more comfortable, and accessories such as monitor arms and height-adjustable standing desks can help you achieve that. 

​Try moving around every 45 minutes to 1 hour to relieve and relax your muscles as well. This will reduce the likelihood of aching after a long workday!

Alternatively, if you find yourself simply switching from one sitting position to another for long hours during this WFH arrangement, Georgina has tips to help you get up more often: 

  • Have a cup of water at your desk instead of a large tumbler so that you have to walk to the kitchen to refill it more frequently
  • Stand up whenever you're having a call!

Sit pain-free with ergonomic office chairs

ErgoTune Supreme in two colours

The ErgoTune Supreme in Charcoal Black and Coral Red 

Forgive us for being blunt.

You only have one body, so don’t **** it up.

Don’t normalise pain and mediocrity — a poorly-designed desk chair, less-than-ideal work efficiency, and discomfort putting a damper on plans are all things that you shouldn’t have to live with!

Instead, invest in an ergonomic chair for better posture and a pain-free back. If you don’t wish to break the bank, it’s fine.

That’s why you have our ErgoTune chairs, ready to let you be your happier, healthier, and more efficient self!

Need a chair that gives you that all-day comfort? Get an ErgoTune Supreme today!