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.
With so many different ergonomic chairs on the market today, from Office Star and Jobri to BOSS and ergoCentric chairs, finding the right seating choice for your specific needs can be difficult. Ergonomics are certainly not a one-size-fits-all approach. An ergonomically designed work chair should be able to conform to your height, weight, and body type, and also be appropriate for your line of work and professional environment. A tall and heavyset man will probably need a different ergonomic design than a short and petite woman, just as an IT professional will probably need a different office chair than a laboratory technician. With so many different factors to consider, how does one find the right work chair? The following information should help.
Why are Ergonomics so Important?
Ergonomic design is a multidisciplinary field of science that considers various human factors with the goal of designing furniture, equipment, and tools that complement the human body and mind, ideally resulting in more productive workplaces and happier, healthier workers. The way people sit is a very important part of this. Sitting is not as sedentary of a position as one may assume. When a worker in any given field sits in a chair all day (or for a large chunk of their workday), they are also engaging in activities in that chair, which are all influenced by the way that worker engages with their surroundings – especially their chair. The following video is by Allseating a chair manufacturer that describes the cores needs in building your ergonomic workstation.
What Makes a Suitable Work Chair?
If you’re shopping for ergonomic chairs, the most important human factors to consider are the body dimensions of the individual who will be sitting in each chair. And this means all the body dimensions. An ill-fitting chair might be ideal for someone’s height, but not appropriate for their weight and body type, for example. This can lead to stress and strain, and ultimately injury, which could in turn leave a worker unable to work and an employer in hot water. There are other factors to consider, such as the costs of repairs and maintenance, in addition to the initial costs of purchasing the chairs. Avoiding repetitive stress injuries is worth the investment, but not if the company goes into the red from the costs of owning the chairs. Luckily, many manufacturers make some very affordable models that are also high in quality. The following video is for the ergoCentric Geocentric petite ready chair.
It All Comes Down to Body Type
Make sure to gather information about the heights of employees before purchasing new ergonomic chairs for the whole office. An ideal work chair will be roughly a quarter of the user’s height. While most employees doing similar jobs will probably be comfortable in similar or identical chairs as long as the seat and armrests are adjustable, there will also probably be a few outliers who will have special ergonomic needs and require somewhat different chairs. No one should be punished for being uncommonly short or tall, having a long torso or unusually sized limbs, or being otherwise out of the norm. To avoid repetitive stress injuries and find the ergonomic chairs with the best value, consider body type first.
Sitting is something that the average person does all too frequently. From work (where many of us sit for eight or more hours daily) to driving to eating to watching television, far more time each day is commonly spent seated than not.
Being Sedentary – The Effects
Most of us know that spending too much time seated isn’t great for our health. Recent studies have even shown that sitting for 11 hours daily (including leisure time) can actually increase the risk of premature death.
Even for those who are physically fit, too much time in a seated position can lead to difficulty with metabolic functions, increased HDL (or “bad”) cholesterol levels, higher triglycerides, and insulin desensitization. This translates to potential heart, stomach, and vascular issues.
Ways to Be Healthier
Luckily, there are things we can do to offset the effects of spending so much time sitting on our behinds. If your job requires you to be sitting all the time, you can reduce the time you spend in this position by participating in leisure activities before and after work.
For instance, if your job is within a short distance from your home, consider walking or biking to your place of employment. If you take public transportation, even getting off a few stops before the one closest to your home/office can get you some extra exercise.
Also, consider eating standing up for some meals. Many people have breakfast and/or lunch on the go, so these can be good times to munch and stand.
Another thing you can do is invest in an elliptical or treadmill for your home. This means that you can still watch the shows and movies you love without crashing on the couch for hours. Can’t afford this equipment? Think about joining a gym and getting your TV fix there, while also getting a workout.
Ways to Make Time Spent Seated More Comfortable
A lot of people suffer from additional side effects of being stationary, especially at the office. Common complaints are back, neck, and/or shoulder pain. If you use a computer a lot, wrist and hand aches are also prevalent.
While it may be inevitable that you need to park yourself permanently during work hours, there are things you can do to make that time more comfortable. Using seating that has special features to offset these discomforts can really help.
Ergonomic chairs for back pain have numerous adjustments to help you feel more at ease.
One of these is lumbar support. Lumbar support pushes out part of the chair’s backrest in order to support your lower back in the form of the shape of the backrest or with specialty devices such as an air lumbar support.
Arm, foot, and headrests are also great options that many ergonomically designed chairs implement. Typically, you can adjust the height of foot and headrests to correspond to a level where they feel most natural when you’re in the chair. Sometimes armrests can be adjusted in terms of height, too, and/or removed for when they aren’t necessary or practical.
SitBetter.com carries a range of seating that fulfills these prerequisites. If you follow these tips, sitting can feel more comfortable.
Finding an office chair that properly fits an individual in every aspect can be a tough task considering most chairs are designed to fit what many manufacturers consider to be the norm, individuals that are 5’5″-5’10″ and weigh less than 250 po
s. Unfortunately that leaves many sitting in a chair that does not fit them correctly or a chair that can not support their weight, especially when a business standardizes one chair model for their entire office. Even worse, a chair that is not properly fitted to the individual can lead to work related health issues such as back pain, lumbar pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, and other aches and nuisances. If you do not have an ergonomist on hand, which most companies do not, the perfect fit chair can be achieved with a little research. When researching potential chairs it is essential to take a look at all of the features and adjustments the chair comes with.
