What is the difference between an orthopaedic and ergonomic chair?

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What is the difference between an orthopaedic and ergonomic chair?

Do you find that after a days work your back aches and your neck and shoulders are stiff and sore? If so, then perhaps your chair in is not the right fit for you! People may tell you that you need an ergonomic or orthopaedic chair to deal with these challenges. So, what is the difference between an orthopaedic and ergonomic chair and what’s the best chair for you?

A poorly designed chair can cause strain, discomfort, stiffness and soreness. Often you will not notice these effects right away, but if the chair does not provide you with sufficient support for your spine, it may eventually result in long-term medical issues. In the information age, computer-based jobs require you to sit at a desk for long periods during your workday, and moving around isn’t always an option. In this Article we explore the differences between an orthopaedic and ergonomic chair and how to choose the right chair for you.

Our bodies are not designed to be sitting all day long and thrive when we move and walk around.

The consequences of a bad chair

What is an ergonomic chair?

An ergonomic chair is one that has been designed with the intention of optimising support for your body while sitting. The design includes considerations like posture, comfort, support, health and safety. The key feature of any good ergonomic chair is that it is highly adjustable. Because your sitting posture changes throughout the day, a good chair needs to accommodate these changes by continually supporting your body.

Important design features of an ergonomic chair

What is an orthopaedic chair?

An Orthopaedic chair is designed to provide your spine and skeletal system with the best possible support. These chairs will therefore have all the features of a highly rated ergonomic chair, with a stronger focus on back support. Orthopaedic chairs may be endorsed by a medical professional or organisation.

Is there really a difference between an ergonomic and orthopaedic chair? Many companies use these terms interchangeably to describe their products, so it really is a matter of terminology. The reality is that there is little difference between the two.

Orthopaedic chairs have all the features of highly rated ergonomic chairs, with a stronger focus on back support.

There are many different types of orthopaedic chairs available such as Karo’s Form and Form Squared range.



What is the best chair for me?

Chairs that are sold as ergonomic chairs are designed to suit a range of people. However, there is no perfect “one size fits all”. 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. In addition, chairs may not suit every task or workstation. The right chair is always one that suits your:

  • body size and shape
  • workstation (e.g. dentists require a different chair than industrial workers or computer operators)
  • the task that you have to perform.

How do I choose the best office chair for me?

Remember that the chair is only one of the components to be considered in an ergonomically correct workstation design. Accessories play a vital role in setting up your workstation.

The perfect office setup

What are the features of a good ergonomic chair?

Below are some features to be considered when you are looking for a good ergonomic chair:

  • a)  Seat height range – Can the seat height be adjusted to suit your workstation?
  • b)  Backrest – Is the backrest angle adjustable? Can the backrest be adjusted vertically?
  • c)  Lumbar Support – Has the chair got a firm lumbar support that does not create pressure points which may restrict blood circulation? Remember – the backrest should be of appropriate height and width to provide adequate support without restricting your movement.
  • d)  Seat depth – Based on your height, seat depth adjustment can be a helpful feature when the seat needs to be closer or further away from the backrest. Can you sit in the chair with your back supported by the backrest without pressure at the back of your knees?
  • e)  Seat width – Is the seat wide enough to allow you to be comfortable?
  • f)  Seat angle – Generally a feature on orthopaedic chairs, a forward sloping seat opens your pelvis which reduces pressure in your lumbar discs. What actually happens when you sit?
  • g)  Armrests – Do the armrests provide support and evenly support your arms? Are the armrests height and width adjustable?
  • h)  Headrest – If the chair has a headrest, is the height and angle of the headrest adjustable?

Still confused and need help selecting the best chair for you? Visit our showroom so our qualified Office Ergonomics Risk Facilitators can assess your posture and determine what chair is the best fit for you.

Author: Philip Wichmann
Director at Karo Manufacturing (Pty) Ltd

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