Whatever your position is, if you work in an office, you are likely sitting in an office chair. While you probably don’t give your office chair much thought, it’s your first defense against back problems that come from poor ergonomics. The key is having the right chair for you and knowing what to look for.
The first question many people have is which office chair is the best choice. The answer is simple: there is no answer. There isn’t one solution that fits all. Instead, the important thing to know is your body and which features to keep in mind.
Traditional Office Chairs
When you think of an office chair, the first thing that comes to mind is likely the traditional office chair. They all have the same basic features: a back rest, often armrests, and they usually swivel. But there’s more to the traditional office chair than that! Here are some important features to keep in mind when choosing a traditional office chair.
Your seat height is the first part of your office chair to pay attention to. You should opt for a chair that has adjustable seat height and aim for sitting about 16 to 21 inches off the floor. This should allow for your feet to stay flat on the ground, your thighs to be horizontal, and your arms to be at the same height as your desk.
Seat Width & Depth
Not only do you need to pay attention to seat height, your seat’s width and depth are also important. Most office chairs should fall between 17 and 20 inches wide and be deep enough for your back to be against the chair while still allowing for about 2 to 4 inches between your knees and the chair.
This is one of the most well-known ergonomic features of office chairs. It’s the support that helps your lumbar spine stay in a natural position rather than letting you slouch. Make sure you pick an office chair that has an adjustable lumbar support. This will help you fit the chair to exactly where you need it for your spine.
More than just for taking a relaxing lean back in your chair, the backrest plays an important part in the ergonomics of a traditional office chair. You want this piece to work in tandem with the lumbar support to properly fit against the curve of your spine. This should be between 12 and 19 inches wide and be adjustable in both height and angle, especially if it’s not connected to the seat of the chair.
You can’t forget the materials your seat is made of. The right material should be breathable and comfortable, like a soft fabric. While a harder material, like plastic or leather, looks nice, it won’t allow for breathability nearly as well. You should also choose a chair with an appropriate level of cushion to keep you comfortable for the long hours at your desk.
If you want an office chair that has armrests, it’s time to pay special attention. The number one rule of armrests is adjustability. Make sure they are adjustable, just like the height of your chair, to make sure the proper alignment is achieved. You are trying to keep your arms at the same height as the desk so your shoulders can relax and your forearm stays off the armrest.
If you decide you want your office chair to swivel, make sure it’s easy to swivel. You can cause some serious discomfort with a hard-to-swivel chair. Test out a chair and see how much strain it causes to turn around.
For some, a traditional office chair may not be the best option. Various health conditions and preferences have culminated in various other alternative office chair options, like the following.
Kneeling Ergonomic Chair
This alternative to the traditional office chair looks like it sounds: it keeps you kneeling. Essentially, the contraption places you in a natural kneeling position and doesn’t have a back rest, rather you have a rest in front of you. This encourages a naturally good posture by sliding the hips forward and aligns the back, shoulders, and neck. This keeps your weight distributed between your pelvis and knees. This will ultimately reduce the compression on your spine and the stress and tension in your lower back and leg muscles.
Saddle Ergonomic Chair
Another chair that looks like it sounds, the saddle ergonomic chair is shaped like a horse’s saddle, keeping you between sitting and standing. This allows your legs to drop naturally and widen, creating a healthy, stable position. If you have lower back problems, this might be the office chair you’ve been searching for. Long-term use of this style of chair can actually improve and strengthen your back muscles. You’ll also experience fewer circulation problems and less slouching.
Exercise Ball Ergonomic Chair
With this alternative office chair, you are positioned on a stabilized exercise ball, keeping you in a constant state of motion and encouraging more active sitting. The slight bounce isn’t just fun, it can be great for stimulating your circulation and leg movement. This will keep your muscles busy and reduce your fatigue and the stress on your muscles and joints. It will also automatically improve your posture as you balance on the ball.
Sadly, some people are afflicted with more serious back issues, like lumbar spinal stenosis or degenerative disc disease. For these people, a recliner chair may be the answer. It keeps the users in a reclined position that is often more comfortable when dealing with these kinds of back issues. Small tables can be attached and swiveled over the seat to allow someone to work very efficiently, all while staying in the best ergonomic position possible.
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all office chair. The key to picking the right office chair is knowing your own body, your back, your health, and the key features that you definitely want in your chair. If you can’t seem to find a traditional chair that you like, consider some of the alternative options! While they might take some getting used to, they can be extremely effective ergonomic solutions. Whatever your decision, the right chair will keep you and your back happy.