VR Sitting Ergonomics

Virtual reality has wonderful seated experiences. Sitting the wrong way can negatively affect the experience. Try these top tips to ensure you get the outcomes you deserve.

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by Scott Johannes, Doctor of Physical Therapy, Health Content Writer

Why read this?

Community members that have used this information have reported experiencing:

  • Improved overall comfort during play
  • Less pain while playing (hips, back, shoulders, neck)
  • Improved energy, allowing longer play sessions
  • Faster turning reactions
  • More fun playing
  • Improved game performance / in-game scoring
Person sitting in incorrect, slouched posture, and a person sitting in correct, neutral spine posture
Person sitting in incorrect, slouched posture, and a person sitting in correct, neutral spine posture

1. Minimize neck bend

VR games and experiences may have you looking down, up or in different directions when sitting. When sitting and enjoying content that doesn’t require movement, it is important to keep the neck straight (neutral). This means not having the neck constantly bent up or down, left or right, as well as not forward (no turtle neck.)

Community members have reported finding success by:

  • When watching videos, see if the VR screen can be moved to eye level
  • When watching content that is higher up, recline back in a recliner or reclining chair with the head supported at the right angle so the neck is neutral

For games that require looking down for long periods of time (like tabletop VR games), community members have reported finding success by:

  • Placing a small table in front of their chair, leaning forward on it with their forearms during play. This allows looking down with the neck still straight. Make sure your lower back isn’t slouching.
  • Buying chairs that place the body in supported forward leaning positions, such as a massage chair
  • Taking more frequent rest breaks

2. No lower back slouching

Seated VR often causes the body to rest in positions with a rounded “slouched” back, which can cause pain and discomfort. You can sit up straight to correct it, but once you stop paying attention to your posture the body may go right back to the incorrect posture. It is important to setup the seat to hold the body in the correct posture (neutral spine) during play.

Community members have reported finding success by:

  • Sitting in a chair with a firm backrest (like a kitchen chair or office chair) instead of a couch.
  • Placing a pillow, rolled up towel, or lumbar support roll behind their lower back. This helps hold the lower spine in neutral, and it can also help keep the upper spine and neck in better alignment during play too.
  • Sitting on a pillow, rolled up towel, or lumbar support roll underneath the back of their butt (not the thighs, just the back of the butt). A wedge pillow or wedge cushion can also be used. An office chair that has an adjustable seat tilt with the seat tilted slight forward can also be used. This causes the pelvis to be rolled slightly forward, helping to prevent the lower back from slouching.

3. Swivel chair

Couches or normal chairs don’t like to turn, causing the body to have to twist the spine when looking around in VR. This can cause higher risk of injury from hitting couch or chair armrests with the hands during play, as well as when twisting and bending the spine when turning. A swivel chair (like an office chair) allows easier turning, reducing spine twisting and helping to maintain proper posture. Easier turning can also provide faster turning reactions for gaming as well.

4. Balance the headset weight

Headsets come in all different shapes, sizes and weights. Over time, headsets will get lighter as technology progresses, which is good for health. Headset weight distribution is important too. Put on your headset, and tighten it to the best fit you can. Does it feel front-heavy to you? It shouldn’t. The weight of the headset should feel centered front-to-back on your head when tightened.

Some seated VR games such as tabletop strategy games involve a lot of looking down at the play area. This can increase risk of pain and strain on the neck, making balancing the weight of the headset even more important.

Community members have reported finding success by:

  • Buying aftermarket headset straps that better distribute the weight
  • Buying aftermarket headset batteries and strapping them to the back of the headset
  • Attaching other weighted objects to the back of the headset

Summary

Playing with the proper ergonomics when you sit can keep you more comfortable and help with gaming performance.

Try some of these tips next time you reach for the headset.

Free printable

Print and hang up this FREE printable in your VR play area as a reminder of what you learned here.

Printable: VR Sitting Ergonomics

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