It’s true that, as the saying goes, we weren’t born yesterday. We think we know how to talk, walk, and sit down. However, so many of us do not sit in a chair properly. It might sound silly or seem pretty basic, but there are a number of ways that you can harm your body merely by how you sit. And as most people sit all day for their jobs, you could be placing a great deal of stress on the body due to the way you sit at your desk. In order to correct these bad patterns and postures, here are a few ways you should never sit in your office chair.
When most people sit down, they cross their legs or ankles. While this might be commonplace at your workplace, you will want to break this habit. You should sit at your office chair with your thighs parallel to the floor and your feet resting flat. If you cross your legs all day, you can develop knee problems. Crossing your legs also impairs blood flow to your legs, which can lead to pains and cramps. You also don’t want to sit at your desk with your legs dangling above the ground and crossed. This will lead to poor blood circulation.
Leaning away from the back of the chair
We all are guilty of bad posture from time to time. However, if you notice how you sit at the office, you might discover that your back is seldom resting against the backrest of the chair. If you lean away from the back of the chair to read computer screens, write, or talk on the phone, you are placing unnecessary stress on your back. Your back isn’t supported in this position, which can produce a great deal of pain. One way to kick the habit of leaning in your chair is to purchase a chair that is ergonomically designed so that it will promote good posture.
Legs stretched out parallel to the floor on a footrest
At your desk, you might pull up another chair to rest your legs and feet. However, your legs should never be resting parallel to the floor on a footrest. While it might sound comfortable and even look more comfortable, it can actually lead to a great deal of discomfort. This practice does not promote good circulation to the legs. Poor blood flow can only make you feel more tired on the job.
You might think that there is really no wrong way to sit down. You bend your legs and rest your upper body on a surface. However, you can contort your body into different positions that you fail to notice over time. It is merely the way you always sit down. Those positions could be hurting your body more than helping it. The effects of how you sit can be both physical and mental. In order to promote the best health possible as you sit at your job, remember to avoid sitting in these three positions.
If you have ever stepped into an office or place of business that values just where its employees sit, you probably did a few double takes about just what constitutes a chair these days. Ergonomic chair shapes have never been confused for the common and ordinary. Many are designed to look a little weird so that your back doesn’t feel awkward or strange. Here are just a few of the most unusual shapes that you might find in these ergonomically designed forms of seating.
The Ball Chair
When most people think of an ergonomic chair shape, they might picture various backrest heights and wave-like seating. However, there are even more unique-looking options, such as the ball chair, popular in newer workspaces and on the startup scene. The idea behind such a sitting implement is to lend the user better balance and posture, along with improved core strength. As there is no backrest on a ball chair, the user has to stay balanced. The result is decreased back pain compared to other places to sit around the office. The ball chair looks very much like an exercise ball. In fact, some models permit you to remove the ball from the wheelbase and use it for exercises.
The Pseudo Spine Chair
In terms of strange-looking seating, chairs designed with a pseudo spine tend to take the cake. These spine replicas could be mistaken for an insect’s exoskeleton. They are designed to replicate and cradle the spine and the back. The user can customize the pressure and support by adjusting the “ribs” of the chair. The main reason that a company might shell out for such an odd-looking chair is for its proven assistance with chronic back pain. For example, the RFM Verte Executive Ergonomic Chair, designed with a pseudo spine, has been known to help back pain sufferers. This form of seating looks strange with its spine replicator, wide lower portion of the backrest and narrower upper half. However, it gets the job done, even if the user looks like some sort of exoskeleton-possessing insect in it.
The Extra-High Back Chair
Some ergonomically designed chairs look like they could touch the moon with their extra-high backs. The extra-high back chair is one of the more unusual-looking types of ergonomic seating. Generally, the shape features a wing curvature of the back to allow for maximum comfort. That wing is also extremely high. You might not see your employees working at their desks; the back is just that tall. Generally, this type of seating is recommend for taller people or those with neck pain. One example of this odd-looking seat is the Ergocentric Geocentric Extra High-Back Synchro Ergonomic Office Chair.
The Kneeling Chair
When you think of ergonomically designed seating, you probably envision crazy backs and strange seats. However, some chairs don’t even look like chairs at all. Ergonomically designed kneeling chairs help put the back in a more natural position. While you might require a manual on how to actually sit down in these devices, the kneeling option is not supposed to look like a traditional form of sitting. Generally, people use this type of seating for shorter periods of time to lend temporary relief to the back.
Shopping for an ergonomically designed form of seating can take some getting used to for businesses and corporations. If you are obsessed with pretty pieces of furniture, such a look will be a shock to the system. From chairs designed to look like the spine of a human to bouncy balls for sitting, there are a fair number of shapes and forms to this health-conscious mode of design.
If you are overweight or obese, it is important to get healthy quickly. In workplaces across the United States, many billions of dollars are lost every year in revenue as workplaces need to compensate for sick leave.
While accidents do happen, many illnesses are easily avoidable. Especially when it comes to some musculoskeletal disorders such as arthritis or RSI, they can arise through constant, daily discomfort in the workplace in a bad sitting position.
Getting the Right Seat
It is every worker’s responsibility to make sure that the seat they are working in is comfortable for their needs. While you will almost certainly start your workplace with a computer, a chair, a table and some other furniture, you should set up and customize your workspace so that it is comfortable for you.
Bad posture can also lead to problems with health in the workplace and if sitting in bad posture for years, various injuries can come up. Carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by excessive or unsafe use of a computer. The constant clicking action of fingers, wrists and typing can cause a nerve in the arm to begin swelling and causing pain.
Carpal tunnel can be very debilitating and painful, and is one of the chief causes of injuries and accidents in the workplace.
