Office Chair Ergonomics Video
Sitting in an office chair for prolonged periods of time can definitely cause low back pain or worsen an existing back problem. The main reason behind this is that sitting, in an office chair or in general, is a static posture that increases stress in the back, shoulders, arms, and legs, and in particular, can add large amounts of pressure to the back muscles and spinal discs.
When sitting in an office chair for a long period, the natural tendency for most people is to slouch over or slouch down in the chair, and this posture can overstretch the spinal ligaments and strain the discs and surrounding structures in the spine. Over time, incorrect sitting posture can damage spinal structures and contribute to or worsen back pain.
Guidelines for Office Chair Setup
An ergonomic office chair is a tool that, when used properly, can help one maximize back support and maintain good posture while sitting. However, simply owning an ergonomic office chair is not enough - it is also necessary to adjust the office chair to the proportions of the individual's body to improve comfort and reduce aggravation to the spine.
The first step in setting up an office chair is to establish the desired height of the individual’s desk or workstation. This decision is determined primarily by the type of work to be done and by the height of the person using the office chair. The height of the desk or workstation itself can vary greatly and will require different positioning of the office chair, or a different type of ergonomic chair altogether.
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Once the workstation has been situated, then the user can adjust the office chair according to his or her physical proportions. Here are the most important guidelines - distilled into a quick checklist - to help make sure that the office chair and work area are as comfortable as possible and will cause the least amount of stress to the spine:
Article continues belowFirst, begin by sitting comfortably as close as possible to your desk so that your upper arms are parallel to your spine. Rest your hands on your work surface (e.g. desktop, computer keyboard). If your elbows are not at a 90-degree angle, adjust your office chair height either up or down.
(such as a lumbar support cushion, a pillow or rolled up towel), or get a new office chair.
- See Office Chair Back Support
Adjust the armrest of the office chair so that it just slightly lifts your arms at the shoulders. Use of an armrest on your office chair is important to take some of the strain off your upper spine and shoulders, and it should make you less likely to slouch forward in your chair.
Stay Active To Reduce Back Pain in the Office
No matter how comfortable one is in an office chair, prolonged static posture is not good for the back and is a common contributor to back problems and muscle strain .
To avoid keeping the back in one position for a long period, remember to stand, stretch and walk for at least a minute or two every half hour. Even a quick stretch or some minimal movement – such as walking to the water cooler or bathroom - will help.
A twenty minute walk will help even more, promoting healthy blood flow that brings important nutrients to all the spinal structures.
In general, moving about and stretching on a regular basis throughout the day will help keep the joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons loose, which in turn promotes an overall feeling of comfort, relaxation, and ability to focus productively.
Alternatives to Traditional Office Chairs
While this article is about traditional office chairs, some people prefer more active, ergonomic chairs, such as a Swedish kneeling chair or a Swiss exercise ball.
While a traditional office chair is designed to provide complete support, these alternatives help promote good posture without a back support. They also require more active use of one's muscles (e.g. for balance and to sit upright). If you have an injured back or other health problems, it is advisable to first talk with your doctor prior to using one of these types of chairs.
There is no single type of office chair that is optimal for all patients, and people should determine their individual preference for comfort while following the guidelines explained in this article to promote good posture and back support while sitting in an office chair.