Do you find that after a days work your back aches and your neck and shoulders are stiff and sore? People may tell you that you need an ergonomic or orthopedic office chair to deal with these challenges. What are orthopedic office chairs and how do they differ from their ergonomic counterparts? What is the best office chair for medical conditions like sciatica?
Is there really a difference between an ergonomic and orthopedic office chair? YES!
Unfortunately, many office chair retailers use these terms interchangeably to describe their products, thereby creating confusion among consumers.
In this article, we will define both chair types and highlight their differences. Finally, we will provide guidelines to assist you in selecting the right office chair and deciding which is best for medical conditions like sciatica. The dangers of sitting: why sitting is the new smoking.
1. What is an ergonomic office chair?
An ergonomic chair is designed to optimise support for your body while you sit. The key feature of every good ergonomic chair is that it is highly adjustable. Because your sitting posture constantly changes throughout your working day, a good ergonomic chair needs to accommodate these changes by continually supporting your body. Why a fully adjustable office chair is important.
Good ergonomic chairs can prevent back, neck and shoulder pain caused by incorrect sitting.
To achieve this, they should have the following design features:
Design features of ergonomic office chairs
Office chairs are usually fitted with one of the following types of swivel mechanism:
2. What is an orthopedic office chair?
Orthopedic chairs include all of the above design features of ergonomic office chairs. These chairs will therefore also prevent back, neck and shoulder pain caused by incorrect sitting. How to Protect Your Health in the Age of the Office Chair.
While ergonomic chairs can prevent back ailments, orthopedic chairs alleviate the impact of sitting on existing medical preconditions of the lower back.
a. Free-Float Swivel Mechanism
The free-float mechanism on orthopedic office chairs allow the seat to be adjusted to a forward sloping position. This reduces the disc pressure in the lumbar region of the back. The forward slope, or negative tilt, is typically limited to a maximum of 5 degrees.
By independently controlling the angles between the backrest and the seat, orthopedic chairs may alleviate, and even rehabilitate certain medical preconditions, specifically musculoskeletal issues of the spine. What actually happens when you sit?
Medical professionals often endorse orthopedic office chairs.
Dual density seat foam
The seat foam has a firm inner core (shown in red), surrounded by a softer outer foam layer (shown in yellow). The combination of these two layers improves your posture and reduces backache and muscle fatigue.
3. Ratings for Orthopedic Office Chairs
To assist you in selecting the correct orthopedic office chair, we have developed an Orthopedic Rating system. This rating is based on a 4-point scale where a point is awarded for each attribute.
BASIC. This is the entry-level rating. An orthopedic chair must have a free-float mechanism and dual-density seat foam.
FAIR. An additional point is awarded for a height adjustable armrests.
GOOD. A further point is awarded for multi-adjustable armrests.
EXCELLENT. The final point is for a height adjustable backrest or adjustable lumbar support.
4. Comparing Chair Types
In the table below we compare the important differences between orthopedic and ergonomic office chairs.
|Feature||Orthopedic chair||Ergonomic chair|
|Swivel and Tilt Mechanism||Fully independent free-float mechanism||Typically synchronous or permanent contact|
|Seat Foam||Moulded, Dual Density||Moulded, single density|
|May alleviate certain medical preconditions, specifically musculoskeletal issues of the spine like sciatica||Yes||Less likely|
|Seat angle adjustment||Yes, fully independent seat angle adjustment. Lockable in any position.||For synchronous mechanisms, there is a mechanical link to the movement of the backrest. For permanent contact mechanisms, the seat angle is fixed|
|Negative tilt (forward sloping) seat adjustment||Yes, limited to 5 degrees||No|
|Backrest angle adjustment||Yes, fully independent backrest adjustment. Lockable in any position||Yes. For synchronous mechanisms, there is a mechanical link to the movement of the seat.|
|Backrest height adjustment||Optional||Optional|
|Lumbar support||Yes, integrated with backrest height and angle adjustment||Optional on better ergonomic chairs|
5. Heavy Duty Orthopedic Office Chair
If you have a larger build and need a high-back chair, most standard task chairs will not be suitable for you. Furthermore, if you also have a back-related ailment, not only do you require a heavy duty office chair, but also an orthopedic one that provides the correct support for your back.
6. What is the best office chair for sciatica? Is an orthopedic office chair a good choice?
Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve is pinched. It results in pain in the lower back, back of the thighs, and legs. Typically it only affects one leg.
The best office chairs for sciatica should have a forward tilting seat and excellent lower back support. In others words, an orthopedic office chair is ideal for a medical condition like sciatica.
7. Which chair is best for you?
Before selecting an ergonomic or orthopedic office chair, the first question that needs to be answered is whether or not you have any medical preconditions, specifically musculoskeletal issues of the spine like sciatica. If so, then it is likely that an orthopedic chair will be the better option. If not, then either chair type will be suitable.
Remember: All office chairs are designed for the “average” person, in other words, the majority of people, but not everyone. For example, a short slim person may find that a standard chair is too high and the armrests are too far apart. In such a case, the chair may need a different height adjuster or armrests that have width adjustment.
Ergonomic and orthopedic office chairs are designed for the “average” person.
There is no, and will never be, a one-size-fits-all.
Selecting the right chair must take the following into consideration: