Style, look, feel, comfort, features, price, durability, and functions. These are all common factors a person would seek out and research when deciding on a new office chair purchase. While all the aforementioned factors are of great importance in the decision making process, perhaps the feature that should be most sought after most is the amount of support a chair is going to give you, especially when it comes to lumbar support. The lumbar region of the back, or more simply stated the lower back, is one of the most essential parts of your body that needs to be properly supported while seating in order to avoid long term health effects that can make working and sitting a real pain (literally). With that being said, it is important to be educated in the types of lumbar support offered in order to find the best kind of support for you and your body.
When analyzing the importance of lumbar support, it is important to first explain the importance of adopting the correct sitting position, an often overlooked but common contributing factor to back problems. Sitting right is simple, although it may seem like a chore at first always trying to remember to sit correctly. The lower back below the belt line must be as far back as possible, thus ensuring the lumbar gets the support and the back is maintained in a straight position. Lumbar support and correct sitting posture together, not individually, will give you good ergonomic comfort.
To illustrate, a good point of reference is statistics provided by the British Society for Rheumatology in a study conducted to understand the mechanics of the lumbar disc. When compared to the pressure on the lumbar disc in the standing position, unsupported sitting, which can be caused by the improper position or lack of lumbar support or both, increases the load by 40% on the disc. (On top of that, reclining, comparatively, reduces the strain by 70%).
There are two different kinds of lumbar supports which can be found on any ergonomically correct chair; active and passive. The difference between the two, simply put, is that passive is usually not adjustable, but built into the frame of the chair, while active is a standalone lumbar support that can be adjusted in a multitude of ways. While most would be quick to judge and assume active lumbar support is the way to go, this is not necessarily true. Passive lumbar can achieve the same amount of support as fully active if the chair has other ergonomic elements built in to adjust the chair such as a ratchet back or seat slider, for example. However, if these elements are not present, then an active lumbar support is the winner.
Adjust-ability is important when talking about lumbar, speaking in terms of an active support. While adjust-ability up and down is crucial because you can fit it to where your lumbar is, adjust-ability in and out is just as important, in that it regulates the pressure applied to your lumbar; the support strength, if you will. Four-way adjust-ability allows for the user to customize their office chair's lumbar support for their personal needs. Usually, four-way lumbar is a premium feature, but not one that should be overlooked.
Adjust-ability in passive lumbar support is rare, being as it is built into the frame of a chair, but certain office chairs incorporating passive support also include a seat slider and ratchet back, to allow for adjust-ability. Depending on your back problems, and on the amount of time you sit in your chair during the day, the support needed is a personal issue. Most chairs have built in passive lumbar, but if you feel stress on your back with that format, then try an active support for a while, or vice versa.