Most gamers and desk workers these days use mobile devices in tandem with a PC. Thus, comparing gaming chairs vs office chairs using desktop computing standards is outdated. This is reflected at the highest levels of institutional ergonomic design. By modern standards, multi-device support is now the driving focus. That demands support for the back and neck, plus more seated movement opportunities. From this perspective, gaming chairs vs office chairs are much easier to differentiate.
Which is better, a gaming chair or an office chair? By 2022 seating standards, this much is clear:
- Standard, non-ergonomic office chairs cause back problems when used for long periods.
- Ergonomic office chairs have adjustable arms, lumbar support, and backrest recline angles. This feature set supports healthy postures over long periods.
- Full-back, racing-style gaming chairs are also ergonomic. These chairs support healthy upright postures plus deeper, more relaxing reclines.
The ‘best’ type depends on needs. In fact, seating needs evolve in step with socio-technological changes. For over a century, standard office chairs supported the needs of light desk workers and pencil-pushers.
When PC computing arose in the early 90s, back problems surged. Then, the ergonomic office chair emerged. Soon after, the rise of esports spawned the full-back, racing-style gaming chair as an ergonomic alternative.
Fast-forward to 2022 and the age of multi-device computing has arrived. Handheld mobile devices are now an integral part of every desk worker’s routine.
But excessive texting promotes a forward neck tilt. The severity of this has changed institutional ergonomic paradigms. Neck support is now a key priority.
Meanwhile, a global work from home (WFH) trend has changed desk working patterns. Instead of sitting in formal poses all day long, home workers are free to mix things up. To that end, more versatile seating provides better all-day support.
With these factors in mind, a gaming vs office chair comparison yields clear differences, benefits, and drawbacks.
Musculoskeletal Deskwork Problems
The modern desk worker faces a dual assault on the spine while computing. Long periods of unsupported sitting flattens the lower back. At the same time, excessive texting curves the upper back (and neck). This combination curls the entire spine into an ugly ‘c’ shape.
In a healthy standing position, the lower back curves inward with a 25-45° angle. Sitting without support flattens that curve by half. Then, back muscles must work harder to hold the spine upright.
When back muscles fatigue, good posture falls apart. Meanwhile, the average adult also spends at least three hours per day using a cell phone. Most do so with a severe 45° forward head tilt. Combined, these distortions throw the entire body out of alignment.
As a result, a 2-pronged assault on the spine morphs into a five-pointed assault on general wellness! Letting yourself slide down this path leads to pain, lethargy, brain fog, weight gain, and worse!
- Unsupported sitting: tightens the lower back, curling the hips forward.
- Forward neck tilt: bends the upper spine more severely.
- Anterior pelvic tilt: tight lower back + bent neck = tilted hips.
- Chronic pain: back, neck, and shoulder pain + migraines are common.
- Sedentary death trap: bodies in chronic pain move less. That ramps up the risk of diabetes, hypertension, weight gain, depression, cancers, and worse.
Gaming Chairs Vs Office Chairs 2022
A consensus on the healthiest way to sit for long periods has been around since the early 1990s. Dynamic neutral postures align the spine to reduce strain on surrounding muscles.
As a result, users can enjoy long periods of comfortable, stress-free computing. A textbook neutral posture yields two angles: a 25-45° lower back curve and a 0° neck tilt.
To support these angles, any chair that qualifies as ‘ergonomic’ needs three qualities:
- Lumbar supported recline: sitting reclined between 90-130° — with a supported lumbar curve — exerts the least spinal disc pressure.
- Adjustable arm support: armrests set to the right height offload strain from the neck and shoulders. That reduces disc pressure even more.
- Seated movement: frequent position changes keep muscles active while boosting circulation levels. That mitigates the ill effects of sedentary behavior.
In 2022, the standard (non-ergonomic office chair) design is out-of-date. Based on modern musculoskeletal computing challenges, it simply doesn’t provide the support that people need. Two other options remain on the table:
- Standard office chair: cheap and rugged — but with no adjustable back support features.
- Ergonomic office chair: strict mid-back neutral support that keeps users upright at all times.
- Gaming chair: versatile full-back neutral posture support plus casual lounging options.
Standard Office Chair
When office chairs became ubiquitous in the early 1900s, knowledge about healthy sitting biomechanics was non-existent. As a result, these chairs are designed to be cheap and durable, rather than supportive.
They have non-adjustable armrests (if any), no adjustable lumbar support, and a backrest that doesn’t recline. You can only adjust the seat height and engage a rocking function.
Even so, the low cost and durability have kept standard office chairs in place at many companies. That is partially why around 22% of the global population (1.7 billion) suffers from musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
- Chronic fatigue: a misaligned spine drains energy by forcing muscles to work harder.
- Migraines: forward head posture stresses neck muscles until pain explodes in the brain.
