How a Chair Can Save Your Spine

In a 21st century office, work typically involves a lot of sitting in an office chair (usually in front of a computer).

Did you know that sitting actually puts more stress on your spine than standing?

To avoid developing lower back problems, it's critical to use an office chair that's ergonomically designed. What does ergonomics mean? It is the applied science of equipment design (in the workplace) intended to maximize productivity by reducing an individual's fatigue and discomfort. An ergonomic chair, for example, is one that supports your lower back and helps maintain good posture. 

The big question is - How do we identify the ideal ergonomic office chair?

All ergonomic chairs are not built the same. Since every individual is built differently, it is best to look for a chair that can be easily adjusted in terms of chair height, armrest height and back inclination. There are many types of office chairs and no single chair is the best, but a few simple tips can save your joints a lot of discomfort. You are about to avoid the biggest mistakes most individuals make with chair selection. If you have any doubts, always speak with your physical therapist to help you find the right chair for your specific needs.

Five key factors to consider while choosing an ergonomic chair:

• Seat height. This should be adjustable. Depending on your height, this should be between 16 to 21 inches from the floor. When sitting, your feet should be flat on the floor and your thighs horizontal (or parallel) to the floor.

• Seat width and depth. Standard seat width is 17-20 inches. The depth (from the front to the back of the seat) needs to be enough so that you can sit with your back against the backrest with about 2-4 inches between the back of the knees and the seat of the chair. The forward or backward tilt of the seat should be adjustable because the right inclination can significantly reduce the strain on your lower back (call us to learn more)

• Backrest. The ideal backrest should be 12 to 19 inches wide. It should be able to support the natural curve of the spine. The more we sit, the more we tend to slouch. Therefore, proper lumbar support provided by your chair’s backrest is very important to help support your spine. 

• Armrests. Office chair armrests should be adjustable. They should allow your arms to rest comfortably and shoulders to be relaxed. The elbows and lower arms should rest lightly, which means the armrests should neither be too high nor too low.

• Swivel. This allows you to easily rotate to reach different areas of your desk without straining your spine.

Picking the right office chair can help you avoid the agony of low back pain or neck pain associated with full-time desk jobs. Too much time at the computer or several hours a day on the phone can also put your spine at risk.

Here are some quick tips to help protect your spine while sitting on a chair:

• The backrest should support the curve of your spine and provide good lumbar support.

• The seat should be comfortable and allow your feet to rest flat on the floor or footrest.

• The armrests of your chair should be soft, allow your shoulders to relax and your elbows to stay close to your body.

• The chair should have a five-leg base with casters that allow easy movement along the floor.

Remember to take breaks when sitting for long periods at at time. Follow the 50-10 rule. For every 50 minutes of sitting at your desk, take a 10-minute break. Activities that involve standing or walking are always a good idea. Also, be sure to include some stretching exercises for your muscles. To determine the best stretches for you, talk to one of our physical therapists.  

If you experience any discomfort from your current chair, take precautions to prevent serious injury. The following warning signs often result from extensive computer use or prolonged sitting at your desk and should never be ignored:

• Numbness, tingling or weakness in the arm, hands or wrist 

• Shoulder pain

• Neck pain

• Headaches

• Low back pain

• Numbness, tingling or weakness in your legs

If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, talk to your doctor. As they say, prevention is better than cure and that's where we come in. Contact us today to learn about the most ergonomically designed seating options and protect your spine. We are here to help you determine the best seating options. The right chair can indeed save your spine.