Sitting at the Right Distance and Angle
Setting up your seat so that you are at the right angle and distance from your monitor is also important. You need to be about 25” away (about an arm’s length or more) from your screen. This is also important for optical health. Every few minutes, look away from your monitor and fix your gaze on something else in the room or outside. This helps to flush the tear ducts in your eyes and readjust your vision.
The keyboard and mouse should be on the same flat surface. Your hands should be at 90 degrees to the table and be resting on the desk or on a keyboard rest. Feet should be flat on the floor to facilitate correct blood flow to every part of the body.
Coping with Seated Work
In some situations, you have no choice but to do seated work in an office for many hours at a time. This is where some coping strategies can come into place. These will allow you to preserve your health longer as well.
1) Every half an hour at least, you should take a short walk somewhere in the building. The bathroom, the kitchen, a vending machine, a brief walk outside. Some employers may not allow this too frequently so find out what is acceptable.
2) Ask your manager for a shared couch or resting area near a workplace. Workers can take short breaks there to read or they can have quiet discussions.
3) Stand up and walk around the room a few times every hour to move the blood a bit where it is needed.
Home office and workplace ergonomics are incredibly important considerations. While it might not seem like improper posture or sitting the wrong way in front of your computer could damage your health, the fact is that you can suffer some serious injuries over time, as noted by the University of Connecticut. What conditions might you suffer if you don’t practice good posture and ergonomics? Here’s a closer look.
Ergonomic and Posture-Related Health Disorders
All ergonomic and posture-related health disorders are technically musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). MSDs fall into a broad range of categories and conditions. Depending on the length of time you spend sitting, and just how poor your posture or position is, you might find yourself afflicted by any of the following:
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – A condition in which the tendons running through the arms, wrists and hands are inflamed, making most common hand and wrist movements painful
- Tendinitis – A condition in which tendons become inflamed; it generally afflicts the arms and elbows, but can be present in other parts of the body as well
- Bursitis – Swelling and inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs between joints, tendons and muscles. It can afflict virtually any area of the body
- Thoracic Outlet Syndrome – This condition includes a weakened grip, pain in the neck, and often tingling or numbness in the fingers
- Chronic pain in the neck, upper back, lower back, shoulders and arms
Each of these conditions can cause serious discomfort and pain, and they can lead to significant time lost from work as well as medical expenses. In severe cases, some may require surgery to correct. For instance, severe carpal tunnel syndrome cannot be alleviated by using wrist braces alone, but may require surgical intervention to eliminate the problem.
How Do You Avoid These Conditions?
Obviously, avoiding and minimizing the conditions listed above is in the best interests of both the employee and the employer. Thankfully, it’s not that difficult to get around those problems. All it really requires is following the right ergonomic practices within the workplace.
Good workplace ergonomics can vary from one position to another, most of the time workers will need the right office chair, the right desk and the right computer setup to provide good posture and eliminate strain on muscles, joints and tendons. An ergonomic office chair should offer:
- Good neck support, either through a built-in headrest or a high back, which is particularly important for those who spend multiple hours each day seated in the chair
- Good lumbar support to ease the strain and discomfort on the lower back – lumbar support can come in the form or an adjustable position via a lever or through additional lumbar padding
- Armrests should be adjustable and padded to ensure that the worker is comfortable and can position the armrests so there is no strain placed on the shoulders
- Adjustable height so that the employee can adjust the seat’s height to allow them to sit with their feet flat on the floor, rather than angled or above the floor
Proper ergonomics in the workplace can improve the health of workers, save money on medical bills, and reduce lost time and productivity for the employer.
Whether you’re in need of an office chair for the day job or for your home office, it’s a significant decision. Not only will that chair represent a serious investment of cash, but it needs to provide the support and comfort that you need whether you’ll be sitting down for an hour or spending the entire day in its embrace. Making an informed buying decision is very important, and the following features should come into play in that decision. The right chair will keep you happy and healthy, but the wrong chair can actually lead to serious health conditions, as noted by SpineHealth.
Back Height and Style
A quick look at the various chairs on the market will show you a plethora of back heights and styles. Do you need a chair with a tall back? Do you need a mid-back chair? Is it better to get a chair with a built-in headrest on the back? The back of the chair is important, but you should focus more on a few key areas than just height. Lumbar support in the lower chair back is the most important consideration.
Good support here can make a significant difference in reducing aches and pains, and even in developing spinal disorders. The height of the back should be enough to accommodate your usual sitting position (leaning into the back, for instance), but lumbar support is more important.
The style of the chair’s back is also important. It should conform to (and encourage) the natural curvature of your spine. If the back of the chair is straight, or if it curves in an unnatural way, it’s best to avoid it.
Seat Material and Padding
You’ll find office chairs with all types of seat coverings, from leather to mesh and everything in between. There are models with standard foam padding, and those with memory foam. Choose an office chair with enough padding and support that you’ll be comfortable for the duration. If you will spend a significant amount of time in the chair each day (eight hours or more), opt for thicker memory foam. Mesh can also be comfortable, and the breathability can keep you cooler while seated.
The height of your chair is another very important consideration. It should be adjustable, and you should be able to move the height to a position where your feet sit flat on the floor. If your feet are elevated (or hanging), you’ll cut off blood flow to your lower legs and feet. This can lead to muscle pain, enlarged veins, fatigue and other problems. You will need to match the height of your chair to the height of your desk, though. If you’re not able to sit with your feet flat on the floor and your arms even with the desk’s height, you should consider a different desk.
Each of the areas mentioned above should be considered before investing in any office chair. The right chair can make an enormous difference in comfort, as well as health.