Yes, You Do Need That Ugly But Ergonomic Office Chair

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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.

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