My Quest for the Perfect Office Chair
Updated: Jan 5
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been spending way too much time sitting at a desk over this past year! As much as I’d like to be that person implementing stretch breaks on an hourly basis, it looks quite odd when I’m on Zoom trying to sneak in my stretches. And with my countless online meetings/classes/seminars, I’ve noticed my right-sided low back pain acting up.
Now I know a simple fix that I commonly recommend could be to add a pillow/cushion behind my low back for support, but I found that when I sat for prolonged periods of time, I had to keep adjusting it; and honestly it was very frustrating.
So I started my journey down the rabbit hole for the ideal ergonomic office chair. At the time, I had a basic office chair that a friend gave me a couple years back. I could raise and lower the arm rests and the seat height, but I felt that what the chair was lacking was some form of adjustable back support. (But have no fear, we are still friends despite the fact that the chair gifted to me has caused me back pain.)
I noticed a lot of talk about Herman Miller chairs, and people willing to give up their first-born child for a fully loaded Herman Miller. I mean, me being the first-born, I had to find out more about this chair that might end in my ultimate demise. So I went to EQ3 (downtown Toronto furniture store #shoplocal) and tried out at least seven different Herman Miller chairs (don’t worry, masks were worn, and hand sanitizer was used by all, and people kept their distance because I looked like a woman on a mission bouncing around from chair to chair).
Ultimately, I wasn’t a fan of the Herman Miller. I can understand the appeal - the fully loaded Aeron chair has a customizable back support, and a comfortable mesh seat, with very sturdy and adjustable arm rests, and a forward tilt seat angling mechanism (that I honestly couldn’t figure out how to use…I don’t think the salesperson liked me very much). But I found that my tendency was to over-arch my low back while sitting in these chair, which was not helpful for my back pain.
Continuing on with my quest in my online search for chairs to help with low back pain, I came across a company online called SpinaliS. I vaguely recalled seeing this chair on Dragon’s Den, and was very intrigued by the company's push towards “active sitting”.
What is “active sitting”?; you may ask. Great question. Thank you for asking. I asked that question myself. How can one be active while sitting? It seemed like an oxymoron. The best way I would describe “active sitting” is: picture sitting on a Swiss ball/giant bouncy ball, and think of all the muscles that you have to use to keep yourself from falling off the ball. Now picture an actual seat on top of that ball, so your pelvis/bum feels supported. And now picture an optional back rest/arm rest around the ball so you don’t fall back or sideways off the ball. Now put that all together and you essentially have a SpinaliS chair. I included a picture below, but wasn’t it fun to use your imagination?!
I spoke with Zaneta at SpinaliS, and she was very helpful in discussing the different types of SpinaliS chairs offered (nine in total on their website). Ultimately, we determined that I should try the SpinaliS Hacker based on my height, build, and budget. I went with the red one, because I’m all about the vibrant colours!
The SpinaliS Hacker was shipped to me from Vancouver to Toronto. It was a lot easier to put together than I thought it would be. No tools were required and there is a very easy-to-follow video on the SpinaliS website. Total assembly time from unboxing to fully functional chair would be max ten minutes (but I also get distracted easily, so I’m sure you could build it a lot faster).
I was worried I’d be sitting on a jack-in-the-box type of springy/bouncy chair, but the chair is quite sturdy. The lowest seat height option is higher than I thought it would be, so sometimes I like to use a footrest when I’m sitting. Then again, sometimes I like to raise the chair to the highest setting and really test out my core…shockingly those are the days when I’m not as productive!
To get a little more technical, what I love about the chair, from a Physiotherapist perspective, is when I lean forward in the seat, the seat moves with me so my back isn’t over-arching and I can maintain a natural alignment in my spine. As well, I find myself doing mini-exercises in the chair while I’m at my desk, such as shifting my weight from side-to-side, and pelvic tilts forward and back. But my core doesn’t feel like it’s overworked after sitting in the chair, which is also a nice surprise. I’m actually shocked by how little I feel the need to lean back in this chair to relieve my low back, as this was a habit I had grown accustomed to with my previous chair. And it’s quite lovely to stand up out of this chair without feeling stiff.
While I can only speak for the SpinaliS Hacker, I would recommend this chair if you are someone who is looking for low back pain relief, willing to spend the money on a good office chair, and if you don’t use your office chair as a substitute bed. It’s only been about a week now, but I’m finding a huge improvement in my tolerance for sitting. Because as much as I would rather stand than sit, the reality of the situation is that sometimes you have to sit for a long period of time.
For more information, check out my video review: https://youtu.be/tKTlB2qO5mo