How to buy an affordable chair that's good for my back.
January 1, 2008 12:00 AM   Subscribe

How to buy an affordable chair that's good for my back.

I realize that this question has been asked many times before. Unfortunately, the consensus answer - purchase a Steelcase Leap off Craigslist - doesn't work in Toronto. Neither Steelcase nor Humanscale nor Herman Miller have sold enough chairs in Canada, at least not in bulk, for there to be a real second-hand market.

So, questions:

A) What should I be looking for, if I can't just count on a well-reviewed brand? I know it needs to be adjustable, but once I've ruled out the ones without sliding backs, I can't tell no-name bargain from no-name rip-off.

B) Where should I be looking? If I'm limited to the $200-$250 range and won't get any love from eBay, is there an option better than going to Staples and buying the first chair with 'ergo' in the name?
posted by Simon! to Shopping (12 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Have you tried sitting on a yoga ball? I've been through dozens of chairs over the years, but never found one that was truly comfortable for extended sitting. On a whim, I started using my yoga ball and haven't had any back problems since.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 1:08 AM on January 1, 2008


This chair from Office Depot is the one I have. I just love it. Took me about a day to adjust it just right, tweaks here and there. It is a dream to sit in.

I did have a problem with the gas cylinder after owning the chair about 1 year. I called the company, they overnighted me one at no charge. I was very impressed with the manufacturer's support.
posted by JujuB at 1:12 AM on January 1, 2008


The name on the chair doesn't matter, as long as it feels good when you try it, and it's adjustable (seat height and angle, back angle). If this is a desk chair, and you spend any amount of time on the computer typing or mousing, get one without arms.

Go to your local mid-price home/office furniture store and try a few chairs in your price range. If they feel comfortable and well made, can be adjusted, and the price is right, you're done.

For comfort, you should also look at some ergonomics guides about table height. Many tables and desks are designed for writing rather than typing and are several inches too high for comfortable computer use.
posted by zippy at 6:51 AM on January 1, 2008


Balls may not be the best idea.
posted by grouse at 7:26 AM on January 1, 2008


I have to side with grouse on the questionability of using a ball (or any other seating device that doesn't provide direct back-support.) I've tried many of them over the years and have come to the conclusion that they all depend on you consciously and continually keeping your back in a rigid, upright posture. It seemed that my back was actually more tired and sore after a day in such seats, due to the constant effort of maintaining balance in the damn things. You may be able to do so if you are a young, ├╝ber-fit specimen with abs of steel, but most people will find themselves quickly slumping into the familiar s-shape without any good back support.

YMMV, of course.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:37 AM on January 1, 2008


Yeah yoga ball - that's got to be the best *rolls eyes*. Otherwise, if you can't find a spare yoga ball around, any of the office depot chairs over $200 or so are pretty good. But it also depends on stuff like how long do you sit in you chair for, etc..

The office depot website gives lots of details.
posted by carfilhiot at 10:08 AM on January 1, 2008


When I wrenched my back for the second time, I asked my chiro how I should shop for a better chair. He suggested that I go to a large office furniture store and tell them that you're looking for a back-friendly chair. Bring a book or a laptop. Set up the chair with assistance for your proportions. Sit in the chair at a desk and read/type for a minimum of a half hour then get up and evaluate how you feel. If you can't make it or feel cruddy, forget the chair. If you feel really lousy, you'll have to come back another day.

Explain this to the nice salesperson so his/her expectations are set. It may take you several visits to find a good chair. I picked one with good lower back support, a five point base, a tilting seat pan and no arm rests. Since that purchase in 1995, most office chairs have gotten much better and most meet those specs.
posted by plinth at 10:58 AM on January 1, 2008


Lucky Canadian, you can get quite easily an Obus forme product, unlike me who had to buy one at a prohibitive price. They have lots of products, but I found that the basic product, their backrest support, does the job. You can use it with your own office chair. I've been using it in my car for years, and it's fantastic. It includes a removable lumbar pad for additional back support, but I feel it's even better without it.
posted by dov at 11:30 AM on January 1, 2008


i have a ball chair--which IMO is much better than just sitting on the ball on the floor. works great to alleviate my shoulder/neck pain. what i do is have both one of these and a kneeling chair, which i freely interchange during the day. (i think it's good to change things up.)

i don't know what specifically are your back issues, but i have found these two (which were cheap) are a great way for me to sit at my desk. (which otherwise i would avoid.) i really don't understand why anyone who is actually typing at a desk would want something that made them want to lean back.

it's interesting to read what that article had to say about using the ball being bad, but they don't seem to say anything about the chairs, just free-rolling balls instead of chairs. i think the chair adaptation is a really nice compromise. (i would probably hurt myself falling off a ball, besides the fact that they are too short for most desks.)

ergonomically speaking, i have been pleased to use these two for a year. YMMV.
posted by RedEmma at 11:48 AM on January 1, 2008


Are you familiar with this chair or similar models? It takes a few weeks to get used to, but after that it's wonderful and very back-friendly. It's not the cheapest saddle chair there is, but I find it well worth its price. It enables me to work sitting down (otherwise not an option due to serious back trouble).
posted by kaarne at 12:10 PM on January 1, 2008


Pros and Cons of alternative chairs, including kneeling chairs, from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.
posted by grouse at 12:13 PM on January 1, 2008


If it's not intended as an office or "business" type chair, it may be worth considering the Harbor Town Recliner, made by La-Z-Boy. It's relatively small, can be had as a rocking recliner or a wall away recliner, and has excellent lumbar support. They've been making it for at least 10 years, so there may be a secondary market in places like Goodwill or St. Vincent de Paul's...it may also be worth checking used furniture stores, if there are any in your area. For a recliner, it's not bad looking, but it is kind of small: less than 30" wide if I recall, and if you get a new one it's possible to order it in your choice of fabrics or leathers, but this will be more expensive and will take longer.

Disclosure: I sold La-Z-Boy chairs for a number of years, and this was consistently the best seller of all the recliners we carried, without exception. I currently own 2 Harbor Town Recliners, and when they go bad, I'll order 2 more if they're still available.
posted by motown missile at 11:21 PM on January 1, 2008


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