An empirical study of preferred settings for lumbar support on adjustable office chairs

Ergonomics. 1998 Apr;41(4):401-19. doi: 10.1080/001401398186900.


The preferred settings for lumbar support height and depth of 43 male and 80 female office workers were investigated. All subjects were equipped with identical modern office chairs with foam-padded backrests adjustable in both height and depth. Measurements of lumbar support settings were recorded in the workplace, outside of working hours, on four different occasions, over a 5 week period. Preferred lumbar support height and depth settings extended to both extremes of the adjustment range. The mean preferred height setting was 190 mm above the compressed seat surface. The mean depth setting (horizontal distance from front of seat to lumbar support point) was 387 mm. A regression model examining the effects of standing height, Body Mass Index (BMI) and gender on mean preferred lumbar support height showed a significant relationship between preferred height and BMI. Higher lumbar supports were chosen by subjects with greater BMIs. Gender and standing height were not associated with preferred lumbar support height settings. Preferred lumbar support depth was not significantly associated with standing height, gender or BMI. Older subjects were more likely to readjust their lumbar support from a disrupted position than younger subjects, indicating that older users are more sensitive to the position of their lumbar support. Subjects who reported recent back pain or discomfort that they believed to be associated with their chair or office work were found to set their lumbar support significantly closer to the front of the seat, probably to ensure greater support for their back. Based on the evidence that a high proportion of users do make adjustments to the height and depth of their lumbar support, and the finding that different groups of users, with different physical characteristics, adjust the position of their lumbar support in distinct and predictable ways, the researchers conclude that office chairs with traditional padded fixed-height lumbar supports are unlikely to provide a comfortable or appropriate seat for the wide range of potential users.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Body Height
  • Body Weight
  • Equipment Design
  • Ergonomics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interior Design and Furnishings*
  • Low Back Pain / etiology
  • Low Back Pain / prevention & control*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / physiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Workplace*