- Wrist disorders: 4 million Americans suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Neck pain: the fourth-leading cause of disability in America.
- Shoulder pain: causes around 4.5 million USA doctor visits per year and $3 billion in health costs.
Most Desk Workers Are Ergonomically Ignorant
Problems caused by using non-ergonomic furniture were clarified during 2020 lockdowns. As workers began to work from home (WFH), complaints of pain skyrocketed. Improper equipment and sloppy habits were major factors.
A study out of the U. of Cincinnati found ignorance on the part of both management and staff as part of the problem. For one thing, the school sent most workers home with only a laptop.
For another, most used their laptops carelessly. More than half craned their necks rather than connect external screens. The majority also failed to use a chair with adjustable arms.
As a result, pain reports were off the charts. 45% of staff reported suffering from lower back pain. Surprisingly, bigger pain problems emerged elsewhere.
49% of staff reported that they were battling neck pain and migraines. Meanwhile, a whopping 62% complained of moderate-to-severe upper back and shoulder pain.
The latter two are common text neck syndrome symptoms. This shows how using a non-ergonomic chair plus excessive texting can harm the entire spine.
Mid-Back Ergonomic Office Chair
The mid-back ergonomic office chair arose in the early 90s in response to the rise of personal computing. ‘Ergonomic’ means ‘adjustable’. These chairs stack adjustable features on top of a standard office chair build.
These features support desktop computer users into neutral sitting positions. A reclining backrest and lumbar support keep the spine aligned. Adjustable armrests raise arms to the height of a keyboard and mouse. This combination takes massive pressure off the spine.
- Reclining backrest: angles between 100-130° reduce pressure in the lower spine.
- Adjustable lumbar support: maintains a healthy lower back curve.
- Adjustable armrests: absorbs arm weight, reducing neck and shoulder strain.
Mid-Back Chairs Work Best Without Headrests
Herman Miller is widely regarded as the global leader in ergonomic seating technology. Since the release of its Aeron chair in 1994, the company has insisted that mid-back ergonomic chairs do not need headrests.
Even so, you’ll find hundreds of mid-back chairs with headrests on the market. You can even find third-party headrests for Herman Miller chairs! But in this era of text neck syndrome, it’s worth heeding Herman Miller’s advice.
“Leaning your head back on a headrest while in an upright position would be improper posture… Our ergonomic chairs are designed to support your spine as if you were standing.”
But why do so many people love office chair headrests? A study on passenger aircraft seats found that despite degrading postural integrity, headrests create a perception of comfort. Therefore, people feel better (psychologically) when using one.
This is in spite of the postural degradation: using a headrest ruins a chair’s ergonomic support! First, it flattens the lower back curve. Second, it rounds the upper back.
Heeding this advice will bring great clarity when shopping for a chair. Stripped of a gimmicky headrest, any mid-back chair with the requisite ergonomic components can do the job that you need!
Pay more for luxury if you can afford it. But if you can’t, several ergonomic chairs under $300 are cult classics for a reason.
Racing-Style Gaming Chair
The full-back, racing-style gaming chair is 16 years old in 2022. The first model debuted in 2006 to great derision. In those early days, they were often dismissed as gimmicky scams designed for dumb gamers.
Fast-forward to the modern era and the humble gaming chair has blossomed. Today, it’s a viable option for both gamers and desk workers.
Significantly, the full-back style paired with a good headrest does support good neck posture. While hard office chair headrests dig into one part of the neck, a gaming chair version can cushion the entire cervical spine.
More Versatile Than Mid-Back Ergonomic Chairs
A good gaming chair can provide the same level of posture support as the most complex ergonomic chair. For instance, I’ve been using a Secretlab Titan to support the same biomechanically-perfect neutral postures as a $1700 Herman Miller Embody.
Even so, most people don’t use gaming chairs with perfect upright posture in mind. To that end, the full-back, deep recline functionality serves a wider range of uses.
This summary of leading ergonomic chair guidelines clarifies the ideal recline range. Anything between 100-130° — with good lumbar support — will reduce spinal disc pressure while sitting.
A deeper recline range with full-back support is especially useful for the overweight and obese. Most with a BMI over 30 suffer from unusually weak spines. That can make sitting up straight in a mid-back chair difficult.
To that end, when you loosen a gaming chair recline to 110° or deeper, gravity takes over. Instead of back muscles doing the work, the tall backrest, lumbar support, and body weight do the work instead.
On the downside, with more freedom to move, users lose the postural accuracy gained in strict mid-back chairs. But the psychological perception of comfort this creates makes a full-back chair very appealing — especially in a WFH context.
Office Vs Gaming Chair Aesthetics
Both standard and ergonomic office chairs are designed for corporate environments. Most come in conservative neutral colors with limited recline ranges and mid-back designs. In an office, mid-back chairs make it easier for managers to monitor staff while they work.
