What is lumbar support and what different types of lumbar supports are there?
The term ‘lumbar’ refers to the lower region of your back. Specifically, it consists of five vertebrae situated between the diaphragm and sacrum (which is attached to your pelvis). Lumbar support is designed to limit the strain put on our lower backs to keep us comfortable whilst in a seated position and is usually found in car seats and predominantly office chairs.
Lumbar support is built into most office chairs but can also be attached separately using an attachment, usually manufactured using breathable, hygienic fabrics. This type of fabric encourages airflow and dissipating heat which prevents a build up of heat in your back that could lead to discomfort and perspiration.
Why You Need Lumber Support and How It Works.
Our spine is a strong structure that is made up of several vertebrae (interlocking bones) separated by spinal discs and supported by large muscles and ligaments. We have a total of 33 Vertebrae in our body and they together form the Vertebral Column or Spine. These Vertebrae are further categorized according to the area where they are present. They are named as Cervical (7), Thoracic (12), Lumbar (5), Sacral (5) and Coccyx (4).
When you sit in a bad position for hours it causes the ligaments of your spine to put on a gentle stretch. Normally they resist this for a while but if you stay in the flexed position, they begin to lengthen which in technical terms is known as ‘Creep’. The creep continues to cause stress to your lower back tissues and muscle fatigue which results in back pain. To solve this creep issue, we use the lumbar support cushion which supports your lumber (lower back) and it can reduce the ligament creep. Lumbar Support also provides correct posture to your backbone which is exceedingly difficult to maintain without good lumbar support. If you work for more than 5 hours seated on a task chair using a computer then it is especially important to have good lumbar support.
Different Types of Lumbar Support for Office Chairs
There are many types of Lumbar Support systems available on office chairs from fixed, adjustable, to dynamic and external.
In general, keep in mind the following guidelines when choosing or considering lumbar support for your new or existing office chair.
• A lumbar depth of between 0.6” to 2” will work well for the general population. Source.
• Females tend to have increased curvature in their lower back (lordosis), and would benefit from a more pronounced lumbar support. Source.
• People with a higher BMI (Body Mass Index) generally will prefer taller lumbar support targeting the higher regions of their back.
The following are the 4 most common types of lumbar support currently available for office chairs.
Fixed Lumbar Support
Fixed lumbar refers to a lumbar support that is fixed into the backrest and cannot be repositioned or modified in any way. Fixed lumbar is built into the foam, and although basic and generic for each user, it offers more ergonomic benefits than having no dedicated lumbar support at all. However, since the curvature of each person’s spine is different, it could be counterproductive if the fixed lumbar was not hitting the correct spot or protruding too little or too much for the individual.
The Orthopaedica 90 chair is a good example of a chair range with fixed lumbar support because it has been designed with sculptured seats and shaped fixed lumbar support on the upper and lower backs. Additional extras such as inflatable lumbar and thoracic (upper back) support and coccyx (lower spine) cut out are also available within this chair range.
Adjustable Lumbar Support
As the name suggests, adjustable lumbar support allows manual adjustment of the lumbar area to better fit the curvature and depth of an individual’s spinal shape. There are many levels of adjustable lumbar supports that can be found within office chairs today.
1. Height Adjustable:
The user can adjust the height or vertical location of the lumbar support to target the precise area of the back.
2. Depth Adjustable:
The user can control how much the lumbar support protrudes outwards or inwards.
3. Firmness Adjustable;
Typically done via a knob, dial or a pump, the user can control how firm or soft the lumbar support is.
The best type of adjustable lumbar support combines two or all three of the above features.
The higher end TNK chairs and HAG Sofi 7500 chair features a height adjustable lumbar ranges adapting to each users’ requirements and the Chiropractor approved Chiro High Back Ergonomic Chair features an inbuilt lumbar pump for depth adjustable and firmness.
Dynamic Lumbar Support
This type of lumber support automatically adjusts its depth and firmness based on your posture to always provide constant support. Dynamic lumbar support can be found on some high-end ergonomic chairs. Some mesh ergonomic chairs offer dynamic lumber support as the flexible mesh contours around the users back. The Taurus range of chairs for examples features mesh and polymer gel whilst also offering depth adjustable lumber support. The Ergo Human High Performance Chair is also a good example of a chair which offers dynamic lumbar and back support through a split back design.
External Lumbar Support
Finally, there is external lumbar support in the form of a cushion..or a DIY pillow! Many gaming chairs, where gamers spend long periods of time, include an external lumbar and head pillow as an inexpensive alternative to built in lumbar. Some of these external lumbar supports are not effective and are sometimes disregarded. There are however on the market dedicated ergonomic lumbar support pillows coming in different sizes and shapes to match your body type. For example. For people with lower back pain, it is found an external pillow with a cut out around the posterior pelvic tissues help increase comfort.
How to Sit with Lumbar Support
With different types of Lumbar support available you may be wondering which one will be the most suitable for you, and more importantly, your back. It is also particularly important to sit in a sustainable position for the lumbar support to be effective. Some people sit or perch on the front of their seats with a gap between their lower backs and the chairs lumbar support, which is counterproductive. It is important to make sure you are sat back in your chair with your lower back in contact with the chairs lumbar support.
Here are some things to bear in mind:
• Sit at the back of your seat to allow the lumbar support to work with your spine.
• Sit upright in your chair and do not slouch. Slouching causes your spine to arch in an unnatural position and over time and will cause pain.
• Keep both feet firmly on the floor.
• Keep your hips and knees to a right-angle position.
• Take regular breaks. Movement is vital to the body’s health so stretch, flex and walk around at least every hour.
• Try to bring your head, shoulders, and pelvis into alignment. This will maintain the natural inward curvature of your back and ensure your weight is balanced.
If you follow the above, you should be in a good position to allow any type of lumbar support to be effective and comfortable.
Lumbar support can be hugely beneficial, especially if you tend to work long hours. Movement and postural changes are also beneficial to minimise strain on your body, especially your lower back. If you have difficulty in self regulating postural changes and intend to spend long hours seated you should definitely consider a chair with lumbar support and adjustable lumbar support will most likely provide the greatest benefits. The Chiro High Back Ergonomic chair is fast becoming a popular chair among home workers, it’s priced attractively and comes with an adjustable hand pump lumbar support.
Aside from using lumbar support, it is equally important to keep your posture in check throughout the day, to ensure your back is not straining. Having a chair with a host of ergonomic features is worthless if you continue to sit incorrectly and slouch throughout the day.
Manufactures of the HAG chairs, Flokk have their own inhouse Ergonomist Sukhi Assee and she states that “lumbar support can only work if you are sitting correctly” she continues “When learning about the comfort quality of a task chair, we are always taught the importance of lumbar support. While this is an important feature in most chairs, learning about the anatomy of the spine while sitting, can change the way we interact with the chair. A tip that seems easy in principle but forgotten in practise day-to-day, is simply remembering to sit back into the chair; I mean really scooting straight back… what a lot of us do, is sit on a chair and what we failed to do, is sit INTO the chair.”
We hope you have found this blog / guide useful. Here at Office Reality, we have a great selection of chairs offering a range of lumbar supports, suitable for every user.