Spine Specialists Explain Why You Need One Of These Ergonomic Office Chairs

These are the best desk chairs for back support, according to experts and reviewers.
An expert-recommended Herman Miller Aeron chair to give your back ample support during the workday.
An expert-recommended Herman Miller Aeron chair to give your back ample support during the workday.

While it’s neither the sexiest nor cheapest purchase, an ergonomic and supportive office or desk chair is a worthy investment. According to Dr. Gbolahan O. Okubadejo, a board-certified spinal and orthopedic surgeon in New York and New Jersey and founder of the Institute for Comprehensive Spine Care, spending hours at your desk can cause stiffness in your back and legs.

“This is further exacerbated if the chair being used is not ergonomic,” Okubadejo told HuffPost. “With prolonged sitting, pressure builds up in the affected areas in the body leading to muscle tightness and pain.”

What is an ergonomic office chair?

In layman’s terms, an ergonomic chair is one that maximizes your comfort and efficiency. Okubadejo says this breaks down to buoyancy, shape and medium firmness with some (but not too much) give. “These features will provide the most ergonomic conditions to maximize support and minimize pain,” he said.

Cathy Ellis, a retired physical therapist and former clinical director of the spinal cord program at Medstar National Rehabilitation Hospital (and my aunt), added that the most ergonomic chairs are the most adjustable and customizable.

“A good chair for work should have adjustable components, since each of us has a unique body type,” Ellis said. “The posture of your back directly affects the posture of your neck and arms. If you have had any injury to your back, arms or legs, that also impacts your posture in sitting.”

In addition, said Ellis, the most ergonomic chair is the chair you’ll actually use. If something is way too firm and hurts your bottom or if you hate the way the arm rests sit, you’ll likely find yourself gravitating back to your couch or kitchen table.

“A good chair should also be comfortable for the individual using [it],” Ellis said.

Why should you upgrade to an ergonomic office or desk chair?

J’nai Porter, a licensed massage therapist, certified lymphedema therapist and owner of Loose Massage Therapy Plus in Detroit, Michigan, said that switching to a more supportive chair can help minimize the effects of muscle fatigue and poor posture that can come from sitting for extended periods.

“Poor posture can cause neck stiffness/tight traps, mid-back tightness, spine curvature and fatigued low back muscles due to lack of lumbar support, mid-upper back support and head support,” Porter said. “Sitting for long periods at a desk can also cause the sciatic nerve to become compressed resulting in pain/discomfort in the nerve pathway areas: low back, hip, glute, groin, IT band, top of foot. It also can exasperate other conditions/injuries a person may have.”

Spending hours hunched over in a shoddy chair can reduce circulation and blood flow and even cause swelling in your lower extremities, Porter said.

Ellis noted that when you’re sitting, the compression on your lower back is about 40% greater than when you’re standing. “Compression forces squeeze the discs in your low back and create pressure on spinal nerves,” she said.

Which ergonomic desk or office chair is right for you?

To ease this spinal compression and ensure you’re setting yourself (and your back) up for success, you want to find a chair that’s supportive but also comfortable for you. “The depth of the seat should be neither too deep or too short,” Ellis said. “The space of 2 fingers from the back of your knee to the seat, when your knee is at a 90 degree angle and feet are flat on the floor, is a guide you may use.”

Porter echoed the importance of finding a chair that’s adjustable to you.

“I would suggest an ergonomic desk and chair that can be manipulated or customized to account for a persons sitting height, standing height, have adjustable keyboard/PC area, the desk should be dual for sitting and standing,” she said.

Below, we’ve listed highly-reviewed options that align with the advice from these experts. The next time your neck and shoulders are all slunched over like a sad, dying plant, your back feels like a block of concrete and you suspect that half-broken chair you found on the sidewalk is to blame, consult this this list before you go shopping for a new one.

HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Every item is independently selected by the HuffPost Shopping team. Prices and availability are subject to change.

Herman Miller Aeron chair
Though the price is steep, Ellis recommends the Herman Miller Aeron chair — it's been a popular and beloved option for years (it was created in 1994). As you'll see on the Herman Miller website, the chair is totally customizable. Apart from the color and size, you can choose the back support, tilt, angle and arm height for your perfect fit.

Promising review: "I have had back issues for years. I recently changed jobs, I’m a telecommuter (Full Time Remote). The Aeron Chair was a must have, not cheap but I no longer finish a day in pain like I did at my precocious job or when working from home." — Eric T.
Herman Miller Sayl chair
Ellis also suggested the Herman Miller Sayl for a slightly less expensive model. Designed with aesthetics in mind, it's one of the most chic desk chairs you'll find that still gives you support where you need it without being restrictive or sweaty.

"Durable, breathable materials are important," Ellis said.

Promising review: "Love my new chair. Spending lots of time at my desk and this chair has so many adjustments. Very happy with it." — Maye C.
Autonomous ErgoChair Pro
As Okubadejo explained, while you want a strong supportive chair, you also want some buoyancy, ensuring ample support for the lumbar spine. "Most of the support should center around the lower back with a shape that's in line with each individual's anatomy," he said. "The curvature of the support should be lordotic to match the body's natural shape."

With a flexible and adjustable lumbar cushion that fits to the natural curve of your spine, the Autonomous ErgoChair Pro can be a good option. It's a totally adjustable chair with a recline and five lockable positions.

Promising review: "I have gone through a lot of chairs, two gaming chairs, two office chairs. and now finally autonomous. I love this product with a passion. My back would almost always hurt thanks to the gaming chairs I had gotten. The office chairs usually had a weird mesh like material for the seat so it would often hurt my rear end. this chair is both comfortable on the seat and on my back. it provides a nice support along with amazing comfort." — Francesco B
Branch office chairs
If you're looking for low-key chairs that won't totally break the bank, a number of reviewers vouch for Branch's line of office chairs. The brand currently has four options ranging from $209 to $499, making their chairs an affordable choice compared to some, while still providing you with an adjustable and supportive seat. Pictured is the Daily Chair, intended to be used for 4-6 hours a day.

Promising review: "I purchased this chair for my home office setup and I’ve been using it for a week now and am really impressed by the quality. This is such a great buy if you’re looking for something affordable and comfortable that will fit in with modern decor. I spent hours looking at other chairs that would fit in with the rest of my decor but would still be comfortable through 8 hour work days. I couldn’t be happier with my purchase. Also, shipping was super fast!" — Shaelynn N.
Hon Ignition 2.0
This deceitfully supportive chair, recommened by Ellis, looks like a standard office chair but comes with all sorts of support and adjustability. With 4-way stretch mesh and synchro-tilt control, it also breathes easy and allows for comfortable reclining and sitting.

Promising review: "I'm a school secretary and I need a comfortable chair that I can adjust. The seat of this chair is SUPER comfy and the seat cushion is great. I also like the adjustable arm rest." — Netty

Before You Go

A pack of five airtight silicone lids in different sizes to securely store leftovers

25 Pretty, Practical, And Precious Products That May Be Just The Thing You Need Right Now

Popular in the Community


HuffPost Shopping’s Best Finds