Choosing and Using an Ergonomic Chair


If you work from home or have a small office, you probably don’t have someone on staff to make sure your work space is ergonomically correct. But you can do it yourself. A little bit of attention to the relationship between your body and your desk can make a huge difference.

I don’t know about you, but I can tell when I’m stressed at work. My shoulders tighten to the point of severe pain and I start complaining about needing a massage. Some people prefer to visit a chiropractor for an adjustment when they feel that their body isn’t quite right.


You’ve probably heard the term “ergonomically correct” — but what does it really mean? Ergonomics is all about the fit between people and the things they do and use and the environment they work in play in. If the fit is good, then the stress on our bodies is reduced, making us more comfortable and able to do our tasks more quickly and easily.

At your workspace everything from the way you sit in your chair to the height of your computer screen can affect your ergonomics. Every inch counts — especially if you sit at your desk looking at your computer for hours. In fact, people who spend hours at the computer can suffer from repetitive stress injuries (RSIs), which are conditions caused by placing too much stress on a joint which pulls on the tendons and muscles around that joint. When the stress occurs over and over, the body doesn’t have time to recover. Here are some conditions listed on heathfinder.gov that result from RSIs:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This isswelling that occurs inside a narrow “tunnel” formed by bone and ligament in the wrist.
  • Cervical radiculopathy: Disk compression in the neck, often caused by repetitive cradling of a phone on the shoulder.
  • Tendonitis: The tearing and inflamation of tendons connecting bones to muscles.

These annoying side effects of not being ergonomically correct are painful and often times hard to cure. So before you fall prey to a painful RSI, set yourself up at your desk.

Your Chair

Your best bet is to get yourself an ergonomic chair with lumbar support. Here are some choices:

If money is no object

Herman Miller Mirra. This is an updated (and cheaper) version of the Aeron. The Mirra comes in two models and is made out of mesh, which will keep you cool and comfortable.
Liberty Conference Task Chair. This ergonomic office chair is also made with mesh, which makes it very lightweight. People who like to recline in their chairs will like the fact that the more you recline in this chair, the more your weight gets transferred from your spine to the back cushion.

On a budget

Let’s B, by Turnstone. This is a good looking office chair. Those of you who aren’t into mesh and prefer a hard back will love this chair. As a bonus, it comes in a variety of colors.
Ergo Mesh Medium Back Task Chair. The ideal choice in terms of value for the money. While the quality isn’t as great as a high-priced chair, this puppy has multiple adjustments for a customized fit.

Your Positioning

Now that you’ve got your new ergonomic desk chair, lets take a look at how you’re positioned.

Make sure your hips are positioned as far back as they can go in your chair and that the seat height is adjusted so your feet are flat on the floor. If your chair has armrests, make sure they aren’t in the way — relaxed shoulders are your goal here. If your armrests are in the way you can probably remove them. This is the proper way to sit at your desk. Admittedly, most of us don’t sit this way. But if your body is starting to feel uncomfortable, now you know why.

To avoid overreaching and stress on your body, position your keyboard closer to and directly in front of your body. If you sit in a forward or upright position, tilt your keyboard away from you. If you prefer a more reclined seating position, tilt your keyboard towards you. The key here is to maintain a straight wrist position. The keyboard itself should be adjusted so that your shoulders are relaxed, your elbows are in a slightly open position and your wrists and hands are straight.

Your computer monitor should be directly in front of you above your keyboard at about two to three inches above your seated eye level. You don’t want to sit closer than an arm’s length to the screen. You should also try to reduce glare by placing your screen at right angles to your windows or getting a filter to put over your screen.

Before you continue shelling out hundreds of dollars and becoming a “BFF” with your massage therapist or chiropractor, try these tips at your office and see how you feel. After all, it can’t hurt any more than it already does.

 


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Melanie Brooks has written for newspapers, magazines, blogs, and websites from Maine to New Jersey. She currently works as an editor for Bangor Metro and Maine Ahead magazines.

Discussion

  1. Stephen Houston on the 26th November

    I’d also like to add the IKEA MARKUS chair. Good value at £115 and really comfortable. I have a long back, and this has helped no end with my lower back pain.

    http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/catalog/products/20103101

    Also worth considering if you have back pain is to use a standing desk instead.

  2. Bryce Howitson on the 29th November

    There’s another player from Steelcase that should join that list as well. I like mine at home as much if not more than the Aeron at the office since the seat slides forward/back as you lean. Obviously these aren’t in the cheap camp, but I personally can’t put a price on my health.

    Info on the Leap

  3. dcm on the 29th November

    Great suggestions. I would like to add that office furniture is built to last, and hold up to more of a beating than home furnishings. Unfortunately the price is reflective of that fact. However since it is built to higher standards, it often gets discarded or replaced before there is any real reduction in functionality. Sometimes getting rid of furniture is a fashion decision, and sometimes it’s that weird end-of-fiscal year spending spree that some companies and government departments go on in order to keep their funding. Always check local yellow pages for used office furniture. It’s possible to get some really fantastic deals on some otherwise out of reach furniture. I recently purchased two Steelcase Criterion chairs for $150.00 total. One had a little tear in the fabric, but the reality is I have the quality of a $600.00 for a mere fraction of the original cost.

  4. Jay Hughes on the 30th November

    Hah. This post came just in time, seeing that my not-quite-three-month-old desk chair’s hydraulics started slowly lowering me to the floor every 10 minutes this week. Bummer. Lol.

  5. Office Chairs on the 12th November

    Benching systems are starting to gain traction and are becoming more and more popular with both end-users and designers in office environments where collaboration is highly valued. 2. Focus on the seating. Comfortable and rested workers are productive and creative workers. Proper ergonomics and a chair that provides flexibility, comfort, and support.

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