If you suffer from back pain, sitting in a badly designed office chair for long periods could be contributing to your condition. Changing your office chair could make all the difference. But, with so many different types of office chair available, how do you know if you are buying the right one?

It is generally advised by most back pain specialists that you choose an ergonomic office chair, whether you suffer from back pain or not. However, there are a huge range of models on the market (buy office chairs here), so choosing the right ergonomic chair isn’t necessarily as simple as you might think.

Here we take a look at what an ergonomic chair actually is, the possible features on offer, what kind of ergonomic chair is best for specific back problems and what else can be done to minimise the risk and discomfort of back pain at work.

What is an ergonomic chair?

The most important factor when considering office chairs is that one size definitely doesn’t fit all. Lots of office chairs look great, but they don’t have a great deal of adjustability and are actually quite uncomfortable to sit on for longer periods.

Conversely, an ergonomic chair offers a great deal of adjustability to ensure the seat can be adapted to the optimum position for the individual who will be sitting in it. We come in all shapes, heights and weights so it makes perfect sense to have a chair that can be adapted.

What features should you look for in a good ergonomic chair?

The most important feature of a decent ergonomic chair is a high level of adjustability to help support the person and ensure the task being performed doesn’t put unnecessary strain on the body. Essential features of a good ergonomic chair include:

  • Five-star base and the ability to swivel or rotate
  • Fully adjustable arms
  • Seat height adjustment
  • Seat tilt adjustment
  • Seat width and depth adjustment
  • Adjustable or inflatable lumbar support
  • Back support height and angle adjustment
  • Sufficient width in the backrest
  • Padded, breathable and comfortable fabric

What kind of ergonomic chair is best for me?

Certain features of ergonomic chairs will be more appropriate for particular conditions. Corrigo design, for example, have developed a range of chairs designed for specific conditions, such as RSI (repetitive strain injury), slipped or bulging discs, frozen shoulder, sciatica, scoliosis, arthritis and fibromyalgia.

Nichola Adams at Corrigo designed their ergonomic chairs following years of training in ergonomics and through years of research and collaboration with physiotherapists.

A decent ergonomic chair with a high level of adjustability is ideal for most general back pain, as long as the chair is set up to suit your exact requirements. Your chair needs to support your back and keep your posture in the optimum position while you work at your desk.

However, there are alternatives to the traditional ergonomic chair, which may be more appropriate for certain conditions and can be alternated with your usual chair (preferably an ergonomic one). A kneeling ergonomic chair or a saddle ergonomic chair may help to reduce spinal tension and eliminate some of the problems associated with a traditional office chair.

For people with serious back problems an ergonomic recliner chair may be the most appropriate option. This type of chair is particularly suitable for those with lumbar spinal stenosis or degenerative disc disease. Small tables are available that attach to the chair making it possible to work from a reclined position.

What else can I do to reduce back pain at work?

Sitting in your chair properly is as important as the quality and appropriate features of the chair itself. Keep your feet flat on the floor, your back flat against the back of the chair and practise upright posture rather than slumping at your desk. Watch this YouTube video for further advice on how to sit properly at your desk.

https://youtu.be/xzV1Hej61CY

If you aren’t sure how to set up your chair properly, ask your chair supplier to do that for you when they deliver. You may also like to ask your employer for a workstation assessment.

Take regular breaks from your desk and introduce some gentle stretching exercises into your day. Here are 6 quick stretches to protect your back at work. It is best to consult a healthcare professional if you suffer from any specific conditions before doing exercise. Chiropractors and osteopaths specialise in the treatment of back and neck pain. You can find a chiropractor local to you here, or an osteopath here. They will be able to advise you on which exercises are most appropriate for you.

Ideally, you should be getting up from your desk and walking around for 5-10 minutes every hour. Refer to the Health and Safety Executive guidelines for more information on display screen equipment, work routine and breaks.

Point your employer to BackCare, the UK charity for healthier backs, to ensure they are offering adequate support to prevent back pain at work. A good employer will do all they can to ensure you are able to do your job properly.

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