Member Insights by Ability Chiropractic
Thirty-nine percent of Americans have jobs that involve sitting for most of the day. This stationary position can wreak havoc on your legs, hips, back, and neck if you aren’t seated in the right chair. Having an adjustable and comfortable office chair is critical if you want to avoid back pain. Your chair should conform to your individual needs concerning height, width, lumbar support, mobility, and more. Look for these key features the next time you’re picking out a desk chair to ensure you remain free from spinal pain.
Seat height is a vitally important aspect of your new, back-friendly desk chair. A seat that is too high puts pressure on the back of the legs, diminishing circulation and causing muscles to tighten. Tight leg muscles can easily radiate pain up the spine. A seat that is too low will throw off the angle of your pelvis; again, misaligning the spine and causing low back pain. You should be able to sit with your feet flat on the floor and your thighs horizontal. The average person needs a seat height between 16 and 21 inches.
There’s not much point in owning a spine-healthy chair if you don’t sit all the way in it. When you are seated with your back flat against the chair, there should be 2-4” of space between the edge of the seat and the back of your knees. A seat with too much depth will cut into your legs and cause discomfort. Seats with a curved edge are better.
Seat width is just as important as depth and height. Average chairs are 17 to 20 inches wide. You will need 1-2” of space on either side of your hips. The optimal seat width will also depend on the placement of the armrests. Too wide and you cannot sit comfortably. Too narrow and the chair will put pressure on your hips which is terrible for your spine.
Some chairs allow you to adjust the tilt of your seat which can greatly benefit your back. A perfectly flat or even forward titled seat will keep your hips squared underneath you to keep bones in the proper orientation. Tilting the seat forward is a good option if the seat is too deep and presses on the back of your knees.
Perhaps the most important aspect of any good desk chair is the amount of lumbar support it gives. The lumbar region consists of the vertebrae which sit between the thoracic (chest) and sacrum (tailbone) regions. Most people call the lumbar region their “lower back”. Over time, as we slouch farther, and our heads fall forward of our shoulders, the lumbar curve flattens. Needless to say, this isn’t good for your spine.
Proper lumbar support on a desk chair will be adjustable in both positioning and firmness. When you are testing chairs, start with the lumbar pad on its softest setting and slowly pump it up or forward until you feel it supporting your lower spine. Adjust the height so it sits perfectly in the curve.
The backrest may be separate from the lumbar support or it may be attached. Either way, look for a comfortable backrest that is wide enough for both shoulders to rest against. The backrest needs to support the entire spine and should have some curve and cushion to it. If it reclines, all the better. Laying back during the day takes pressure off the hips and stretches the hip flexor muscles, leaving your spine in better shape.
Just like the rest of the chair, armrests should be adjustable. You want an armrest height that allows your elbows to bend at 90 degrees, but your arms should not be laying heavily on the armrests. You also need to get close enough to the desk to comfortably reach the keyboard without straining. If your armrests don’t fit under your desk, make sure they adjust backwards so you can scoot in closer.
Having a desk chair that swivels is actually very good for your back. If you have a large or corner desk, there will be multiple times a day you need to swing around to reach for something. A stationary chair requires much more spinal twisting. A swivel chair moves with you to reduce strain on your back.
The material of your chair does more for your back than you suspect. Soft chairs with padding you sink into will not provide proper support, but stiff chairs with bare seats will put twinges of pain into your backside. A good desk chair needs firm padding both in the seat and the backrest to ensure all-day comfort.
Searching for the perfect desk chair to support your back and keep your posture up can seem like a daunting task. Try multiple chairs before deciding on a single one and sit in it for more than 10 minutes at the store to test long-term comfort. Every aspect of your desk chair can affect your spinal health so choose wisely and consult with your chiropractor for more recommendations.