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Gaming Chair Lumbar Support Biomechanics: How To Use

Proper lumbar support is the key to healthy sitting in a gaming chair. This article explains how to use a gaming chair lumbar support. Then it clarifies the physiological benefits that a gaming chair lumbar support provides. In case you still have problems, it also addresses common gaming chair lumbar configuration problems. Find your lower back sweet spot to get the best back support benefits from your gaming chair.

How does a gaming chair lumbar support help?
A gaming chair’s lumbar support promotes a healthy curve in the lower back.

Sitting in an office chair without adjustable lumbar support is bad for you. Over long periods, sitting this way will rotate the pelvis and flatten the lower back curve.

Over time, the body adapts. Then, muscles in the back and shoulders that hold the spine straight get underworked. As a result, they atrophy. That shortens hip flexors, curls the spine into a “c” shape, and hunches the shoulders.

Poor posture health problems
Without lumbar support, the lower back curve will flatten.

In sharp contrast, a gaming chair with properly configured lumbar support does the opposite. It straightens the back, strengthens the core, and supercharges performance. The key to achieving proper lumbar support is to adjust its height and depth. Here’s the gist:

Lumbar support works because of reflexes. These are involuntary movement responses to specific stimuli. For example, a doctor can tap your patellar tendon to elicit a knee-jerk reflex reaction. Applying pressure to the lower back also elicits a reflex:

With lower back pressure applied to the right spot, the upper back reflexively straightens.

A gaming chair’s lumbar support lets you exploit this reality to improve your posture. Instead of forcing yourself to sit straight, apply lumbar pressure and let your reflexes handle the rest!

The Biomechanics Of Healthy Sitting

Sitting causes the pelvis to rotate. That curves the upper back and shortens the hip flexors. Over time, the body adapts to this position, resulting in a perpetual slouch when sitting or standing.

Sitting without lumbar support
Unsupported sitting flattens the lumbar curve and curls the hips forward.

Lumbar pressure applied to the small of a user’s spine counteracts pelvic rotation. This is why all types of ergonomic chairs come standard with adjustable lumbar support.

As a result, a healthy neutral posture looks the same in all types of ergonomic chairs. It doesn’t matter if you choose a gaming or office-style model.

Neutral posture sitting examples
All ergonomic chairs have features that support neutral sitting postures over long periods.

In all types of chairs, properly-placed lumbar support triggers the same reflexive actions. Below we explain reflexive lumbar support aspects from practical and physiological perspectives.

How To Learn Lumbar Biomechanics At Home

The easiest way to learn how lumbar support works is to try out some tests at home. First, sit down in a non-adjustable chair and focus on sitting straight. To achieve this, plant your feet on the floor and push down with your legs.

Unsupported sitting demonstration
Sitting without support overworks back muscles, leading to slouching.

Notice how pushing with your legs provides the power to hold your upper back straight. Keep sitting this way until your back muscles tire. That should take between 5-15 minutes.

When your back muscles tire, see for yourself how your body responds. First, your hips will curl forward. Then, the upper spine will wilt. That will curl your spine into an ugly “c” shape.

Homemade Lumbar Support

Next, try sitting down in a non-adjustable chair using whatever homemade lumbar support is available. You can use a rolled-up towel (works ok), rolled-up yoga mat (works better), or weightlifter’s lumbar belt (works the best).

DIY lumbar support for a home office
Pushing up with the feet plus lumbar support is all that’s needed to sit up straight.

With just a slight amount of pressure in the lower back, reflexes kick in. As a result, sitting up straight becomes a lot easier.

Lifting Belt Lumbar Similarity

A gaming chair lumbar support concept is similar to a weightlifting belt. When lifting, wearing a belt reduces upper back flexion. At the same time, it increases flexion in the hips and knees. That forces the user to lift with their legs, instead of with their back.

Gaming chair and lifting belt lumbar support
A lifting belt and gaming chair lumbar pillow both support a healthy lordotic curve.

Wearing a belt also causes the lifter to be more aware of their back position. The physical sensation of a belt against the skin keeps the lifter in tune with their body.

A Flattened Lumbar Misaligns The Whole Body

The lumbar area consists of five vertebrae in the lower spine between the buttocks and ribs. A healthy lumbar area naturally curves inward towards the belly. Sitting with a slouch flattens that curve.

Good versus bad sitting posture
Poor sitting posture places excess strain on the lumbar discs.

As a result, the opposing gluteal muscle (buttock) gets longer and weaker. Gluteal muscles are the primary muscle that balances the hips above the legs. When the primary muscle becomes weak, helper muscles must take over. This causes further problems.