On the flip side, gaming chairs provide neutral sitting support beyond the confines of office norms. Tall backrests provide full-back support.
Beyond cradling your entire spine, this provides a brilliant privacy shield against prying eyes. As well, gaming chairs come in both muted and wild color schemes.
If using one in an office, choose a conservative style to blend in with the crowd. If working from home, there’s no limit. You can choose bright color schemes, striking embroidered ones, soft pastels, and plenty more.
Pros And Cons Of Each Seating Type
For full-time computing in the multi-device era, standard office chairs are out of the equation. That leaves two viable ergonomic seating options on the table.
See our Gaming Chair vs Ergonomic Office Chair article for a deep dive into the differences. Find below a quick summary:
Standard Chair: Cheap But Non-Ergonomic
A standard office chair lets you adjust the seat height, rock the seat, or lock it. It has non-adjustable armrests and no adjustable lumbar support. Despite the lack of support, many companies prefer these for their low price and rugged durability.
But from a user perspective, computing full-time on a non-ergonomic chair is bad enough. Stacking 3+ hours of text necking on top of that is fertile ground for a musculoskeletal disaster.
The human body is not designed to sit for long periods. Without ergonomic support, that sets off a chain reaction. First, the lower back curve flattens. Then, the hips tilt forward. That combination curves the upper back and neck into an ugly forward slouch.
If you are working full-time on a non-ergonomic chair right now, these symptoms probably fit you like a glove:
- Muscle and joint pain: misaligned muscles and joints must work harder. Over time, that manifests as chronic pain in the back, shoulders, neck, arms, or legs.
- Chronic headaches: a forward head posture increases stress on joints and muscles in the upper neck. Pain begins at the base of the neck and then creeps upward. The more you slouch, the worse the pain.
- Chronic fatigue: imbalanced posture stresses body parts that are not meant to bear weight. That burns more energy until muscular fatigue sets in. Prolonged fatigue worsens imbalances, forcing the body to work even harder.
- Slower digestion: poor posture restricts blood flow and compresses the intestines. As food moves slower through the system, bloating and constipation arise.
- Poor circulation: clogged circulation from postural misalignments cause varicose veins (especially in women).
- Depression: many studies show a correlation between poor posture and negative vibes. People who sit upright tend to be more alert, positive and energetic. Those who slouch tend towards apathy and negative thinking.
Ergo Chair: Supportive But Restrictive
“The more mechanically distorted a person is, the less energy available for thinking, metabolism, and healing.”(2) The reverse is also true. Sitting properly in a good ergonomic chair takes massive pressure off of the back, neck, and upper body.
It also opens up the rib cage, boosting oxygen levels by up to 30%. That enables faster processing in the prefrontal cortex (cognitive control center). As a result, workers become more alert and energetic, with a higher level of brain activity(3).
Summary of good posture benefits:
- Fewer headaches: good posture reduces the neck tension that causes migraines.
- Reduced musculoskeletal stress: sloppy sitting misaligns the hips and spine. That stresses joints and surrounding muscles.
- More oxygen: good sitting posture opens the chest cavity, increasing oxygen intake.
- More energy; sharper focus: an aligned body works muscles efficiently. That leaves more energy for brainwork.
- Improved digestion: efficient body mechanics speeds metabolism and waste passage.
Ergonomic Office Chair Downside
Most mid-back chairs have limited recline ranges that keep users in ‘working postures’. Indeed, forcing staff into crisp upright positions all day long works well in office settings.
But when working from home, there’s no need to stay sharp and formal at all times. That’s the big downside: if you want to kick back and relax, your ergonomic office chair won’t let you!
Gaming Chair: Versatile But Easily Misused
The full-back gaming chair is a viable alternative to the ergonomic office chair. Users can enjoy a similar level of neutral sitting support, plus plenty of extras.
In a work-from-home setting, deep recline gaming chair functionality provides all-day sitting support. Beyond deskwork, users can kick back to relax, watch a movie, use a mobile device, or even take a nap!
In an office setting, gaming chairs are also trending, especially in Asia. China in particular has a strong nap-at-noon working culture(4). Western companies like Google and NASA are also adopting this practice by integrating sleep pods into offices.
Thus, a gaming chair in an office setting makes perfect sense. The ergonomic functionality supports long periods of deskwork with good posture. At noon, a deep recline provides the perfect spot for a noontime nap!
Downside: Freestyle Sitting Is Easy To Abuse
Unlike strict office chairs, gaming chairs don’t force you to sit straight. This freedom is a big point of appeal — but also a major drawback.
Muscles adapt to frequently-held positions(5). So the longer you sit off-kilter, the more the body will adjust. For instance, if you go overboard sitting with one foot up, muscles will tighten on one side of your body and loosen on the other.
