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The Best Ergonomic Office Chairs, According to Chiropractors and an Orthopedic Surgeon

Photo: retailer

Whether you’re working from home at a DIY desk setup or commuting to an office, you may have begun to feel the strain that sitting for seven or more hours a day can put on a body. If said strain has led you to wonder whether it’s worth investing in a better, more ergonomic office chair, the answer is almost certainly yes, according to experts we spoke to. “Makeshift setups can cause a laundry list of problems, including back, shoulder, and wrist pain,” explains Dr. David Perna of Back and Body Medical. Dr. Marc Agulnick, an orthopedic surgeon based on Long Island who’s affiliated with NYU Winthrop Hospital, agrees: “If you’re sitting for a long period of time in one position that’s not natural or a bad position from a postural standpoint, over time, that’s going to break down your spine.”

Finding the right ergonomic office chair, though, can be tricky — there is no universally perfect model, because every body is different, according to Agulnick. “If you take a one-size-fits-all approach, there are a lot of people who are miserable with it, because what’s comfortable for one person is going to be miserable for another,” he explains, and being comfortable in your office chair is definitely a priority.

That said, there are certain types of office chairs that are going to make it easier for you or your kids to maintain a healthy posture while you work, regardless of body type or personal preferences. Below, a variety of office chairs (and ergonomic chair attachments) that Agulnick, Perna, and 11 other doctors say will help you sit up straight and comfortably, while minimizing long-term damage to your body.

Best overall ergonomic office chair

From $1,495

A good office chair is going to help you maintain a neutral posture, which means sitting with your feet flat on the floor, your knees slightly higher than your hips, and your hips, shoulders, and ears all lined up with each other. “Try to create 90-degree angles at the waist and knees,” recommends chiropractor Dr. Randi Jaffe. Since that position will be slightly different for each person, the best way to find a neutral posture is with an adjustable chair — one that’s as intuitive as possible. Jaffe loves Herman Miller’s Aeron Chair because it has adjustable lumbar support, as well as an adjustable seat and armrests, and three different size options. The chair’s mesh material also provides full-body support and adjusts to temperature changes to keep you cool. While she admits that the price is high, if your budget allows, “it is a great investment in your health and well being.” Perna also loves the Aeron chair, calling it “the standard” for ergonomic chairs and adding that many companies have tried to copy its design. (The chair, which New York Magazine writer Brian Kennedy dubbed the “The Dot Com Throne” way back in 2006, also makes an appearance in our expert-recommended guide to everything you need to work from home.) Jaffe’s other tip: “Do not work from the couch or the bed. Have a designated spot for work at home, including a table or desk or countertop, in addition to a good chair.”

Best (slightly) less expensive ergonomic office chair

For a less expensive option (that, we know, still isn’t cheap), Perna likes Herman Miller’s Mirra chair because it has a mesh back like the Aeron. “Mesh breathes, it’s dynamic, it kind of bends and moves with you” throughout the day as you change positions, he says. This chair has other ergonomic features similar to those of the Aeron, namely adjustable arms, seat angle, and lumbar support.

Best affordable ergonomic office chair

For a far less expensive alternative, Dr. Rudy Gehrman, the founder of New York City–based wellness center Physio Logic, recommends this chair from Modway, which has supportive mesh as well as the ability to adjust its armrests and seat height. Should you go this route, Gehrman suggests investing the money you would save on the above chairs in an alternative seating option, like an exercise ball or kneeling chair (both of which appear below), because “the more variety you have, the more likely you will decrease the chances of repetitive stress injuries.”

Best affordable ergonomic office chair with a headrest

According to Dr. Jasmine Bhoola, “prolonged sitting has been associated with musculoskeletal dysfunction, especially in work-from-home culture.” One reason she likes this office chair is for its “completely customizable headrest” that can help better support your upper back, neck, and head. Bhoola also likes the chair’s “adjustable armrests as well as its solid lumbar support, which maintains the curve in the lower back and promotes effortless upper-back posture.” When adjusting your office chair, she has these tips: “First, stand in front of the chair, and adjust the height so that the highest point of the seat is below the kneecap.” Then she suggests adjusting the angle and height of the chair’s backrest so that it supports the hollow in the lower back. Finally, she says to “adjust the seat-pan tilt to a comfortable position,” adding that the seat of the chair should be seven inches below whatever surface you’re working at.