Health problems caused by slouching
Sitting with a slouch flattens the lumbar curve and curls the body into a “c” shape.

For instance, some studies estimate that 85% of men and 75% of women suffer from anterior pelvic tilt. Short hip flexors force the front of the pelvis to rotate forward. At the same time, short flexors push the back of the pelvis upwards.

Anterior pelvic tilt
Most American adults suffer from anterior pelvic tilt caused by poor sitting habits.

The result is a distorted body with weak stomach muscles, lower body tightness, and a sagging upper body. In this alignment, running, kicking, and bending at the hip becomes difficult.

Optimal Lumbar Spine Biomechanics

Spinal curvatures and pelvic orientation differ when standing and sitting. When sitting, there is a postural pelvic tilt with a diminished sacral slope (S.S.). When slouching, the sacral slope decreases even more. At the same time, the lumbar curve gets almost completely flattened. The result is increased pressure on the five lumbar discs.

Sitting versus standing mechanics
Sitting reduces the sacral slope and flattens the lumbar curve.

In 2009, a team of researchers sought out the optimal seated lumbar position. In Seeking the Optimal Posture of the Seated Lumbar Spine, several facts were made clear:

  1. When standing, the optimal lordotic angle is between 20-45 degrees.
  2. Unsupported sitting reduces lumbar lordosis by 50%. It also increases intradiscal pressure at the third lumbar vertebra by 40%.
  3. When sitting with a back angle of 110° and a lumbar support 4 cm deep, lumbar lordosis averages a healthy 47° angle.
  4. The depth of the lumbar support depends on the individual. If a lumbar support causes discomfort, it means it is set too high, too low, or too deep.
  5. A sustained lordotic sitting position decreases disc pressure and thereby disc degeneration.

Gaming chair backrest support
Gaming chair neck and back pillows support the spine’s natural curves as you recline.

The chair has two essential roles in this configuration. Those are to maintain lumbar lordosis and allow alternating postures.

Gaming chair versus office chair recline
Gaming chair recline functionality allows you to move your body while sitting.

Using simple, logical technology, gaming chairs fill both of those roles. You can adjust the height of the lumbar or neck pillows to fit into your spine’s natural curves. You can also engage the reclining function to move your body as you sit.

Lumbar Support Promotes Neutral Postures

The ergonomic industry is in consensus that a neutral posture is the healthiest way to sit for long periods. Neutral postures look the same in all types of ergonomic chairs:

Neutral sitting posture examples
Neutral sitting positions in different types of ergonomic chairs.

With a flattened lumbar, the upper body tends to sag forward. A healthy lower back curve prevents that. Therefore, adjust the lumbar pillow to fit your lower back curve.

Then lean your body weight into the backrest. Mild lumbar pressure combined with a tall backrest will make slouching feel awkward and uncomfortable. That yields an upright sitting posture ideal for long periods of healthy computing.

Neutral sitting position
Sitting in a neutral posture with a healthy curve in the lower back is the ideal.

Once your lumbar support is optimized, follow these steps to sit in a clean neutral posture:

  1. Feet planted on the floor.
  2. Knees bent at around 90° with thighs parallel to the floor.
  3. Back straight.
  4. Elbows bent at 90° with forearms parallel to the floor.

Master the art of neutral sitting in 2-3 days using this tutorial:

How To Sit In A Gaming Chair: Neutral Dynamics

Lumbar Support Troubleshooting

There are two types of gaming chair lumbar support methods on the market. Below, we address common issues with each type. After that, find a ‘memory foam hack’ that can fix lumbar issues in any type of chair.

Traditional lumbar pillow

The most common type of gaming chair lumbar support is a traditional pillow. These usually attach to straps that hold it against the backrest.

PC gaming chair ergonomics
Traditional pillows provide height-adjustable neck and lumbar support.

Slide the pillow up or down until it fits into the small of your back. If back pain arises, check for problems with its height or depth.

Lumbar Pillow Height

The average human spinal column is around 28 inches for men and around 24 inches for women. For men, a chair’s lumbar support should be around 7.5 inches above the seat. For women, it should fit around 5.5 inches higher than the seat.

Gaming chair lumbar pillow height
Your chair’s lumbar pillow should sit around 7 inches higher than the seat.

New users may need a few days to find their sweet spot. Use these pointers:

  • Lumbar pillow too low: forces the hips forward instead of filling the back curve. Ultimately causes lower back pain.
  • Lumbar pillow too high: generates tightness in the lower back and slouching in the upper back.
  • Pillow at perfect height: fills the lower back curve and reflexively straightens the spine.

