If you regularly work at a desk it is important that your office chair is correctly adjusted. As medical professionals will tell you, many people develop serious back, shoulder and neck problems because they do not have a good sitting posture. Most office chairs have a number of levers and knobs that allow you to change the settings of the chair. What do they all do? What is the right way to adjust your office chair to achieve the correct, or best sitting posture?
The impact an adjustable office chair has on your sitting posture
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety says that an adjustable office chair can have a beneficial impact on your sitting posture by providing:
The right sitting posture is important
According to Spine Health, a trusted resource for back and neck pain relief, a good sitting posture depends on setting up your ergonomic chair the right way. “Many office workers spend thousands of hours sitting in an office chair at their desk, so there is a great deal of opportunity for their sitting posture to either continuously help their back, or hurt it.”
SpineUniverse, a leader in patient and healthcare professional education says, “While most people believe it is relaxing, sitting is actually hard on the back because it transfers the full weight of the upper body onto the buttocks and thighs. Sitting, especially for long periods of time, can also cause increased pressure on the intervertebral discs. It’s also hard on the lower extremities since gravity pools blood in the legs and feet and creates a sluggish return of blood to the heart.”
Adjusting your chair to achieve the right sitting posture is simple and only takes a few minutes. Let’s start by understanding the controls on your chair.
Common controls on an office chair
|Feature||What is it for?||Should my chair have it?|
|Seat height adjustment||This adjusts your overall position (height) in relation to your work surface.||Yes, critical|
|Lightweight Build||Light, strong materials help you to move more freely and without strain.||Yes, critical|
|Base||We all know the pain of sitting in a chair with a wheel that’s fallen off, or a broken support beneath the seat. A sturdy base is essential.||Yes, critical|
|Stable movement and easy manoeuvrability||Reduced rolling resistance allows for freer movement that does not cause strain on any muscle from pushing or moving your chair.||Yes, critical|
|Mesh backrest||The mesh should mould to your body for better support and allow a free-flow of air for reduced heat-entrapment.||Highly recommended|
|Adjustable lumbar support||Changing the support on your lumbar spine can be the difference between a bad back and a productive workday.||Highly recommended|
|Dynamic sitting||An office chair which permits the backrest and seat to move relative to each other increases your muscular movement in the lumbar region, reducing stiffness and pain in the lower back.||Highly recommended|
|Backrest tension adjustment||Adjust the tension in the backrest and seat tilt depending on your body weight.||Recommended|
|Adjustable armrests||Add to your comfort by ensuring your arms are comfortably supported||Recommended|
|Adjustable headrest||Adjustable headrests allow you to get better support around your head and neck when you recline in the chair.||Optional|
|Seat depth adjustment||Important for taller people that often find their sitting posture is compromised because the standard seat is not deep enough||Optional|
Adjusting your office chair for the best sitting posture
Your new office chair may have some or all of the above controls. To achieve the correct posture, the controls should be easily accessible when you are sitting on the chair.
1. Seat Height
The first step to a good sitting posture is ensuring that the seat height is correct. Stand in front of your chair and adjust the height of the seat pan to just below your knee caps.
2. Seat Depth (if available)
The best sitting posture should result in a gap about the size of your clenched fist between the front edge of the seat cushion and the inside of your knees. If this is not the case, then adjust the depth of the seat. A shorter person will want the seat closer to the chair back and a taller person will want it a little further away. If you are short and the chair has no seat depth adjustment, place a cushion between your back and the backrest of the chair.
3. Lumbar Support
Proper lumbar support is essential when you are sitting for long periods of time. An adjustable lumbar support is a feature most people look for when buying a new office chair.
The lumbar support should be adjusted so that it fits snugly in the natural curve of your spine, typically at the small of your back directly above your belt line.
Your forearms should rest comfortably at your side on the armrests. The armrests should, at a minimum, be height adjustable. Many modern chairs have armrests that are width and depth adjustable, and also have the ability to pivot both inwards and outwards. This allows for a more customised fit while sitting and improves your posture.
5. Headrest (if available)
Headrests improve your sitting posture by providing support and comfort to the head and neck while you are in a reclined position. Not every person requires a headrest, but they can improve your comfort for many day-to-day tasks like talking on the phone.
Tip: Placing your head back and touching the headrest forces you to push your shoulders into the backrest and lifts up your chest to create a better sitting posture. This lifts your diaphragm which enables you to breathe better and improves concentration.