Sitting in an office chair at work is almost inevitable with the growing number of desk jobs and steady increase in office related positions. If you are going to be sitting for the majority of the work day, it is important to be sitting in a chair that is going to be adjustable enough to allow you to sit comfortably for hours a day. While most of us search for chairs with functionality, one area of the chair we often overlook is the armrests. Almost every chair has armrests of some sort or the option to add armrests as an upgrade to the chair. Armrests are an important component of any ergonomic office chair. Proper armrest design allows a place to rest your arms while working, relieving the pressure from your upper back and shoulders which sometimes is experienced when using an armless chair. There are a number of different types of armrests available which is why it is important to determine which will work best for your needs and keep you sitting comfortably throughout the day.
Fixed Armrests – Fixed armrests are the most affordable but also the least adjustable option available. They are fixed in height and are not adjustable. While these type of armrests are certainly an economical choice, they are not a very ergonomic option. They lack the adjustability needed to place the arms at the correct height for your body and can cause back pain because of this. If armrests are too high, this will raise the shoulders, causing tension in the shoulders and upper back muscles. Too low and they may cause you to lean forward which also puts pressure on your upper back. While fixed armrests are not the best choice for ergonomic chairs, they are a good choice for desk chairs that are only used for a few hours a day or conference room chairs.
Height Adjustable Armrests – At the very minimum, armrests should be able to adjust in height to enable your arms to rest in a comfortable working position for your everyday tasks. Height adjustable arms can be found as an option or included on most office chairs and is among the most popular armrest available. If it is not included in the price of the chair, adjustable armrests are generally reasonably priced to add-on as an option.
Some height adjustable armrests are also width adjustable, allowing the user to move the armrests out further from their seat if they are wider or bring them in closer to the body if they have a smaller frame. If you do have width adjustable armrests be certain not to put the armrests too close together as this can interfere with relaxed typing and restrict the ability to rest your hands in your lap when you are not typing, creating a confined environment. Armrests which are too far apart may cause shoulders to over-extend, causing upper back strain. Width adjustment is not as common as height adjustment in armrests and can only be found on certain models by select manufacturers.
Multi-Function Armrests – Multi-function armrests are highly adjustable and allow for the arms to be adjusted in height, width, and the arm pad has the ability to pivot. These highly adjustable armrests are a great option for shorter or wider individuals that need their arms closer to their body or farther away. The independent pivoting action helps accommodate sideways arm postures that are commonly found among computer users.
With the large range of adjustments available in multi-function arms, it is important to make sure that they do not interfere with your work surface. Poorly designed armrests may constrain postures, causing users to hunch forward and work with elevated arms. Specific work stations set ups may interfere with armrests, contributing to poor posture while working. Pivoting armrests allow the arm pad to be angled inward to prevent problems with narrow diameter corner work surfaces which can be obstructive.
Lateral Adjustable Armrests – Perhaps one of the most advanced armrests to emerge on the market to date, lateral adjustable armrests are an ergonomist’s dream come true especially in the petite market. They are both height and width adjustable and perhaps the best feature of all, can telescope up to 3″ inwards. They are a great choice for petite users that have a difficult time finding an armrest that allows them to rest their arms at the correct position close enough to their body without having to use a children’s chair. These advanced armrests are expensive in price but also among the most ergonomic/adjustable option out there.
Designing good armrests is not an easy task. Not only do people come in a broad range of sizes; they also develop their own ways of sitting over the years. Women tend to sit upright whereas men tend to lean back in their chairs and lounge. Armrests also must accommodate users’ different workstation configurations, including ergonomic accessories such as keyboard trays and mouse pads. Finding the right armrests luckily is not as difficult of a task. With the research and technology being developed in the field of ergonomics, armrests are now able to fit a larger range of users than ever before. When deciding which arms will work best for your work environment, remember the more adjustable the better.
The single most used piece of furniture in almost any business is an office chair with most of us clocking around 8 hours everyday sitting in one. If you will be spending the majority of your day sitting in an office chair, it is best to familiari
ze yourself with the functions and capabilities to ensure you are maximizing your chair’s usage. Knowing how to properly adjust your chair can also save you from unnecessary work related pains that can occur from sitting in a chair that is not properly adjusted to your body. It can also provide you with insight as to why your current office chair may not be the best fit for your needs, especially if you are experiencing any pain during the day while sitting in it. While some features of a chair may seem relatively self-explanatory, it is best to get fully acquainted to understand the benefits of having your chair properly adjusted and what features your current chair may be lacking that you may need.
Seat Height Adjustment – Perhaps the most basic adjustment of all, the seat height should be adjustable on almost every office chair. This adjustment can typically be found on the right hand side of the chair, located just to the right underneath the seat. To ensure your chair’s seat height is properly adjusted, make sure that your chair is lowered enough for you to place your feet flat and firmly against the floor. Your legs should form a 90° angle. You may need to adjust your chair’s seat height periodically if you wear heels while you are working as this will add height and cause your legs to not form that necessary 90° angle.
Tilt Tension – Tilt tension is a great feature most office chairs possess that allows the user to control the rate and ease with which the chair reclines for different weights and strengths of users. This adjustment always comes in the form of a knob that is located directly underneath the seat. By twisting the knob one direction it will allow the user to lean back in the chair much easier and without much pressure. By twisting the knob the opposite direction, the user will have to exert more pressure into reclining back in their chair.
Back Height Adjustment – Back height adjustment allows positioning of lumbar support(if your chair has built-in lumbar support) within a fixed range to alleviate back stress. If your chair comes with an “S” shaped back or has built-in lumbar support you will want to adjust your chair’s back to have the curved protruding portion align with the curve in your lower back. This allows you to feel the full advantages of having a back rest with lumbar support especially if you suffer from lower back pain. Back height adjustment is usually a knob located near the bottom of the back rest that can be loosened to move the back bar up or down, ad then tightened once the desired height is reached.
Tilt Lock – A tilt lock control locks out the tilt function when the chair is in the upright position. This feature is advantageous if you want the ability to recline in your chair for a few minutes but want to return it to lock in place in the upright position while tasking. Most office chairs that have tilt tension control will have tilt lock control as well. Tilt lock control is a lever on the chair that when pushed down allows you to recline in the chair, and when the lever is pulled up when your chair is in the upright position you are locked in place.
Adjustable Armrests – If an office chair comes with arms, most of the time they will be height adjustable armrests which is your standard up and down adjustment. More advanced arm adjustments include width adjustability, pivoting, and sliding forward and backward. Proper ergonomic thought deems your arms should not be resting when typing, as that slows the blood flow to an area that requires it because of the movement. However, having the ability to adjust arms up and down can help prevent this. Most armrests that are adjustable have a button on the side of the arms that allows you to either pull the arms up or push them down depending on your needs. While arms are not an essential feature to have on an office chair, they can come in handy when your arms need a break from continuous typing.
Having an office chair with basic adjustability is crucial as not every person can conform to a standard office chair. If your current office chair does not contain the above adjustments(excluding adjustable armrests) it may be time to start searching for a more ergonomically correct office chair. In the long run an adjustable chair can save you from back pain and other work related ailments that can occur from sitting for long periods of time in an awkward position. The aforementioned adjustments are the bare minimum that every office chair should contain, however, there are many more adjustments available for an even more ergonomic sitting experience.
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