Users should be able to sit with their feet comfortably on the floor or on a footrest without pressure on the underside of the thighs. The thigh-to-torso angle should not be less than 90°.
Users should be able to sit in the chair without undue pressure against the back of the knees, their back properly supported by the backrest and with adequate thigh and leg support.
Seat Pan Angle
This should allow users to support their feet on the floor or footrest. This should not cause the user’s torso-to-thigh angle to be less than 90°. Forward seat pan angles should not cause users to shift excessive weight to their feet or experience the sensation of sliding out of the chair.
The seat should be wider than the hip breadth of the user with allowance for movement and clothing. The seat width should not limit the ability to use the armrests comfortably.
All backrests should provide adequate lumbar support and backside clearance. For tasks requiring upper body mobility, the backrest should not interfere with the user’s movement; a mid or low back chair is would be recommend. For users who prefer reclining postures or greater upper back support, the back height should be tall enough to provide support for the shoulder blades.
The width of the backrest should provide adequate support for the curvature of the user’s back without causing localized pressure points.
The height and shape of the lumbar support should coincide with the lumbar curve of the user’s back. The support should be firm, but not cause localized pressure points. An adjustable backrest often helps the user achieve the correct positioning.
This should allow users to sit in a variety of postures while supporting their forearms and/or elbows in a manner that avoids lifting the shoulders, this often results from armrests that are positioned too high, or leaning to the side to reach the armrest, this results from armrests that are positioned too low. The armrest height should allow accessibility to, and performance of, tasks.
The length of the armrest should allow users to sit close enough to the work surface to perform their tasks while maintaining contact with the backrest.
Inside Distance Between Armrests
Armrests should allow users to sit in a variety of postures while supporting their forearms in a manner that avoids lifting the shoulders and/or excessive outward positioning of the elbows. Armrests should allow accessibility to, and performance of tasks. The inside distance between the armrests should allow the user to enter and exit the chair easily. The hips should comfortably fit between the armrests or supports.
To view Sitbetter’s full line of ergonomic office chairs, please click here.
Article credit: Office Master.
Finding the right office chair is not only an important task but is also becoming crucial as the time spent sitting in a sedentary position has increased with hectic work schedules and the demands careers in business fields bring. The problem is, unless you are an ergonomist or have one readily available at your dispense, it is difficult to determine how to find a chair that will properly fit your body. The right office chair should uniformly support the body, allow for easy movement, be easy to adjust, provide long-term comfort, and help to maintain proper posture. Just like people, office chairs come in varying shapes and sizes. The problem is not every person will fit into one uniform chair design, unless your proportions perfectly match up with the design of the chair. If your chair is not properly fitted to your proportions you will find overtime that you will begin to experience discomfort which can lead to more serious problems over time. Consider the following tips before purchasing your next office chair.
The depth of a seat is an essential component in the overall comfort of your office chair. If you have a seat that is too small you will not get the support necessary for your thighs to sit comfortably throughout the day. If your seat is too big, this will put pressure against the back of your knees which can also cause discomfort. While seated, measure the distance from the back of your knee to the back rest. You should have about an inch and a half or 2-3 fingers distance between the seat edge and back of the knee. If you are unsure of if a seat will be too short for you, consider finding a chair that has the option for a seat slider which allows for you to adjust the depth of your chair.
Your chair should allow you to sit with your feet flat on the floor or on a foot rest with knees bent at a 90 degree angle. This can be achieved with the proper seat height. Measure the height from the floor to the crease at the back of the knee. Take into consideration the type of footwear that you typically wear to work, heel for example may add a few inches onto the height of the seat needed. Most office chairs will only come with one cylinder size which allows for about a 4″ range of adjustment, however, some specialty ergonomic chairs have the option for different height cylinders which can be of use to individuals that are taller or shorter.
Many of today’s computer users experience neck/shoulder pain due to their arms being elevated and unsupported. Armrests are designed to support the neck and shoulder muscles, however if you are not careful in your selection they may limit access to the keyboard or your desk. Armrests should not restrict movement or access to a workstation. The armrest height should be the same as resting elbow height, they should not be higher or lower or this will cause discomfort. Look for armrests that can be width and height adjustable to properly align them to your body’s needs. Shoulders and upper arms should be in line with the torso generally about perpendicular to the floor and relaxed (not elevated or stretched forward).
The shape of the back rest should follow the natural curve of your back. This is why many office chairs are designed with an “S” shape curve in order to conform to the natural shape of one’s back. Often back rests are fixed in place making it difficult to properly support the natural shape of taller or shorter user’s backs. An adjustable back rest or lumbar support eliminates this problem and allows for the user position the back rest to meet the shape of their spine. The height of the back is another concern. For those that experience upper back pain, it is essential to find a taller back that will fully support their shoulders and neck.
The seat cushion should fully support your frame in both depth and width. A seat cushion that is too small will not provide full support and one that is too large will not allow for comfortable utilization of the armrests. Look at the distance between armrests to make sure they are not too wide where one needs to reach to use the armrest or too narrow where one is not able to sit.
To view SitBetter’s collection of ergonomic office chairs, please click here!