Sleekest affordable ergonomic office chair

Bhoola personally uses this chair from Branch, a direct-to-consumer brand that specializes in products for the office. Much of it is adjustable — including the armrests, height, tilt, tilt tension, seat depth, and lumbar support — making it quite ergonomic. The lumbar support, she adds, moves forward and backward and “is removable so people with a range of body types or conditions can use this chair.” Its high-density cushion can support up to 300 pounds, and the backrest is made of double-layered mesh, making it breathable. It lacks a headrest, but that gives the chair a sleeker profile. Those who care even more about aesthetics will appreciate that they can choose from two colors (black or white) for the chair’s frame, and three (black, gray, or light blue) for the cushion. Summing it up, Bhoola says the chair is “comfortable and completely customizable.”

Best foldable ergonomic office chair

If you are dealing with a very tiny space, an Aeron chair — or even a less-expensive imitation — is probably not going to be an option. But there are some space- (and spine-) saving solutions if you’re willing to compromise a few features. According to Jaffe, “It is hard to create a chair with all the bells and whistles — think adjustable armrests, adjustable height, a swivel option, good lumbar support — that also folds up.” To wit, this chair, which she recommends, does not have armrests or an adjustable height. But it does have “a lot of positives, especially good lumbar support” and a flip-up seat that makes it easier to store.

Least fussy ergonomic office chair

Humanscale Freedom Office Chair

Dr. Scott Bautch, a Wisconsin-based chiropractor who’s currently the president of the American Chiropractic Association’s Council on Occupational Health, likes the chairs from Humanscale, a New York City–based company that designs chairs with the “minimum amount of levers and the maximum amount of adaptability for the person sitting in it,” he says. Its Freedom office chair uses what’s called a “self-adjusting recline,” allowing you to change the chair’s angle simply by leaning back rather than by fussing with a separate lever.

Best ergonomic office chair for shorter people

Humanscale Freedom Desk Chair
From $879
From $879

If you prefer a chair without a headrest, or want a less expensive option from Humanscale, the Freedom desk chair has many of the same features and ergonomic benefits as the Freedom office chair above (including a “self-locking recline mechanism” that allows you to lean back without tipping over). Perna especially likes it for shorter people because it has an adjustable seat depth, so you can make sure your feet are flat on the floor.

Best ergonomic office chair for bigger people

“This chair is designed for those with bigger builds and taller heights and can accommodate up to 400 pounds,” says Dr. Manasseh Nwaigwe. (Amazon says it has a maximum capacity of 300 pounds, but Wayfair and other retailers list 400.) He likes that the chair contains memory foam designated to support a user’s lower back, as well as an elevated headrest that can support the neck and upper back. But Nwaigwe notes that even though “the right ergonomic office chair may help to alleviate pain as you sit throughout the day,” you should also take a few minutes every day to perform easy exercises. “Exercises like chin tucks — 10 reps, three times a day — help you maintain good posture throughout your cervical spine.”

Best (less expensive) ergonomic office chair for bigger people

Neo Chair Essential Office Chair
From $70
From $70

Bhoola says this chair, which can accommodate up to 300 pounds, “has a wide lumbar support,” making it a good option for those with bigger builds who want to spend less. In addition to that lumbar support, Bhoola points to the chair’s adjustable mesh back and adjustable seat height as other ergonomic features. Its fabric-covered seat is also padded for even more comfort.

Best ergonomic gaming (and office) chair

In talking to other experts about the best desk chairs for kids, our writer Lauren Ro discovered this gaming chair that chiropractor Dr. Brook Sheehan told her is also quite ergonomic. She suggested it for teens or tweens looking for an ergonomic desk chair they could use into adulthood, explaining that the chair’s design “helps to maintain the spinal curves that are present” in adolescence and “over time, it can help correct bad postural habits set early on.” The chair features adjustable lumbar support, a seat with an adjustable height that also tilts, a headrest pillow, armrests, and a footrest that pulls out from beneath the seat. “It provides the support necessary for all three regions that make up the spinal column,” according to Sheehan.

Best ergonomic office chair for stretching in place

Photo: retailer

Bautch says that if you’re sitting in your chair slightly hunched over toward your screen, it can be helpful to lean away from your computer and pull your shoulders back like you’re going to put a pencil between them. An office chair with a wider range of motion, like this one from Amazon that Bhoola recommends, allows you to lean back whenever you feel like you need to do one of those stretches. This chair also offers seat-height adjustment, lumbar support, and an adjustable armrest and headrest. In addition to stretching in your chair, Jaffe recommends “getting up every hour and walking and moving a little,” or getting on the floor and doing some gentle yoga poses like cat-cow or child’s pose.