As your body falls out of misalignment, your posture will degrade further. Because of muscle memory adaptation, those postures will start to feel more comfortable than healthy ones!
Then, your only way out is to do a postural reset. That means forcing yourself to sit in a crisp neutral posture (for 2-3 days) until muscle memories adapt.
Caveat: Healthy Lifestyle > Good Chair
These days, most pro esports teams use gaming chairs. However, many elite squads follow the mantra that healthy, rested players perform better. To that end, the best teams employ nutritionists, mental coaches, and physical therapists.
For instance, Dr. Jordan Tsai works with Cloud9, TSM, Evil Geniuses, 100 Thieves, and other top teams. He’s also on Secretlab’s Ergonomics Advisory Board.
He told ChairsFX that a good chair is the least important factor for productive deskwork. Instead, “A regular range of motion exercises, strengthening, and stretching are all critical.”
Dr. William Duncan works with both esports pros and traditional athletes. He concurs with Dr. Tsai. “Postural issues typically arise from poor strength and endurance in the postural muscles — not the type of chair.
A chair alone cannot fix your issues. If you work on strength & endurance and use a good chair, this will most likely resolve the source of your symptoms and allow you to play longer.”
Testimonial: Gaming Chair Fitness Impact
Esports doctors advise physical fitness to enhance your time at a desk. In my experience, the reverse happened — using a gaming chair kickstarted a new passion!
When I bought my first gaming chair back in 2017, I had chronic lethargy, anterior pelvic tilt, and a beer belly. Using a cheap office chair, I always felt exhausted after a day of sitting. Once I learned about neutral sitting in a gaming chair, that changed.
After a day of work, I had too much energy to sit still. As a result, I started going to the gym to burn off the excess. With stronger muscles, sitting in neutral postures became even easier.
That left more energy on the table to put into computing, working out, eating clean, and sleeping well. These days, I’m in the best shape of my life and more productive than ever — despite sitting 10+ hours every day. My first Youtube testimonial from 2018 tells the exact same story!
In 2022, dynamic neutral sitting remains the ergonomic standard for healthy computing over long hours. To support this method, ergonomic office chairs and gaming chairs are both great options.
The former works best in conservative workspaces that promote conformity. The latter goes beyond corporate norms with wilder aesthetics and greater functional flexibility.
Meanwhile, an extreme forward neck tilt caused by mobile computing has emerged as a major issue. But at present, most ergonomic support systems for mobile computing are still in the prototype stage.
Luckily, both gaming and ergonomic office chairs provide the means to rehabilitate neck posture by yourself. Simply adhere to strict neutral postures (25-45° back curve + 0° neck tilt) for a couple of days.
That’s all the time it takes for muscle memories to adapt. Then, a straight neck will start popping up as a subconscious habit! So which type of seating will best support the typical desk worker in 2022?
- Ergonomic office chair: you want straightforward posture support while working at a desk.
- Full-back gaming chair: best for obese body types with weak spines. Also ideal for home office workers wanting support for both desk work and relaxation.
- Standard office chair: a cheap and reliable option for security guards (and others who only sit for short periods).
Choose A Chair + Build Your Setup
Once you’ve decided on a chair type, the next step is to build a workstation around it. That’s a lot simpler (and cheaper) than you might imagine. For example, a complete ergonomic setup — including a chair — costs less than $400!
With the right chair and the right gear, proper usage and frequent breaks are all you need to prosper. First, maintain neutral postures while you work.
Second, take plenty of breaks to keep your muscles active. This will keep you fresh and alert (rather than exhausted) after long bouts of sitting.
Hold to these habits and wait for the rewards. First, expect an electric surge of energy to emerge. Soon after comes a taller stance, looser limbs, sharper focus, and a greater sense of all-around well-being.
- ‘Musculoskeletal conditions’. WHO Fact Sheets, 8 February 2021. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/musculoskeletal-conditions (accessed 12 March 2022).
- Nema Nyar. ‘Spinal Alignment: The Quest for Stability and Ease’, 16 September 2019. https://himalayaninstitute.org/wisdom-library/why-posture-matters/, (accessed 23 March 2022).
- ‘Proper Posture for Higher Engagement and Cognitive Performance’, 19 September 2017. https://americanpostureinstitute.com/proper-posture-for-higher-engagement-and-cognitive-performance/, (accessed 23 March 2022).
- Hattie Rowan, ‘Naps are good for you. They reduce stress and improve memory and mental health, doctors say’. Health & Wellness, April 21, 20215. https://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/health-wellness/article/3130095/are-naps-good-you-less-stress-better-mental-health-and, (accessed 8 March 2022).
- Erin M. Friend, PT, DPT, CEAS, ‘Poor Posture And Its Effects On The Body’. National Spine Health Foundation, April 8, 2015. https://spinehealth.org/poor-posture-and-its-effects-on-the-body/, (accessed 8 March 2022).