Lumbar Pillow depth

Like all padded gaming chair parts, lumbar pillows are quite dense when new. As a result, they often don’t compress. That can leave a huge gap between your spine and the backrest.

DXRacer lumbar pillow position
If your lumbar support pillow is too thick, squash it down to make it more flexible.

This works ok at supporting neutral postures, but only at a 6/10 level. You’ll get more comfortable and consistent support with your back flat against the backrest. To achieve this with a cheap lumbar pillow, I used this method:

  1. Remove the lumbar cushion from your gaming chair.
  2. Step repeatedly on the pillow as if you were making wine. Then, stuff it under your mattress for a few hours. That will make it squishier.
  3. Re-attach the lumbar pillow to your gaming chair. It should have become malleable enough to compress. If so, your spine will lay directly against the backrest.

How to adjust a gaming chair lumbar pillow
Squishing down your pillow can ensure proper contact with your chair’s backrest.

This method works well at reducing the gap between your spine and the backrest. It’s fast, easy, and free.

Depth-adjustable internal lumbar

These days, gaming chairs with integrated lumbar support systems are very popular. Instead of a pillow, these have integrated systems with depth control. Turn a knob on the side of the chair to increase or lower support depth.

Internal lumbar support diagram

These systems have advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, having depth control ensures perfect contact between your spine and the backrest — without gaps.

Secretlab TItan internal lumbar support system
Internal lumbar systems allow the spine to rest firmly against the backrest at all times.

On the downside, most integrated systems only let you adjust the depth of support, but not the height. That is problematic if the chair isn’t suited for your size.

Titan lumbar support size limits
Shorter users may not be able to use fixed-height internal lumbar systems. In such cases, use a lumbar pillow instead.

For example, the Secretlab Titan 2020 Series has a minimum size rating of 5’9″(177 cm). Testing it with a 5’4″ user (162 cm), we can see clearly the lumbar sits higher than his lower back curve.

Height-adjustable integrated lumbar systems

As of Q3 2021, only two gaming chairs offer depth and height-adjustable integrated lumbar systems.

DXRacer Master Series

The DXRacer Master Series offers manual height adjustment. To toggle, open up the backrest and loosen four screws.

Lumbar support assembly
DXRacer Master Series lumbar support adjustment process.

The process takes around 5 minutes using a 13″ wrench and an Allen key.

Secretlab Titan 2022 Series

The Secretlab Titan EVO 2022 Series comes in small, medium, and XL sizes. All come packed with high-end features including the best integrated lumbar support on the market.

Titan Evo 2022 Series lumbar support adjustability
The Titan 2022 Series lumbar support offers both depth and height adjustments.

On the right side of each chair is a typical depth adjustment dial. For the 2022 Series, Secretlab has also added a height adjustment knob. Turn the dial on the left side of the chair to set the perfect height for your spine. Learn more in this detailed review:

Secretlab Titan 2022 Series Review

Memory Foam Lumbar Pillow Hack

Proper lumbar support is the most important gaming chair component for healthy sitting. If your chair’s lumbar support isn’t up to par, don’t give up. Instead, upgrade to a memory foam lumbar pillow.

Memory foam lumbar pillow

NASA invented this material in the 1960s as ‘slow spring back foam’. Its low resistance makes it soft and squishy. At the same time, it’s remarkably resilient.

When you apply pressure, it compresses to provide soft, luxurious support. When you remove the pressure, it springs back into its original shape. However, not all memory foam pillows work this way.

Memory foam pillow comparison
Everlasting Comfort (dense) vs Secretlab Omega (malleable) memory foam lumbar pillows.

For example, on Amazon, the Everlasting Comfort Pillow ($32.95) is a popular memory foam pillow for office chairs.

Stiff lumbar support
Stiff memory foam lumbar support feels like bricks against your spine.

Like most Amazon memory foam products I’ve tried, it’s a solid, dense block. Instead of compressing, it leaves a giant gap between your spine and the chair. It works — but replaces your entire backrest with what feels like bricks.

Secretlab Omega Memory Foam Pillow

I’ve been using a Secretlab Omega lumbar pillow with a variety of chairs for several months now. This is by far the best lumbar support pillow I’ve ever tried.

Secretlab Omega lumbar support pillow
Omega memory foam lumbar pillows come in 8 styles and work with all types of gaming chairs.

The pillow is a big rectangular shape with a thick bottom and tapered top. It comes with a removable, machine-washable velour cover. Inside, Secretlab has fine-tuned the foam density to perfection.

