We all know that most mid-range to high end office chairs available nowadays are labelled as ‘ergonomic’, but do you really know what you should be looking for when choosing a chair?
On average, you’ll be spending at least 5 hours a day (so 1200 a year) in your chair, so it’s important that it is calibrated to meet your exact requirements. The condition of your spine is of great importance, young people are growing up nowadays hunched over laptops and aren’t concerned with their posture. It is necessary to instil the importance of ergonomics now, in order to prevent a lifetime of back problems.
It’s essential to avoid a chair with a flat back, your spine needs to rest against something that follows the natural curvature of the spine. By using a chair with lumbar support (or even adding a lumbar cushion to a chair) it will prevent the back from straightening too much which would put unnecessary stress on the muscles around the spine, especially around the lower back area. Adjusting the angle of the backrest of your chair will also help the upper back- make your chair adjust to your posture rather than adjusting your posture to your chair. Contrary to the popular misconception, the best angle to position your chair is not 90o, but actually 135o! Although this may prove difficult in certain chairs so as long as your feet remain flat on the floor with your legs forming a right angle, then at least 100o+ is preferable.
Armrests are also a vital part of a chair, in order to provide support to your arms and shoulders- keep your elbows bent to form a right angle. Don’t crane your neck forward to look at a screen – either increase the font size or get an eye test! – the same applies to holding the phone between your face and shoulder whilst using the keyboard, these things would strain the vertebrae at the very top of your spine which when damaged could permanently affect your balance.
The actual seat of the chair is also an important consideration to make. First of all, it should be constructed of a comfortable material, providing padding where necessary. The height should be around 25 to 30cm below the surface you’re working at, any higher or lower and you won’t be able to position your lower body into the ideal posture- which would put a great amount of strain on your glutes. There should be around a 5cm gap between the seat and the back of your legs, the same between the seat and the back of the chair also.
Whilst using your chair, you will need to make adjustments for different tasks. Ensure that whatever work you’re doing that you adapt your chair to suit your needs to allow your body to be fully supported, your line of sight to be perfectly aligned, and to allow you to reach anything you may require. When it comes to ergonomic chairs, one size does not fit all, and it’s important to make adjustments in order to make the most from your chair.