What are the 3 Best types of ergonomic office chairs for those with back pain?

by Bill Duffy - Read report

Gaiam Balance Ball Chair
Office Star Deluxe Ergonomic Chair
Office Star Kneeling Chair
The 3 Best types of ergonomic office chairs for those with chronic back pain are the Office Star Kneeling Chair, the Gaiam Balance Ball Chair, and the Office Star Deluxe Ergonomic Chair.
  • Background
  • Process
  • Comparison
  • Rate this Report
Neck and back pain can be easily attributed to the long hours spent seated at the office each week. Ergonomic chairs are designed to reduce back stress that arises from sitting for multiple hours on end. They do this by keeping your spine properly aligned, relieving musculoskeletal pressure in the process. In keeping your back properly aligned you will actually enjoy greater core strength, higher energy levels, and sharper mental focus at work!

There are several different types of ergonomic office chairs, each with their own approach to improving back alignment. For this review I chose three different chairs – one chair with a fairly traditional design and two with progressive designs – to highlight the range of chairs available. I also chose to avoid highly expensive chairs (such as Herman Miller chairs) to show that great ergonomic chairs can be found for a reasonable price. 

It's important to note that this report should only serve as a guideline, and that the right ergonomic chair for you is largely dependent on your body size, type, the amount of hours spent seated each week, and your personal preferences for feel and design. No one chair is right for everyone, but the three highlighted in this report received such widespread praise that they deserved being on 3 Best.
I started by researching what goes into the making of a solid ergonomic office chair, and discovered that various attributes can determine the performance of a chair. I spent a while researching specific ergonomic chairs and found several that went for extremely high price tags – from several hundred dollars, all the way into the thousands – so I narrowed my focus to chairs with reasonable prices ($300 or less). After seeing recurring positive expert reviews for the chairs in this report, I checked these positive reviews against consumer feedback and reviews on various online retail sites.
 Office Star Kneeling ChairGaiam Balance Ball ChairOffice Star Deluxe Ergonomic Chair
CredibilitySeat and knee foam memory pads encourage an open body angle and place weight of body on thighs as opposed to lower back to reduce back pressure. Kneeling position keeps spine in upward alignment and naturally promotes good posture. Balance ball seat evenly distributes the weight of your body across a wide, comfortable surface. Keeps spine in upward alignment, promotes good posture and builds core strength by maintaining posture on wobbly surface. Padded leather chair has several adjustable components – angle of the seat and back, seat height, tilt tension, height and width of the armrests – to make this chair as comfortable for your specific body and shape as possible.
UsabilityComfortable foam pads for seat and knee, four wheel casters, manual height adjustment Balance ball attached to a base with four wheel casters and a backrest for the very lowest portion of your back Padded leather chair with full backrest and adjustable components
Does Product Get Results?Highly praised across a number of reviews and in consumer feedbackHighly praised across a number of reviews and in consumer feedback, some have noted disliking the odd look of the ball and the learning curve of adjusting to its feelHighly praised across a number of reviews and in consumer feedback but traditional design could potentially allow for slumping or improper posture, rendering ergonomic benefits of chair useless
community rating: 2 (1 ratings)
In deciding the 3 Best ergonomic office chairs, I used these key considerations to focus my research:
  1. Trustworthiness – How does the design of the chair provide proper back support? 
  2. Usability – How comfortable is the chair? Does the chair promote proper posture? Does the chair have any desirable features unique to its design?
  3. Price Sensitivity – Does the chair deliver at an affordable price?
  4. Performance - Does the Product Get the Desired Results?
While there were some other tangible factors in the selection process, and included in the discussion below, these four attributes illustrate the most important factors in the decision making process.

Office Star Kneeling Chair

For the top ergonomic chair I chose one with a non-traditional design – a kneeling chair, this one by Office Star. Kneeling chairs are designed to have the thighs dropped at 60-70 degrees from the vertical, as opposed to 90 degrees like a normal chair, with some of the body's weight supported by the shins. Kneeling chairs are widely known to reduce lower back strain by promoting proper spinal alignment; they create an open body angle by lowering the angle of the lower body, keeping the spine in perfect upward alignment, in proper posture. The Office Star Kneeling Chair has two durable, comfortable foam memory pads for the seat and knees, an attractive wood finish, and four casters so you can wheel around easily. The height of the chair can also be manually adjusted. Many have praised this specific Office Star Kneeling Chair for posture improvement and for the comfort they felt thanks to the foam memory pads. Others noted that previous back pain was eliminated after using the Office Star Kneeling Chair. This chair's affordable price (approximately $100) adds to its appeal, making it a very affordable option in a market where ergonomic chairs can go for more than $1500! Some may not like the unusual sensation of kneeling at one's desk, nor the fact that this chair lacks an actual back rest – but these are the factors that contribute to the chair's overall ergonomic effectiveness.

Gaiam Balance Ball Chair

For the second best ergonomic chair I chose another non-traditional chair, with perhaps an even odder approach than the kneeling chair – the Gaiam Balance Ball Chair. This chair is basically a large exercise ball on a base with a set of casters and a backrest designed to support the very lowest portion of your back. The exercise ball distributes your weight evenly, and allows your spine to stay in upright, proper alignment. Furthermore, the fact that you are seated on a somewhat unstable surface strengthens your core muscles (abdomen, sides and back). Imagine, by using the Gaiam you actually tone your muscles while at work! There were other brands of balance ball chairs that I had discovered, but the Gaiam had the best price (approximately $79) and the most number of positive consumer reviews. I placed the Gaiam Balance Ball Chair second because I assume some may not like the look or feeling of being seated on a balance ball, and because many noted this chair actually has a 'learning curve' – that it took a few days or more to feel fully comfortable on it.

Office Star WorkSmart Professional Dual Function Ergonomic High Back Eco Leather Chair

For the third best ergonomic chair I chose a more traditional design, a padded, leather-covered swivel chair with armrests and a full backrest, again from Office Star. The Office Star Deluxe Ergonomic Chair was widely praised across a number of sites for its comfort and adjustability. It comes with several adjustment options – the angle of the seat and back, the seat height, tilt tension, and height and width of the armrests. The leather isn't of the best quality, though it is certainly decent for the price of the chair (approximately $200). I placed this chair third because despite all of its adjustable components, I felt that one might be able to still slump in this chair and completely negate the benefits of a supposedly ergonomic chair (note that by design it is nearly impossible to slump or slouch in the Office Star Kneeling Chair and Gaiam Balance Ball Chair.)

To recap, I placed the Office Star Kneeling Chair first for its effective design, comfortable, durable foam memory pads, attractive wood finish, affordable price and overall positive reviews. The Gaiam Balance Ball Chair came in second for its equally effective design and affordable price, but its somewhat odd look and learning curve prevented it from taking first place. Finally, I chose the more traditional Office Star Deluxe Ergonomic Chair as the third best for its noted comfort and adjustability, but kept it in third place because of the potential for one to slump in this chair, defeating its ergonomic benefits.
Relax The Back (to swopper chairs)