When analyzing the importance of lumbar support, we must first explain the importance of adopting the correct sitting position, an often overlooked but common contributing factor to back problems. Sitting right is simple 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 the correct sitting posture together, not individually, give you good ergonomic comfort.
To illustrate, we point to 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%. Just don't say we told you when the boss asks why you're reclining all day.)
What is the difference between passive and active lumbar support?
Simply put, 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.
Is one better than the other?
Not necessarily. Passive lumbar can achieve the same amount of support as fully active lumbar 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 would take the cake. Having both of them would be the frosting that everyone takes a finger taste out of before the cake is cut.
Adjustability is important when talking about lumbar, speaking in terms of an active support. While adjustability up and down is crucial because you can fit it to where your lumbar is, adjustability in and out is just as important, in that it regulates the pressure applied to your lumbar; the support strength, if you will. As well, four-way adjustability allows for the user to customize their office chair's lumbar support to their personal need. Usually, four-way lumbar is a premium feature, but not one that should be overlooked.
Adjustability 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.