How Do I Fix the Tilt on My Office Chair?

Back when we were younger, we were often reprimanded for rocking on the back legs of our chairs.

It was fun, although very dangerous, and perhaps something in our genetics makes us want to lean backward.

Office chairs come equipped with levers and dials that allow us to adjust our sitting height, our arm position, and the angle at which we lean either forward or backward.

Let’s Adjust the Tilt on Your Office Chair

Take a seat, roll toward your desk, plant your feet, and perhaps wiggle yourself into place and survey your workstation.

Observe how you feel in that position. Reach toward your workstation tools like your computer, your writing accessories, and your phone.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the angle of my head in relation to my tools
  • How do my elbows match up to my desk height
  • Do my elbows sag and drag the muscle tissue in my shoulders and neck down
  • Do the armrests of my chair fit into the desk space allocated for my legs and chair
  • Are my shoulders hunched
  • Am I leaning forward without support
  • Is my lumbar supported
  • Can I sit in this position for several hours comfortably
  • What happens to the angle of my wrists when I type in this position

Basic Chair Model Tilt Adjustments

For basic office or task chairs, there may only be two adjustment options or even only one. It doesn’t mean they can’t work for you. The first feature is the free float lever, and the second is an extension dial knob situated under the seat.

  • Find the free float lever
  • Decide if you like the seat position locked into place or rock as you move
  • Press or lift the lever while sitting comfortably
  • Find the position that feels comfortable. Remember it

For models with dial knob:

  • Find the tension dial (bulky extension), or it may be a crank-like device
  • Move into a position that doesn’t tilt you too far back or ahead
  • Turn the dial clockwise (or counterclockwise) and find the desired resistance tension
  • Be aware of where that spot is so that your back receives lumbar and upper back support
  • Also, make sure the distance isn’t too far back and surprise you each time you sit down, and you find that void that jolts you as if you are falling
  • This tension should be a natural fit for your bodyweight
  • If you have to apply body force or strain, the tension is set too tight

Advance Chair Tilt Adjustment

If you’ve invested or your employer provides top-quality ergonomically designed office chairs, count your lucky stars. An ergonomically designed chair allows each user to adjust and modify their seating position to suit the task.

For some tasks, we want an up-close relationship with our desk and tools, while for others, we can relax and lean into our chairs like those important meetings.

Your feet should remain flat on the floor. They act as the anchor and balance.

A quality chair also has a swivel feature that makes moving toward and away from our desk easy.

These versatile chairs come equipped with features that allow us to maneuver into the best position for the job.

Here is a quick tutorial to make those features work for your personal setting.

These applications work best when you are seated comfortably in the chair. These levers and knobs should be marked.

  • Unlock back paddle adjustment for back posture (lift to unlock)
  • Find position, press down, and lock into place
  • Find seat height adjustment lever (often 2nd lever in)
  • Adjust to the desired height by unlocking up (feet flat)
  • If you’ve dropped too low, raise yourself from the seat pan, hold the lever until the chair returns to the starting height position and try again
  • The seat angle or tilt adjustment lever is the third lever closest to your knee for proper ergonomic adjustment
  • Lift the seat angle adjustment lever, may make a sound, the chair will float or rock freely
  • Lock into position by pressing lever; remember that tilting forward will increase blood flow
  • For extra legroom, adjust your seat pan position with the lever located directly under the front lip of the seat (this lever is similar to a handlebar on an exit door)
  • Adjust while seated or standing next to the chair and slide into position, gaining 3–5 inches depending on the chair model

What Are the Correct Positions, and How Do I Find and Adjust Them?

Like most things in life, office chairs are about quality too. Most offices and workstations are now designed to optimize work efficiency and to save on long-term disability leave.

Sitting all day isn’t good for us. Sitting in incorrect positions is even worse and exponentially has bad ramifications on our well-being.

To discover the ideal position for our bodies, we need to understand the parts of an office chair.

Basic Office Chair Parts

  • Back support
  • Seat pan
  • Armrests
  • casters/wheels
  • Lumbar support
  • Cylinder (up and down) pneumatic lift
  • Seat height adjustment lever
  • Tilt adjustment dial
  • Swivel base
  • (Headrest)

Because we spend so much time sitting, many businesses hire ergonomic specialists to create workspace situations that optimize comfort and employee efficiency.

If you don’t have access to a specialist or need to adjust your own seat arrangement, consider asking a colleague to help you get adjusted.

Ideal Sitting Relationship to Our Desk

We’re all created differently, and our productivity is adversely affected when we’re not comfortable. Your desk to chair ratio plays an important role, and as we age or spend even longer hours at our desks, that relationship needs to have some boundaries.

Now that you know where the adjustment parts are, we can adjust the chair to fit your needs. Tilting your seat pad forward allows better blood flow in your body, while slightly reclining transfers your weight toward the back so that you can relax.

Take a seat:

  • Be comfortable
  • Position your feet flat on the ground
  • Rest against the back and allow 2 inches between your spine and the backrest on the bottom. The bulk of your back should be flush
  • Find the dial/lever beneath the seat (sometimes called seat pan)
  • Press the adjustment feature and tilt forward
  • Experiment to find the ideal position (this may require several adjustments)
  • To readjust, press the lever adjustment down again, tilt the seat to fit your posture

Not all office or task chairs are created equal. It will take some finetuning to find your sweet spot.

Advanced Office Chair Parts

  • Cushioned or airflow back support
  • Advanced microfiber or leather option
  • Padded seat pan
  • Adjustable or removable armrests
  • Tension knob for backrest height adjustment (located on the spine bar of the back support)
  • Back angle adjustment lever (up to unlock, down to lock into place)
  • Pneumatic up and down lever (the most fun)
  • Seat tilt mechanism lever (up to release, down to lock)
  • Tilt tension dial (often located in the middle of the seat)
  • Forward tilt option lever knob
  • Seat movement adjuster bar with lock feature
  • Arm width adjustment spreader
  • Arm/elbow adjustment tab

You pretty much need a license to operate these executive chair functions, but they’re an investment in your health. Check out Tempur-Pedic or the OMF/24/7 chair models for their superior adjustment capabilities for this demonstration.

Relax and Reassess

Adapting your chair to your needs and learning the mechanics of your chair’s capabilities takes some skill and adjustments. Asking a colleague to monitor your body posture is a great idea and return the favor in kind.

The health of our spine is directly related to our well-being. Don’t compromise.

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