How to use a memory foam lumbar pillow
Achieve perfect support with a Secretlab memory foam lumbar pillow.

Tuck your hips deep into your chair’s seat and then cuck the pillow behind you. Raise it a few inches higher than the seat to meet your lower back curve. Then lean back.

The pillow will compress enough to let your spine touch the backrest. At the same time, it will fill your lower back curve with squishy springiness.

Secretlab Omega memory foam pillow
Omega memory foam pillow after nine months of full-time use.

After around nine months of full-time use, mine still looks and works like new. I use it with DXRacer, Anda Seat, Secretlab, and many other chairs. In all of them, the Omega’s pillow performs best.

Secretlab Omega Lumbar Pillow $59

Available from Secretlab in North America, the EU and UK, Oceania, Singapore, and Malaysia.

Office Chair Lumbar Support Types

If you don’t like racing-style gaming chairs, an ergonomic office chair is the best alternative. Within the entire genre, two types of lumbar support systems stand out.

Herman Miller Posturefit

The Herman Miller Aeron chair has reigned as the ergonomic gold standard since 1994. One of its many highlights is the world’s most advanced lumbar support system.

Herman Miller Posturefit
Herman Miller’s PostureFit is the most advanced lumbar support system in the industry.

The Aeron’s PostureFit has two pressure pads that support the lumbar and sacral-pelvic areas. The former maintains a healthy lumbar curve. The latter nudges your pelvis into the right position to prevent slouching.

Herman Miller Aeron Posturefit lumbar support

You can adjust the height of the unit, and also the depth of each pad. Once configured, this support makes it almost impossible to slouch! On the downside, the Aeron costs $1445 from Herman Miller. Even so, it comes with a rock-solid 12-year warranty. Spreading the cost of the Aeron over 12 years makes it a lot more palatable.

Aeron Posturefit lumbar support

If you’re looking for the absolute best desk chair lumbar support, this is it! See below how the Aeron stacks up against other Herman Miller classics:

Review: Top-5 Herman Miller Office Chairs

Height and Depth-Adjustable Lumbar Support

Surprisingly, a lot of cheap ergonomic office chairs come with robust lumbar support systems. Most come with a sliding height-adjustable unit and depth-adjustable pad.

Sihoo ergonomic office chair
The Sihoo chair offers a height and depth-adjustable lumbar and more for under $300.

For example, the Sihoo Ergonomic Chair costs $229.99 on Amazon. It meets ergonomic guidelines with 1D armrests, a reclining backrest, and an adjustable lumbar. You can manually adjust the support up and down while adjusting the depth using a dial on the back of the chair.

Sidiz T50 lumbar support
The T50 chair’s lumbar support is easy to use and effective.

Higher up the pricing scale, chairs in the $300-$600 range offer a similar level of support. For instance, the Sidiz T50 costs $359.00 on Amazon.

Its lumbar works like the Sihoo chair’s, although with a bit more polish. As you slide higher up the pricing scale, the technology remains the same, but with more luxury and attention to detail.

Conclusion

When standing, the normal lumbar lordotic angle (LLA) in men and women is between 20-45 degrees. Unsupported sitting reduces lumbar lordosis by 50%. At the same time, it increases intradiscal pressure at the third lumbar vertebra by 40%.

Lordotic sitting in an ergonomic chair
Mild lordosis helps to support a healthy upright sitting posture.

By combining a mild recline with lumbar support, users can achieve a healthy lumbar curve. Research suggests the ideal as a 110° backrest recline plus lumbar support 4 cm deep. That results in an optimal seated lumbar curve of 47°.

That is slightly more than the optimal standing lumbar curve. Since humans aren’t designed for long periods of sitting, the extra lumbar support helps to compensate.

Gaming chairs improve work performance
Effective back support helps users to feel energetic and alert while sitting.

The bottom line is that lumbar support is essential for anyone who spends long periods sitting. A healthy curve in the lower back keeps the spine straight and in a healthy alignment. Whichever type of chair you use, use the same methods.

Neutral sitting position for health
Adult, child, and standard neutral sitting posture examples.

First, adjust the lumbar support to fit into your lower back curve. Then sit as far back as possible in the chair so that the lumbar support fills your lower back curve. That puts you in the perfect position to deploy a neutral sitting position:

  1. Feet planted on the floor.
  2. Knees bent at around 90° with thighs parallel to the floor.
  3. Back straight.
  4. Elbows bent at 90° with forearms parallel to the floor.