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In previous posts we talked about the benefits of moving away from a traditional seated workstation using sit-stand desks or desk raisers. However, this isn’t feasible for everyone, so today we will talk about how to select a more back-friendly chair and how best to modify it for a healthier spine.
Chair set up
A good office chair should:
- Support an upright posture
- Be adjustable
1) Support an upright posture
An upright posture is important to minimise load on the muscles and joints during sitting. We therefore want a chair that supports an upright posture and doesn’t encourage you to slump. So when looking for a chair opt for one:
- Of a suitable size for your body dimensions. The length of the seat pan is particularly important. If you are of a smaller stature, the seat pan will often be longer than your thighs. For your knees to bend comfortably over the front of the seat this means that your hips have to move forward away from the back of the chair, which reduces the support for the lower back.
- With a suitable lumbar support. A lumbar support is important as it helps to maintain the natural curve of the lumbar spine which reduces the load on the spinal discs and the lessens the stress on the muscles and joints. Learn more about lumbar supports here.
2) Be adjustable
Although sitting upright is better than sitting slumped, there is no single “perfect” sitting posture. Sitting rigidly with “good” posture will still lead to problems over time so it’s therefore important to stay as mobile as possible. With this in mind, along with taking regular breaks, ensure you also regularly adjust the position of the chair to help vary the load on the spine.
If buying a new chair, look for a chair with the following adjustable elements:
- Seat back (able to recline 95 to 105 degrees).
- Seat pan (tiltable)
- Seat (height adjustable) – so that feet can reach the floor with knees no higher than hips.
- Arm rests – to properly support elbows.
Another way to encourage move movement when sitting is to use a balance cushion on the chair’s seat pan. Using a balance cushion in this way creates some instability that encourages a more ‘active’ sitting posture. This helps to offset the negative effects of sitting including less pain and stiffness.
- Your guide to sit-stand desks
- Ergonomic office tips
- Using a Lumbar Roll to Prevent and Relieve Low Back Pain when Sitting
This page was written by Steffen Toates. Steffen is a chiropractor at Dynamic Health Chiropractic in Jersey, Channel Islands. For more information about Steffen click here.