Sitting for long stretches of time is terrible for you. It causes short term pain and long term damage in ways you may not even realize. Regularly sitting for long periods of time has been linked to musculoskeletal injury, nerve damage, and circulatory issues.
While the real answer to counteracting sitting-related woes is to not sit at all, this just isn’t possible for those of us with desk jobs. Office workers spend more than half their work day seated, with workers in the legal, business operations and computer-based professions spending over 80% of their workday sitting down, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Luckily, there is an entire category of office furniture designed to mitigate the negative impacts of sitting like a standing desk and ergonomic chair.
The damage caused by extended periods of seated work is the result of a number of factors including the height, angle, orientation, padding and shape of your office chair. Hard chairs and soft sofas are not designed with the physical demands of office work in mind. If you’ve been working at the dinner table, and you’re starting to feel sores, just ask yourself when was the last time you sat down for an eight hour dinner.
An ergonomic office chair can reduce the damage you are doing while sitting all day. Ergonomics is the scientific study of how humans interact with our environment. The goal of ergonomics is to optimize that interaction. An ergonomic chair is designed with the specific needs of the human body in mind.
Ergonomic office chairs are built to accommodate the long periods of sitting at a desk required of office workers. An ergonomic office chair will often allow you to make adjustments that match your body’s needs. Each of these settings has its own specific benefits to the sitter.
Ergonomic office chairs usually have wheels, allowing you to position yourself comfortably in relation to your work surface. Sitting too near or far to your computer screen or keyboard can lead to eye and neck strain.
Ergonomic office chairs also typically allow you to swivel around so you can comfortably shift your attention.
Height is a key feature of ergonomic office chairs. Given that people vary widely in height, it makes sense that no one chair could fit all. One important aspect of a healthy sitting posture is that your feet are firmly planted comfortably on the floor. Height adjustments make that optimal positioning possible.
Seat tilt is an extremely important adjustment enabled by many ergonomic office chairs. The angle of your chair seat has a major impact on the position of your pelvis and hips. Bad pelvic positioning leads to Anterior Pelvic Tilt which can result in lower back pain, requiring physical therapy.
Ergonomic office chairs often allow you to recline. If you’ve ever reclined your seat on a long car or plane ride, you know how much of a difference it makes in taking pressure off your spine and back muscles.
To maintain proper spinal alignment you need to engage muscles in your core and back which become fatigued after long periods of sitting. Lower back lumbar support helps you maintain good spinal alignment. Remember that your spine runs from your lower back to your neck, so it’s important to keep it happy and healthy.
Arm rest position
Have you ever sat in an office chair with armrests that keep getting in your way, forcing your elbows to hug close to your body or flare way out just to reach your keyboard? That positioning isn’t just annoying, it’s bad for your posture. Ergonomic office chairs with adjustable armrests allow the user to drop or raise the height of the arm rests or to get them out of the way altogether.
Head and neck support
Some ergonomic chairs also provide adjustable headrests to support your head and neck. As your neck gets more tired, your head can fall forward or lull backward. Both of these positions affect your posture. Adjustable headrests provide the support to prevent neck strain.
When you sit down, pounds of pressure are dropped on the disks in your spine. Many ergonomic office chairs utilize seat cushioning to dampen that pressure, protecting your spine and pelvis from damage. Some ergonomic office chairs also utilize materials that cradle your body when you’re seated, providing added support and comfort.
Ergonomic office chairs can be more expensive than standard office chairs which may turn some people away from investing in one. But before looking at the price tag, consider this: ergonomic injuries can cause chronic pain, permanent nerve and musculoskeletal damage, circulation issues, lost focus and decreased productivity. When considering how much you are willing to pay for an ergonomic office chair, include these considerations into your calculations.