Choosing an Ergonomic Office Chair

If you perform typical office work, whether in your home or outside the home, you probably spend lots of time sitting in a chair in a posture that is not kind to your back, neck and shoulders. You may already have back problems, or perhaps you just want to avoid having a sore back for as long as possible. In either case, a good, ergonomic office chair can go a long way toward protecting your back and promoting good posture.

There are many varieties of ergonomic chairs on the market; some are more "typical" office chairs with features which support your lower back, while others may look "out there," but can really stop back pain in its tracks.

Features of an Ergonomically Correct Office Chair

If you are looking at one of the more traditional styles of office chair, you can still ensure it protects your spine. The seat height of the chair should be adjustable, and it should be easy to accomplish this adjustment, via an adjustment lever on the side. The seat height needs to range from 16 to 22 above the floor for the majority of people, allowing the feet to rest naturally on the floor, thighs evenly spaced and arms at the same height as your desk. The seat needs to be both wide enough and deep enough to support your body comfortably-at least 17-21" wide.

The depth, which is measured from the front to the back of the chair seat must be enough to enable you to sit with your back snugly against the backrest of your chair, leaving from 2-4" between the back of your knees and the seat of the chair. A seat which can be tilted forwards or backwards can also help protect your back.

Possible the most important feature of your ergonomic office chair is the lower back support; your spine naturally has an inward curve and when you are stuck for long periods of time in a chair which offers no support for this curve, you tend to slouch and your back ends up sore. A good ergonomic office chair will have lumbar adjustments in both height and depth to ensure every user gets the best fit to support the curve of their lower back.

The backrest of your chair should be anywhere from 13 to 20 inches wide, and preferably adjustable in both angle and height. Finally, make sure the armrests of your office chair are adjustable, allowing your arms to rest comfortably with the elbow and lower arm resting lightly. Most all office chairs will have a swivel so you can reach different parts of your desk without stressing your back.

Less Traditional Ergonomic Chairs

If you are not so hung up on having your office chair look very traditional, you might try one of the more non-traditional ergonomic chairs. The kneeling chair has no back, and although it looks odd, once you have sat in one for a while you will wonder how you ever used anything else. The support of the kneeling chair comes primarily from the seat, then your shins rest on an additional support, distributing the weight between pelvis and knees, effectively reducing spinal compression by allowing the spine to be in a more natural position.

The saddle chair comes in the shape of a horse's saddle, putting you in a position that is somewhere between sitting and standing, and allows the legs to drop naturally creating a healthy position for your back. Using the saddle chair over a period of time can strengthen the back muscles and drastically reduce back pain. If you are feeling particularly daring, another type of ergonomic chair is called the exercise ball, and it is basically what the name implies-a large ball which supports the user and also encourages movement and active sitting, with a slight bounce which keeps your legs moving and circulation going.

No matter what type of ergonomic chair you choose, it's a good idea to always take short breaks throughout the day. Getting up from time to time encourages strong posture, reduces fatigue and relieves eye strain.