Can An Ergonomic Office Chair Relieve Back Pain?
Back pain is the number one complaint amongst office workers, and the reason for this is almost always related to poor posture. And that is almost always related to a poor chair. Our seating posture is just as important as when we are standing. In fact, we probably need to pay more attention to it.
The human body evolved for us to be stood upright most of the time. Only relatively recently in our evolution did we even invent the chair. But of course, in the modern world of work, standing is not always possible. This means that we spend much our time throughout the day in our office chairs, in a position which isn’t natural for our body. Unsurprisingly, this can create issues.
Most people who work in an office environment will have experienced some level of back pain. And even if for you it’s only a slight niggle, it is still a sign that something is not quite right. If left to develop, these issues can develop into more serious problems which can become chronic. So many wonder what can be done about back pain, understandably.
It may be that the answer is right in front (or underneath) our eyes. Many claim that with ergonomic chairs back pain can be banished, but can it really be that simple? We looked into it.
Can Your Office Chair Make Your Back Hurt?
The short answer is, yes! A badly designed chair or an office chair that is not fit for purpose can do real damage to your back. The body is not designed to be sat down all day, and to do this the muscles in the lower back or lumbar area are placed under strain. This strain is exacerbated by poor posture, and extended periods seated. In the short term this will cause pain and discomfort, but can quickly develop into a more serious problem.
A badly designed office chair will offer little support and encourage poor posture. For most people, this means they sit leaning into their desk with their back unsupported. This compresses the vertebrae and the disks in between them, which can lead to serious back pain, and a whole host of other long term issues.
Whereas, the best office chair will offer lots of support and promote good posture. A well designed chair will work with your body shape to relieve this strain and provide back support. Knowing exactly how chairs support the back is important to make the right choice of office chair.
How Do I Stop My Office Chair From Hurting My Back?
The first and most important thing you can do is to choose the right chair. You need a chair that is designed to fit the natural curve of your spine in a seated position, especially at the base. This is known as lumbar support, and is the most important feature in relieving back pain.
The best office chairs are not designed just for lower back support though. The rest of the backrest is designed to take the strain off of the muscles supporting the whole spine and the neck. This gives all of the muscles across the back support, meaning no one part takes more than it’s fair share of the load.
For example, many people sit forward as this feels more comfortable on the lower back. However, this refers the strain to the upper torso. The same is true in reverse if you slouch in your seat. Choosing a chair that allows you to maintain the correct posture is the best way of preventing back pain.
To find the correct posture for you at your desk, you can follow these simple steps:
- Sit at the end of the chair, and allow yourself to slouch completely.
- Draw yourself up in the chair slowly. Curve of your back as far as is comfortable.
- Release the position slightly, by about 10 degrees.
- Sit up, relaxed, with your back straight. Push your shoulders back a little. Your buttocks should touch the chair rest.
- Bend your knees at a right angle, with your knees slightly higher than your hips. If your feet don't reach the floor, use a footrest or stool for extra support. It should be high enough that you can keep your feet flat on it.
- You need to have your eyes level with the top of your screen (ideally lower), with your arms by your side, bent at right angles so they meet the keyboard.
What Is The Best Type Of Office Chair For Your Back?
Only ergonomic chairs can help you achieve this position, whilst also providing the support your back needs. The most important role the chair plays is in maintaining the right posture, and key to this is flexibility. We come in all different shapes and sizes, so by definition, there is no one size fits all ergonomic chair. For all of us though, the correct posture is very important, as is the position of the chair relative to the desk.
And so the best chairs are the ones that allow the greatest range of adjustments, both in the support they offer, and the position relative to your workstation.
Here are the features to look for in an ergonomic chair:
Adjustable Lumbar Support
As the lumbar area is so prone to strains and aches, this is one feature you can’t go without. Adjustable lumbar support means you can raise or lower this area independent of the back, and find the exact right setting for the curve of your lower back, and make sure you maintain good posture.
As we said before, to avoid back pain every part of your posture is important. Being able to rest your arms at a comfortable position will relieve strain on your entire up body, the back included. If bad posture leads to tightening in the neck and shoulders, this can soon move down into the upper back.
Adjustable Seat Height
As above, maintaining the correct position relative to your desk means you can keep your back straight and supported at all times. So being able to adjust the height of your seat is essential if you are to remain pain free. Nearly every chair offers this function.
Height Adjustable Back Support
Most office chairs will allow to change the height and the tilt of the back support, to fit your individual frame . This is generally not hard to find: it’s the most comfortable upright position.
Not an essential, but a chair with adjustable tilt just allow for that extra bit of adjustment which can make all the difference to your comfort. A chair that tilts with your weight can also help if you move around frequently, preventing you from overreaching or straining the muscles in the lower back.
Believe it or not, where you put your feet is very important in preventing back problems. If you need your chair high in order to maintain the correct position to your desk, and your feet don’t rest flat on the floor, you should be choosing a chair that has an adjustable footrest so you can place some weight on your feet. This helps take the strain off the already overtaxed muscles in the lower back.
What Helps Back Pain From Office Chair?
Back pain in the workplace is normally caused by bad posture, so the best way to help it is to choose a chair that allows you to correct this. They are built with the shape of your spine at the forefront of the designer's mind. More importantly, they allow you to ‘dial in’ your optimum position, which is essential as we are all built differently.