The Ergonomics of a Chair Explained
Sitting can place the body under a lot of stress, resulting in neck pain, back pain, shoulder tension, headaches, and even disc injuries resulting in arm pain or sciatic pain.
What does the term ‘Ergonomic’ mean?
Ergonomics is a science, also known as human engineering or biotechnology. Ergonomics involves looking at how objects can be used for people to use comfortably.
An ergonomic chair, for example, is a chair that has been designed to best support the human body, including considerations like posture, comfort, support and health.
Making a chair ‘Ergonomic’
Ergonomic chairs (/ergonomic-chairs/) have a number of features designed to improve your posture and offer correct support, but they only do half the job – To truly feel the benefits of an ergonomic chair, you should first learn how to sit properly:
Try following these suggestions:
- Keep an arm’s length away from your computer screen. Ideally, the top of the monitor should be level with your eyes.
- Sit up straight and avoid slouching. Your neck should be in a relaxed and neutral position.
- Keep your arms parallel to the floor.
- Sit with both feet flat on the floor and avoid crossing your legs. This is to allow correct blood circulation within your legs.
The best ergonomic chair will be an adjustable chair, to allow for better control and multiple settings. Adjustability is especially important if you are buying an ergonomic chair.
Features of the best Ergonomic chairs:
1. Seat height
The best seat height will allow you to place your feet flat on the floor, which is why choosing a chair with an adjustable seat height is essential – most desks are a fixed height, it is important that the seat height can be altered. A seat height that ranges from 28 to 36 cm’s off the floor should work for most people
2. Seat width and depth
Proper seat depth should leave between 3.5 and 7.0 cm’s between the edge of the seat and the back of your knees. If the seat is too far forward, it may put undue pressure at the back of the knees.
3. Seat tilt
The best ergonomic chairs will allow the seat to tilt, helping to support the spines natural (neutral) position. It’s important to keep the hips in a neutral position when sitting, with a 70 to 80- degree angle from the hips to the knees.
4. The backrest
Supporting the ‘sway’ in your lower back and is an essential feature of an ergonomic chair. Ergonomic chairs support the natural ‘S’ shape of the spine, which prevents slumping and reduces stress on the spine and on the pelvis. An adjustable backrest allows users to align the curve in the chair with the curve in their spine, with the concept being that your spine should be in the same position when sitting as it is when standing. That is, ‘straight’.
5. Reclining backrest
Adjustable backrests allow for greater support, as moving the backrest to support the spine regardless of the position. Using this feature helps transfer some of the weight from your upper body to the backrest, reducing pressure on the discs and supporting muscle groups.
The swivel in an ergonomic chair assists with manoeuvrability, making it easier to reach different points of their desks without having to strain excessively.
Armrests help to reduce tension in the upper body and allow the shoulders to relax. However, armrests should not be used when typing as this reduces overall arm movement, which in turn increases wrist movement leading to strain on the forearm muscles.
Supports the back of the head and the upper neck, reducing tension in the shoulders and upper torso.
A good ergonomic chair is made out of comfortable materials. The material should not cause the user’s back to sweat. However, the materials used will depend on the budget; high-end ergonomic chairs will use leather or velvet. They should also be made from a hygienic material, breathe and be able to clean.
If your chair will be used on a hard surface, find a chair with soft rubber wheels. If your workplace/home office is carpeted, opt for hard wheels to help you navigate better.