Adjust the lumbar support of an office chair to fit the curvature of the back that occurs when sitting with proper posture.
While lumbar support adjustments are straightforward, many fail to acknowledge their worth and assume the existence of the support is enough to protect their body.
Keep reading to learn the varying degrees of support available and how you should fit them to your spine.
The Purpose of Lumbar Support for an Office Chair
Lumbar support is necessary on an office chair to limit stress on your spine, particularly your lower back.
Sitting may seem like it is more restful, but it puts 2 to 3 times as much stress as standing.
This only gets worse with slouching and other poor posture, issues that lumbar support help prevent.
The improper placement or adjustment of lumbar support can negate any benefits of the ergonomic features.
Identifying the type of support you have or need and adjusting it accordingly will give you the best benefits in the long run.
Types of Lumbar Support for an Office Chair
While chairs with built-in lumbar support are great and offer ideal comfort, they aren’t always what you are dealing with.
You have several options for lumbar support for your office chair, including:
- Additional lumbar support pillows and cushions
- Adjustable back support chairs
- Lumbar support modifications compatible with certain chairs
- Ergonomic chairs
These offer varying degrees of support, and one option may better suit your situation than the rest.
Lumbar Support Pillows and Cushions:
Lumbar support pillows and cushions offer the lowest degree of support, but there are a few options that excel.
A lumbar support pillow or cushion can be as simple as placing a small pillow or a rolled-up pillow at the small of your back to provide greater support.
These are general options that work well if your office chair is not a traditional model.
If you’re working at your kitchen table or use a chair with a straight back, an aftermarket pillow or cushion can be a quick and easy solution.
This option is also easier to move around, so you can take it with you to and from the office or use it in your vehicle as needed.
Adjustable Back Support:
Office chairs with adjustable back support are an improvement over stagnant straight-back chairs.
These usually have some adjusting lumbar support and tilt mechanisms that help you fit the back of the chair to the curve of your spine.
While the back of this type of chair may still be straight, tilting and raising the back support offer more support than a stationary part.
These chairs come with varying degrees of adjustability, and they work great in offices where multiple people use the chair.
Lumbar Support Mods:
Some chairs come with lumbar support modifiers that you can purchase:
- Through a customized order
- After purchase specifically for your chair
- From a third party that specializes in custom modification
These differ from generic pillows and cushions because they fit the chair perfect for a custom fit.
They may still be foam rolls or full backrests, and they usually attach using clips or velcro.
Some lumbar support modifications offer additional features, like heating and/or massage, that you can use for further relief.
Ergonomic chairs feature a curved backrest that keeps the neutral spine in mind.
If you sit in the chair with your back against the chair, an ergonomic rest will do the work to keep your rear, spine, and head aligned effortlessly.
These backrests are not usually adjustable, so you need to choose an ergonomic office chair that supports your body perfectly.
Adjusting Lumbar Support Pillows, Cushions, and Modifications
Like the ergonomic chair, most lumbar support features that are secondary to the chair do not feature adjustability.
There are a few exceptions to this rule, including inflatable lumbar support and the premise for adjustment remains the same.
With these forms of lumbar support, you want it to fit the natural curve of your spine without pushing on your back or requiring you to slouch to meet the support.
Inflatable or adjustable lumbar support pillows, cushions, and modifications give you greater control over this.
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If your support does not offer adjustment, or you are working with a pillow or a rolled-up towel, find something that supports your body the best it can.
Generic lumbar support options come in a variety of sizes, as do pillows.
Using two small pillows can make it easier to support your spine than one large one.
Adjusting an Office Chair to Provide Adequate Lumbar Support
To properly adjust the lumbar support of an office chair, you need to start with setting the chair to the proper height and depth.
The adjustment rules also help you determine the suitability of a fixed-form ergonomic office chair for your body.
Once you have the lumbar support set, adjusting other ergonomic features helps prevent slouching and build on the benefits of the lumbar support.
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If your chair allows you to adjust the seat height, you need to start here.
Stand in front of the chair and adjust the seat pan so it sits just below your knee caps.
Then, sit in the chair so your back meets the back of the chair and adjust the seat cylinder to the right height for your body.
Your feet should be flat on the ground with your knees at or close to a 90-degree angle.
Seat depth should also be adjusted before lumbar support when applicable. This moves the seat forward or backward, and it works well to accommodate for height differences.
If you are shorter, pan the seat further to the backrest.
This shortens the depth of the seat and helps you sit with your back against the backrest while preventing your feet from dangling.
Taller individuals should increase the depth of the seat to better accommodate their body, preventing too much of their legs from hanging over the edge.
Ideally, you should have a gap between the chair and the back of your knees that measures about the size of your fist.
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Adjust the lumbar support of the chair so that it fits the natural curve of your spine as perfectly as possible when you sit straight (aligning your ears, shoulders, and hips with a tall spine).
The level of perfection varies depending on how much your lumbar support can adjust and how curved your spine is.
You may also have to make this adjustment while adjusting the height of your chair, but fitting it to your spine is the most important detail to remember.
For chairs that feature armrests, make sure they sit at a height appropriate to let your elbows rest while maintaining a 90-degree angle while typing.
Office chairs can offer other dimensions of adjustment for armrests, including depth and width.
Experiment with the armrests to determine where they provide you the most comfort without hunching your shoulders or relying on them.
Headrests can support the comfort of your head and neck when you recline your chair, and they make it easier to maintain proper eye level with your monitor.
Some headrests are stationary and cannot be adjusted, but make sure those that can sit higher on your neck.
This prevents insufficient support and reliance that can cause you to slouch while sitting.