No single type of office chair is ‘the best’, but there are certain things you should always look for in a chair designed to help with back pain. These things will allow the individual user to make the chair work well for his or her specific needs.
1. The ability to vary your postures:
It is not just about the basics of seat height, lumbar support and backrest height – it should be about MOVEMENT! Movement creates blood flow, which is good for your spine, good for your brain, and your overall well-being. Of course, not everyone can cope with a chair that moves and most chairs will have a locking mechanism if required.
2. You need to be able to adjust the seat height to get your shoulders relaxed:
DON’T just adjust your seat height so that your feet are on the floor. Work from the shoulders down! make sure you can type, or use the mouse, without having to raise or hunch your shoulders. This will cause neck and shoulder pain and encourage you to lean forwards in you chair. Once you have set the height of your office chair to suit your upper back posture, you will then know whether or not you would need a footrest. Of course, if you are using a height adjustable desk that will go low enough, you will never have to worry about a footrest!
3. Is the seat too long or too short?
You should never sit in a ‘standard’ office chair that is too long or too short. We aim for a gap of approximately 4-5cm between the back of the knee and the front edge of the seat. This will give enough seat to distribute the weight effectively across the thighs, without putting pressure onto the backs of the calves.
4. Does the seat tilt?
In an ideal world you would have the ability to change the tilt of the seat, allowing you to vary your postures during the day and achieve the most comfortable posture for you and the tasks that you are performing. Being able to tilt the seat forward is often prescribed by physiotherapists and occupational health professionals as the best way to keep the knees lower than the hips and therefore help maintain a natural curve to the lumbar spine. However, we always suggest that the user recline slightly into the chair to relax the back muscles, and if this is achieved you may not necessarily need the knee joint lower than the hips – they could be at the same height. This is very much dependent on the individual!
5. Is your lower back supported properly?
Lower back ‘support’ in an ergonomic chair is very important, but support can come in many forms! The lumbar spine has an inward curve, and sitting for long periods without support tends to lead to slouching (which flattens the natural curve) and places strain into the lower spine. An ergonomic chair with a backrest should provide support wherever it is needed most, but this could be lower down in the sacral/pelvic area. Whatever you choose, make sure that the curves of the backrest suit the curves of your body – or at least can be adjusted to suit!
6. Is your backrest adjustable?
A backrest should fit the contours of your back. It should be adjustable in both height and preferably in angle – although this is not always essential if the chair has a good movement in the mechanism.
7. Do you need armrests, and if so are they adjustable ?
The first question to ask yourself is whether you need armrests at all! I know many people like them so that they can rest their arms in between typing, however they can often prevent you from getting close enough to your desk, and if you can get support from the desk by tucking yourself into the desk instead – great! Good armrests, if required, should be height and width adjustable, and should never interfere with the edge of your desk.
8. Does your chair swivel round easily?
Any ‘conventional’ style or ergonomic chair should easily rotate so the user can reach different areas of his or her desk without straining.
9. Do you have the right type of castors?
If your are working in a carpeted area, you will need carpet castors, to allow you to move around more easily. However, for hard floor areas such as wood or even hard carpet tiles etc, you will need hard floor castors – slightly more frictioned and will mean that you won’t scoot around too easily!
Orthopedic chairs are by their nature very individual, and as such we feel that it is essential that the proper advice is provided. Please feel free to complete our brief online assessment form and we will help in any way we can. Click here to go to the relevant page