Most of our jobs and lifestyles require sitting for multiple hours a day the majority of the work week. You could be sitting in your office chair tasking, sitting during a meeting, sitting waiting to be seen, or sitting in your car driving to and from work. For some of us we actually spend more time sitting down throughout the day than we do sleeping at night! Sitting for extended periods of time can take a toll on your body, especially if you are not sitting with proper posture. Bad posture can lead to unnecessary aches and pains or may eventually lead to ailments much more serious such as experiencing chronic back pain every time you sit. There are a few principles that everyone should take into consideration when fitting yourself to an office chair that can help you reduce and avoid pain, strain, and fatigue while sitting.
- Angles: Angles are a key factor that can help contribute to your overall comfort while sitting. Make sure that your chair allows for you to sit at a 90° angle in the following places: your knees, hips, and elbows. Angles at less than 90° have the detrimental effect of impeding circulation. In static seated situations, this can result in premature fatigue and discomfort. In general more “open” postures and chairs that support you in “open” postures, will allow you to sit more comfortably for longer periods of time. Before purchasing an office chair, make certain you know the exact seat height measurements to ensure the chair is going to work for you. If you are a shorter or taller individual you may need a specialized chair cylinder that allows the chair to be raised higher or shorter than an average cylinder would. Your armrests should also allow for height adjustability to make certain you are typing with your arms at a 90° angle.
- Lumbar Curves and Support: Stand flat against a wall with your heels and shoulder blades touching the wall. Now place your hand behind your lower back, does it fit? If you cannot fit your hand behind you and have very little space between the wall and your lower back, you have a flat back and probably need a chair with very little lumbar support. If you can fit a flat hand behind you, you have a medium curve and need a medium level of lumbar support; at the very least you will need a chair with an “S” shaped back to give you some level of support. If you can fit a balled up fist behind your back, you have a deep curve, and need a higher level of lumbar support. This will require a chair with an “S” shaped back as well as some additional lumbar support such as a chair that can offer air lumbar support or self-adjusting lumbar support.
- Seat Height and Depth: Measure the depth of your seat. Be sure you have two to three inches between the edge of the chair and the back of your calf. Adequate seat depth distributes your weight evenly over the longest possible surface area. Inadequate surface area can impede circulation, cause numbness and result in difficulty when sitting for longer periods. If your seat depth is too long for your body you may find yourself having to lean forward to type, not allowing you utilize your back rest and receive proper back support. A seat slider can help remedy this problem which is a seat depth adjustment that permits the user to pull the chair out making it longer if they are taller or push the seat in if they are smaller. Proper seat height encourages you to sit back in your chair, resulting in correct body position with respect to the rest of your workstation.
- Motion: Critical to pain-free sitting is a chair that allows you to stay in motion. The more you move, the more you encourage blood flow, and the less stiff you become. Properly adjust the chair’s tension control to achieve your desired level of motion. Rule of thumb: static positions in and of themselves are a source of pain and fatigue. If your job requires you to sit often and for extended periods of time be certain to have a chair with tilt tension and tilt lock control which will allow you to lean back in your chair when a stretch break is needed.