Dr. Jeffrey I. Kennis,  D.C.
205 Commercial St.
Boston, MA 02109
NORTH END

( 617)720-2329


 

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The best office chair is largely based on personal preference, but there are several back-friendly features you may want to look for when making your selection. Read on to learn the common traits of a comfortable and supportive office chair.

Image of businesswoman taking phone call in busy office

When choosing an ergonomic office chair, consider features like lumbar support, adjustable armrests and height, high backrest and headrest, and a deep seat. Read Choosing the Right Ergonomic Office Chair

Lumbar support

Your lumbar spine (lower back) naturally curves inward. Without lower back support it’s easy to round your back and flatten this curve when you sit for a prolonged period of time, which can strain the lumbar spine. An ergonomic chair should offer adjustable lumbar support. For some chairs with mesh backrests, adjustable lumbar support looks like a piece of reinforced plastic that is built onto the backrest and can be raised up or down. For padded chairs, you should be able to adjust the height of the backrest, which is designed with a supportive curve.

See Types of Lumbar Support and Ergonomic Office Chairs

Adjustable armrests

Armrests can help to support your elbows and take some weight off your shoulders, reducing neck and shoulder strain. Your elbows should rest lightly on the armrests and bend at about a 90-degree angle when using a keyboard and mouse. Look for armrests that have adjustable heights and can slide inward, so you can keep your arms close to your body.

Watch Video: 6 Tips to Improve Posture While Sitting

Adjustable height

An office chair that encourages correct posture should allow you to scoot all the way to the back of the seat with your feet flat on the floor, thighs horizontal and arms even with the height of the desk. It is thought that a seat height ranging from 16 to 21 inches off the ground is suitable for most people. An office chair that comes with a pneumatic adjustment lever can help you find the right height.

See Types of Lumbar Support and Ergonomic Office Chairs

High backrest and headrest

Look for an office chair that has a backrest that supports the natural curve of your spine. A backrest high enough for your upper back to stay flush against can help to keep you from hunching your shoulders. A headrest can also encourage you to keep your head back rather than drooping your neck forward, a position that load dozens of extra pounds of pressure on your cervical spine.

See How Poor Posture Causes Neck Pain

Deep seat

The seat should be deep enough so that you can sit with your back against the backrest while leaving 2 to 4 inches between the back of the knees and the seat of the chair. For extra customization, keep an eye out for office chairs that allow you to adjust the forward or backward tilt of the seat.

See Office Chair Back Support

Test out a variety of office chairs before you make a purchase, and see which one offers you the most comfort and support. You may even find that you prefer an office chair solution with an alternative design.

See 5 Unusual Office Chair Solutions to Help Your Back

Learn more:

Posture to Straighten Your Back

Ten Tips for Improving Posture and Ergonomics

Depending on the extent of the damage, symptoms of a neck strain or sprain can range from mild discomfort to painful muscle spasms.

See Neck Strain: Causes and Remedies

Cervical Spine

A neck strain is not a serious injury; but the resulting pain can be severe. Watch: Neck Strains and Sprains Video

Our video walk-through can help you visualize how soft tissue injuries lead to neck strain:

Video highlights

There are numerous soft tissues (including muscles, tendons, and ligaments) that attach in and around your cervical spine (neck).

See Cervical Spine Anatomy

These muscles, tendons, and ligaments all work in tandem to support your neck and head. At the same time, they also enable movement in your neck. A neck strain or sprain occurs when one or more of these soft tissues is stretched beyond its normal range (or is injured in another way).

Watch: Cervical Spine Anatomy Video

Muscle strain examples

The trapezius muscle (pictured below in purple) is a large muscle that connects your shoulders and neck. Its function is to control the large motor movements in your neck.

Upper Back Strain

When your trapezius muscle is stretched beyond its normal capacity, it can lead to pain and stiffness in your neck, shoulder blades, and shoulders.

See When Is a Stiff Neck Serious?

Cervical Tendons

The image above shows tendons in your neck (pictured in purple). These bands of fibrous tissue connect your muscles to your bones. A neck strain occurs when the tendons and/or muscles in your neck are overly-stretched, torn, or otherwise injured.

Neck Ligaments

Ligaments (pictured above in red) are bands of fibrous tissue that connect your spinal bones and provide stability for your neck joints.

If the ligaments in your neck are overly-stretched or torn, a neck sprain can result. This injury produces pain and inflammation similar to an ankle sprain.

