Best Office Chair

Best Office Chair

How to choose the right office chair

Many of my patients ask me about office chairs – which one is the best, how should I sit, is a swiss ball a good alternative? A university lecturer on the topic once told me, “Choose the worst seat in the house, that way you’re less likely to sit down at all!” Pardon the clich, but sitting is just plain old bad for you, however you’re unlikely to quit your office job just yet, so here is a list of considerations for choosing the right office chair.

  1. Correct sitting posture – there is an optimum way to sit in an office chair but no matter how advanced the chair technology is, we will inevitably slouch. Finding the right chair first requires an understanding of the best sitting posture. You can then select a chair with the right features that best facilitate this sitting posture for your body.
  2. Chair height – ensure your chair is height-adjustable. Your feet must be flat on the floor when sitting (take your high heels off!) so as to disperse part of your body weight through the ground rather than your lower back entirely. Also, your hips need to be higher than your knees to prevent excessive contraction of the hip flexors. Sitting with thighs parallel to the ground becomes tiring very quickly and causes one to slouch prematurely. Hydraulic-lift fitted chairs are preferred as they offer a degree of ‘give’ when you sit down. This ‘give’ cushions your spine into the chair upon sitting as opposed to an abrupt collision that would be experienced on one without this feature.
  3. Seat – the seat should have the ability to be set at varying degrees of tilt. With the chair set at the right height, tilting the seat forward roughly 15 ensures the hips remain higher than knees more comfortably.
  4. Lumbar support – if your seat height and tilt is right, your pelvis will be in the optimum position and thus the rest of your spine will more readily assume the best posture. Like a building, get the foundations right and the top floor will be too. From this ideal foundation you should aim to sit up straight using your ‘abdominal corsetry’, and resist temptation to slouch. Strictly speaking, the lumbar support can be regarded as a redundant appendage, but it does help to ‘remind’ your lumbar spine to maintain a concave curve (as seen from behind) rather than a rounded one, as is present in slouching.
  5. Arm rests – when sitting, your shoulders should be relaxed so that your elbows can rest below the level of your wrists. Avoid chairs with non-removable arm rests as they may otherwise cause your shoulders to hunch. People are often tight in their shoulders due to job stress, don’t add to this through malposition of your arms whilst sitting.
  6. Desk height – depending on how tall you are, if you’re shorter, you may need to raise your chair and use a foot rest so that you can keep your feet flat and still work comfortably at your workstation. On the contrary, if you’re taller, you may need to increase the height of your desk so that your hips can still remain higher than your knees without getting crushed beneath the surface of the desk.

The above considerations are quick reference checkpoints only. There are too many variables to consider between individuals, hence ergonomics is not an exact science. Just remember, our bodies were made to move not to sit, so expect a degree of discomfort after prolonged sitting. At least if you follow the above tips, you”ll be doing as much as possible to keep your spine in the safest position. Again, the same old clichs apply, take frequent breaks from sitting, stand up and move around.

If you’re looking for more inspiration, it seems the best way to sit is the way you would when riding a horse with correct technique. In this position, your spine exhibits the normal curves and the relationship of your thighs to your pelvis is such that there is no excess muscular tension in the hip flexors. Sitting in this way at work requires understanding of the best sitting posture and the selecting the chair where this posture is most achievable for you. Below is a selection of high end executive chairs, swiss ball chairs, knealing and saddle seat chairs, swinging chairs, you name it.

Happy hunting!

*DISCLAIMER: This discussion does not provide medical advice. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained in this discussion are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this discussion is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this blog.

Best Sitting Posture

Best Sitting Posture

How to sit properly to prevent back pain with advice on back pain relief exercises and best office chair selection.

Do I sit right Doctor? Our bodies were not designed to sit down for long hours, but somehow modern life requires the vast majority of the global population to work in a seated position.

In 2006, a study conducted at Woodend Hospital in Aberdeen, Scotland found that a 135 body-thigh angle sitting posture was demonstrated to be the best biomechanical sitting position as opposed to the 90 posture which most people consider normal.

The study involved the use of a “positional MRI machine ” which allowed patients freedom of motion, such as standing or sitting, during imaging. Patients assumed three different sitting postures: slouched, upright (90) and reclined (135). Note that the reclined position was achieved by tilting the seat forward so that the hips were higher than the knees but the torso remained perpendicular to the floor.

The MRI machine was used to observe the effects these postures had on the spine, specifically, the intervertebral discs. Of the three sitting postures, the 135 trunk-thigh appeared to cause the least amount of strain on the lumbar spine. The worst seated posture is the forward bending or “slouched” position, like hunching over a desk, followed closely by the 90 posture with a straight back and legs parallel to the floor.

When sitting at a 90 trunk-thigh angle, your knees are level with your hips and thus your abdominals are required to work extra hard to keep you straight. If you try sitting in this way, you will notice your abdominal and hip flexor muscles contracting against the force of gravity wanting to push your torso into a more reclined position. Soon, you will become tired and slouch forward.

The 135 trunk-thigh angle posture is a guideline only. A reasonably obtuse angle allows the user to sit in a chair, with the seat tilted downward slightly and the feet flat. This provides enough of a reclined position to relieve spinal stress without sliding out of the chair.

In a healthy spine there are three natural curves. When looking at someone from the side you should see a concave curve at the neck, a convex curve spanning the chest and mid-back, and another concave curve at the lower back known as the lumbar lordosis.

An increased lumbar lordosis puts excess pressure on the lower back because it shifts the body’s centre of gravity posteriorly onto the less weight-bearing structures of the lumbar spine – the facet joints. Increased pressure on facet joints causes general pain, stiffness and restricted movement in the lumbar spine.

Back pain is a leading cause of work-related disability, much of which can be attributed to long periods of sitting. Slouched sitting has a terrible effect on the intervertebral discs, simply put, it causes them to dry out. If the discs are not properly hydrated, they reduce in height and can potentially encroach upon the surrounding nerves exiting the spinal canal. More commonly, this occurs in the lumbar spine leading to conditions such as sciatica and generalised lower back pain and stiffness.

To combat low back pain read my earlier post on back pain relief exercises. Further to that, find a chair that can be adjusted to open up the hip angle. This is a chair with the ability to tilt the seat forward and encourage this natural posture.

Sadly, today we are more static than we are mobile. We sit in a chair all day, sit on our way to and from work, then sit and watch television before going to sleep. We were made to be mobile, not static, and as I’ve always said,

“It doesn’t matter what direction, just keep moving!”

*DISCLAIMER: This discussion does not provide medical advice. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained in this discussion are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this discussion is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this blog.