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How to Use an Office Chair
This entry was posted on January 20, 2010.
Most would think it is common sense when talking about the subject of how to sit in an office chair considering most of us sit in one for hours on end everyday. While office chairs certainly are easy to use with a little bit of knowledge, most of us are not familiar with how to properly adjust and sit in our chairs in order to avoid pain and injury. When even starting to consider purchasing an office chair it is important to pick out a chair that will allow you to adjust your body and posture to conform ergonomically to you. An ergonomic chair will come with adjustable seat height, back/lumbar adjustments, armrest adjustments, and a tilt lock. While most are not familiar with chair adjustments it is essential to learn about your chair and become properly educated on how to use it before using it just as you would for say a car or bike. However, an office chair will not take nearly as long to figure out as either of the aforementioned.
When sitting in an office chair the first area of the chair to focus on is the part you sit on all day, the seat. With your back against the backrest, the seat should support most of the length of your thighs without applying pressure to the back of your knees. Waterfall seats (which most chairs now come with) are ideal for allowing you to sit comfortably and properly. Your seat height should be set so that your thighs are approximately parallel to the ground when your heels are firmly planted on the ground. If it is not possible to have your feet flat on the ground because your work station is too high and not adjustable, a footrest is a good addition to keep your feet flat and body in proper posture. Movement throughout the day is encouraged, so do not feel as if you always need your feet to be planted on the ground. There is generally a lever on the right side if not the left that when pulled up allows you to move either up if your taller or down if you are of shorter stature. A tip for adjustment is to start with your seat at its highest and lower it gradually until it is at a comfortable height. as you cannot usually raise your seat while you are sitting in it.
The backrest of a chair is an important feature, especially if you suffer from mild to severe back pain. A chair that comes with adjustable lumbar support is recommended for those that suffer from back pain. If your backrest does come with built-in lumbar support, its height should be such that you feel firm support over the lumbar curve of your lower back. Chairs that are S shaped also provide natural back support that will fit to the natural curvature of your spine. If your chair lacks lumbar support, adding a lumbar cushion or lumbar pillow can help aid your back. Lumbar support products should only be added if your seat has sufficient depth in order to avoid pushing yourself up to far that your upper legs are not properly supported. While sitting in your chair, it is usually easier to lower the backrest than raise it. So begin with the back rest as high as it goes, then sit in your chair and gradually lower the backrest until it fits comfortably.
Another feature that is crucial for a good chair to have is adjustable armrests. Most chairs that have adjustable armrests can easily be lowered or raised by pushing a button in and manually pulling the armrests up or pushing them down. Armrests have to be at the right height for your body, if they are too high it will force you to position your arms awkwardly. If armrests are too long you might find yourself to be slouching or sitting in an awkward position which might start to cause a back ache. While typing, your arms should be able to swing freely. Armrests should be positioned about half an inch below your elbows, with your elbows hanging comfortably at your side. If your arms are resting on the armrest while you are typing, you will be inhibiting the normal arm movement which will cause extra strain on your fingers and their supporting structures.
The backrest angle should be set so that you feel the backrest while you are in your preferred sitting position. You should not have to lean back to feel it, nor should it force you farther forward when you are sitting. Your back rest angle should allow, however, to move forward and backward with added pressure while still providing you with lumbar/back support. Usually, underneath your chair there is a knob that allows you to adjust the backrest to the amount of pressure you want. After finding that perfect spot make sure to lock your backrest angle to ensure it stays in place. Usually by pulling the lever up you can unlock the back angle and pushing down locks it into place.
It is important to remember that not all chairs are built the same, meaning that some levers and knobs may be in different places or may be used differently depending on the chair. Also, some chairs may not come with all the features mentioned above and may only possess one or two. What is the key takeaway is take some time to get to know your chair and how to use it when purchasing a chair or even if you already have an office chair you like. In the long run, it can save you from hours, days, or years of suffering from common work related injuries that occur from not sitting properly. If you are not happy with your current chair and its features, look into a chair that has all the adjustments mentioned in order to ensure that it is ergonomically correct.