Over a quarter of adults in the UK work in an office environment, and of that more than 30% will develop an RSI and 1 in 5 will suffer back strain or neck pains. Many think that by working in an office a person is unsusceptible to injury, but spending 8 hours a day sat in one place actually places a great deal of strain on the muscular and skeletal structure. Over time the strain placed on your body can develop and cause a number of symptoms ranging from mild irritation to downright unbearable pain.
According to NHS statistics, 15 million work days were lost in 2013 as a result of back pain, so it is strange to think that something which causes so many chronic medical conditions can be prevented so simply. Exercises that you can do at work are often lauded as a preventative measure, as well they should be, but there are other, more basic things you can do to prevent back ache and neck strain, including getting up and going for a short walk every hour and using an ergonomic office chair.
Designed to help relieve the stress placed on the body and adapt to the unique structure of every individual human being, investing in and using an ergonomic office chair can go a long way toward keeping a workforce happy and healthy, but with every piece of office furniture around being marketed as 'ergonomic' you may be confused as to what to look for in an ergonomic office chair.
The answer, whilst multi-faceted, is simple, and no office chair that comes without all of following features has the right to be labelled as an 'ergonomic' office chair.
Adjustable Height Settings
When sitting on an ergonomic office chair you will be able to, and should, adjust its height so that your feet are flat on the floor (or against a foot rest) and your thighs are running perpendicular to your legs.
If your seat is too high, your feet will be dangling above the floor and any effort to readjust your seating position will cause you to stretch down onto your tip toes and the back of your knees will dig into edge of the seat. This may cause the same kind of compression that leads to carpal tunnel syndrome in your wrists, and will reduce or restrict the blood flow to your legs and feet.
If, on the other hand your chair is too low, it will set your knees higher than your hips, which will place undue pressure on your sacrum, lumbar and sitting bones. You will also be more uncomfortable, which will cause you to push back in your seat more often, thereby placing additional strain on your back; especially if your chair is a static one.
When the back of a chair has a little bit of give and can be set as far forward or as far back as the user likes (within reason) it is generally a lot more comfortable, which means less shifting around. Moreover, being able to recline a little when you push back in your chair, which everyone who is sat down for a long enough time will eventually do, means less pressure is placed on your spine and sitting bones.
When set to the right height, the armrests of an ergonomic office chair should support the users arms comfortably and prevent them from hanging over the edge of the desk, which can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome or tendinitis. When using a keyboard your arms ought to be running parallel to the floor and your shoulders should be back, as assuming a hunched posture will place strain on your neck and upper back.
The structure of the spine is not designed to tolerate long periods of time sitting down, and whilst doing so stresses the entire length of your back, no area is affected more than the five vertebrae that make up the lumbar region.
Chairs which have lumbar support built in make all the difference to those using it, especially when that support can also be adjusted to suit the user. Many ergonomic chairs these days will allow those using them to adjust the firmness of the support, as well as its position in relation to the rest of the chair. With this little bit of additional control you can adjust the lumbar support so that it is positioned right up against the lower back, which has been proven to improve blood circulation.
Adjustable Seat Depth
Being able to move the back rest of a chair further forward or push it further back prevents the need to sit forward in a chair or lean in toward a screen, both of which would cause you to assume a poor sitting posture and force you strain your neck as you look up toward the screen. It also allows you to create a little distance between the edge of the seat and the back of your knees, preventing either from digging into the other and reducing the flow of blood to the lower legs and feet.
Simply put, chairs that are static are not as good as those that are not. Mobility is important, and if a chair is planted firmly in one place and cannot swivel the user's range of motion is severely hindered. Wheels and the ability to turn about on your chair is one of the most essential features when it comes to preventing back, neck and leg strain.
Ergonomic office chairs are an investment that soon pay themselves off in sick-days not taken, and the improved performance and output of those who use them. On desktop innovations we offer a selection of office chairs, including Orangebox ergonomic office chairs which meet all the criteria laid out above, with the option of a few extras bonus features.