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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
*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.