Choosing the right seat!

November 20, 2014 Uncategorized

With the need to be flexible about hotdesking and remote working on the increase due to business demands the issue of seating becomes all the more important. We now don’t often have the luxury of having our own workstation and chair set up for our individual needs. Musculoskeletal disorders are also on the increase in office workers due to how they sit at their desk for long periods.

Selecting the right seating as an employer can help avoid potential time off due to back injuries and for the employee the chance of experiencing back issues or repetitive strain injury would be greatly reduced. An individual ideally needs to be able to adjust the back height, seat angle and lumbar support to meet their requirements.

We’ve put together the following tips for selecting and adjusting chairs in the workplace for a more comfortable work environment.

Tip 1 – Height off the ground

When you select a new chair or need to adjust an existing one you should first look at how high it is from the ground. Your feet should be flat on the floor. If they don’t sit comfortably on the floor then you should use a footrest to raise them. Your thighs should sit flat and then the knee should be at an angle just over 90 degrees. There are other options to a footrest such as an adjustable desk where the height changes or a shorter stem could be fitted to the chair lowering the seat level. If you are tall then a longer stem can be fitted to raise the height but with all of these adjustments your arms must stay relaxed and level with the desk, so you need to find the best combination for you.

Tip 2 – Adjusting the seat angle

On many chairs this is not noticed or not possible but you should always check to see if this can be altered. It can prevent the knee being at the wrong angle and extra pressure being put onto the back of the legs and hips. Often it’s about combining the height of the chair with the tilt of the seat to achieve the most comfortable position for you. Things to look out for are how pressed against the seat your hamstrings are, how close the back of the knee is to the chair, whether your back is touching the back of the chair and any pain in your hips.

A good chair should have an adjustable seat that slides forwards and backwards to give the right amount of leg support or the option to change the seat for a smaller or larger pad. Ideally you should be able to fit 3-4 fingers between the seat and the back of your knee. Too small a gap can cause circulation issues in the legs due to restricted movement and pressure. Too large a gap can mean your legs are overstretching and are unsupported putting more tension on the leg muscles.

Tip 3 – The length of the back cushion

If you are looking for a new chair or trying to select a more comfortable chair in the office, look for one that has a similar shaped back to your spine. If you are taller you will need a higher backseat, if you have quite a curved back you would be better with a curved backseat.

Tip 4 – Getting the right back support

You also need to be able to adjust the back seat so that your lower back is supported. If you can’t do this on your current chair and you find that you can fit your hand easily in the small of your back while sitting, then consider a lumber support cushion to support you lower back muscles and prevent any lower back pain.

Tip 5 – The option of Inflatable Lumbar

Some chairs will come with inflatable lumbar support. You will often find adjustable support in cars and it’s just the same with an office chair. An inflatable bag that sits in the lower part of the back cushion can be adjusted using a squeezy ball that’s attached to the chair to inflate and a button to deflate. You can then make sure your lower back is resting on the back of the chair with very little gap. This will often reduce lower back stiffness and lower back pain. It gives you much more flexibility to adjust the chair for individual needs than static lumbar support or a back support cushion. This can often help workers who have to hot desk as it’s quick to adjust and suits multiple people.

Tip 6 – Getting the angle right

Most office chairs will allow you to adjust the angle of the back of the seat but some will do it as one movement with the chair and some will do it as individual parts. It’s called asynchronised and synchronised seat mechanisms. If you want to sit more upright or you lean back while you work, then the synchronised movement with everything moving as one part will work best for you. If you tend to lean forward slightly when working or prefer the seat to tilt down slightly then asynchronised is better.

Tip 7 – Using arm supports and headrests

Arms can be an option on most seating and can provide much needed support for tired shoulders as well as supporting your back when you are not typing. However, you need the arms to be adjustable to the right height or they can cause tension in the neck and shoulders and curvature of the back. They can also stop you getting the right distance and height from the desk, if they don’t slide underneath or over the top.

In our experience, very few physiotherapists recommend headrests. The head should support itself and be in a relaxed and correct position for sitting at a workstation. However if a neck injury has occurred, such as whiplash, then a headrest may be a suitable addition.

We hope this helps you select a new seat or adjust your current seat.

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