Ouch! My back hurts.
Does that sound like you?
Sitting in front of your computer working all day long can take a toll on your back. Not only that, prolonged sitting particularly on a wrong chair can lead to wrist damage, elbow pain, neck and shoulder problems. The list goes on and on.
But if you can be a little more cautious and opt for a chair that is ergonomically designed then you can avoid most of the complications caused due to bad posture induced by an ill fitting chair. Before choosing the right office chair, let me show you the right sitting posture.
What’s an ideal sitting posture?
Rule of thumb is to complement your natural body shape and posture when you sit to work i.e. sit tall, back straight, thighs parallel to the ground, neck and shoulders relaxed, arms rested, head up and straight. The same can be achieved by following these guidelines:
- Sit straight without slouching such that your natural lumbar curve is not affected with the help of lumbar support.
- Let there be a few inches gap between your back of the knee and the end of the chair which helps you to sit comfortably while your back is rested on the back of the chair for support. Also maintain some gap between your thighs and the desk.
- Position the screen such that it’s top edge is in level with your eye and tilted at an angle between 85 and 125 degrees. This will allow you to keep your head straight and reduces the strain on your neck preventing you from developing kyphotic spine.
- Let your upper arms be relaxed and your forearms rested horizontally on the armrest as you type keeping your shoulder straight. Also keep your wrists rested and relaxed at all the times. This can be achieved by adjusting the height of the chair to suit your height as well as the height of the desk.
- Keep your feet flat on the floor. But if the height of the chair and desk are well aligned but not your feet then you can alternatively use a footstool to achieve the ideal position.
Courtsey: National Vet Content, Australia
Here are a few things you need to keep in mind while choosing an office chair:
1. Lumbar support adjustment
An ergonomic chair with lower back support must fit your natural spinal shape i.e. inward curve of lower spine which otherwise leads to slouching and flattening of the your curve. The chair should have a lumbar support that can be adjustable both in height and in depth to suit your requirements. A fixed lumbar depth is good enough if the chair is used by a single person and it fits the user.
2. Seat height adjustment
An ideal ergonomic chair comes with pneumatic adjustment lever for easy seat height adjustments. The seated height ranges from 15’’ to 22’’ and is suitable for users who are 5’0-6’4” tall. This makes sure your feet are flat on the floor with arms aligned with the height of the desk and the thighs parallel to the floor.
3. Backrest adjustment
Ergonomic chairs come with varieties of backrest. If you are looking for chairs with separate backrest then try to find the one with adjustable height and angle. You can also look for chairs that come with seat and backrest together. In such case the backrest must be reclinable along with a lock to secure the desired angle. Some chairs come with backrest that are in the shape of spinal curve which supports your lower back were-in no extra lumbar support is required.
Headrest is one of the important parts of the chair that needs to be considered but it is more often overlooked. It is required to support your head and neck when you’re sitting in reclined position and allows you to rest occasionally. This is especially important if the you suffer from any neck issues as it reduces the strain on the neck.
Go for a chair that has height adjustable armrests so that it suits the needs of different users (just in-case). Another advantage is that, you can get rid of armrests completely when not in use without any interference with your elbow movement. Good armrests will allow your elbow and shoulders to be aligned thereby reducing the stress on the shoulders. Depending on your requirements you can also go for chairs with pivoting armrests to better position your arms while typing and as your task changes.
6. Seat Pan
The width of the seat should be 1 inch wider than your hips and not more so that you don’t have to stretch your arms to rest on armrests. The standard size is 17-20 inches wide for the seat. The depth of the chair from the front end to the back end should be just enough so that the you can sit with your back rested against the lumbar support. Also there must be a gap of 2 to 4 inches between the seat and back of the knees. You can ideally find a seat depth adjustable chair which can be done either by sliding the seat back and front or by moving the back of the chair in and out.
Good seating not only promotes good posture but also helps improve your productivity by keeping away unnecessary stress on your back, neck and shoulder which otherwise can become hinderance to your wellbeing as well as your work routine. With little care and awareness about the ergonomics and available options, you can take your career to whole new level without saying ouch again.