Common injuries that lead to neck strain

Neck Strain

Damage to your soft tissues often results from a sudden injury, such as whiplash injury. Whiplash can occur as a result of a car accident, in which your head is forced suddenly forward and then backward.

See Whiplash Symptoms and Associated Disorders

Neck strain can also result from poor posture over time. For example, leaning forward and/or looking down for long periods while texting or looking at a computer screen can take its toll on your neck (a phenomenon know as text neck).

See How Poor Posture Causes Neck Pain

Neck Strain

Inflammation and muscle spasms may also occur around the injury as your muscles work to stabilize your soft tissues, and these muscle spasms can be extremely painful.

See What Causes Neck Spasms?

Treatment options

While it is common for soft tissue injuries to resolve after a few days, it is a good idea to seek treatment both to ease acute pain and to help prevent future flare-ups of pain.

Watch: Treatment for Neck Strain or Sprain Video

Common first-aid treatment options include:

Additionally, after the initial flare-up of pain a program of neck stretches and strengthening exercises can help prevent future injuries.

See Neck Stretches and Neck Strengthening Exercises

Make sure to speak with your doctor before starting an exercise program, as the wrong kinds of exercises can actually make your necks strain worse.

See What to Consider Before Starting Exercises for Neck Pain

Learn more:

Neck Exercises for Neck Pain

Stiff Neck Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Using a stand-up desk for 1 hour per day may help alleviate your back pain and boost your mood.

See Lower Back Pain Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Illustration of a woman using a standing desktop converter

Back pain is the most common work-related injury. But there are several ergonomic changes that can be made to prevent back pain in the workplace. Read Ergonomics of the Office and Workplace: An Overview

Sound too good to be true? Read on to learn more:

See Back Pain and Ergonomics

The risks associated with excessive sitting

Before we look at the possible benefits of a stand-up desk, let's talk about the risks associated with excessive sitting. Complications may include:

  • Neck pain from hunching forward
  • Increased risk for developing heart disease
  • Tight hips and hamstrings
  • Increased back pain

See The New Health Epidemic: Sitting Disease

It is important to note that good posture can help minimize some of the risks associated with excessive sitting, but it is not a cure-all.

See Good Posture Helps Reduce Back Pain

Recent evidence promotes more standing

In a 2011 study, participants experienced less upper back pain, less neck pain, and an improved mood by simply sitting 66 minutes less per day.1

See Workplace Ergonomics and Neck Pain

Participants in the study held sedentary office jobs. Researchers provided the participants with a device that allowed them to sit or stand at their desks throughout the course of the study.

See Work Ergonomics: Minimize Back Injuries

The participants were given the choice to sit or stand as much, or as little, as they pleased. On average, the group ended up sitting around 1 hour less each day—but this was enough to realize statistically significant health benefits.

Improved emotional well-being

As mentioned previously, the benefits of less sitting were not only physical. Participants reported decreased fatigue, tension, confusion, and depression—all gained by sitting 66 minutes less per day.

See Depression and Chronic Back Pain

Moreover, the following benefits were reported:

  • 75% felt healthier
  • 71% felt more focused
  • 66% felt more productive
  • 62% felt happier
  • 33% felt less stressed.

See Stress-Related Back Pain

Toward the end of the study, the office workers’ sit-to-stand desks were removed, and their moods and pain levels went back to baseline.

What does this mean for you?

One clear takeaway from this study is that you may benefit from the daily use of a stand-up desk. Here are some tips to help get you started:

  • Height adjustable stand-up desks that are placed on top of your regular desk are available at a fraction of the cost of a full stand-up desk.
  • Ensure that your monitor is placed at eye level to reduce strain on your neck.
  • Place your foot up on some kind of rest so you can easily shift your body weight from one leg to the other.
  • Consider purchasing an adjustable stool so you can sit, or partially sit, for periods of time.

See Ergonomics of the Office and Workplace: An Overview

As a bonus, you may only need to use a stand-up desk for 1 or 2 hours per day to reap significant health benefits.

Learn more:

Early Treatments for Lower Back Pain

Office Chair, Posture, and Driving Ergonomics

References

  1. Pronk NP, Katz AS, Lowry M, Payfer JR, "Reducing Occupational Sitting Time and Improving Worker Health: The Take-a-Stand Project," 2011. Prev Chronic Dis 2012;9:110323

Here are 6 strategies to help ease your aching back—and keep the pain away. 

https://www.spine-health.com/blog/6-strategies-baby-your-back