Did you know prolonged sitting is associated with cervical, lumbar, and shoulder pain? If you’re an office worker, you’ve likely experienced those pestful aches after a long day.
And if you’re reading this, your boss probably can’t help you.
But don’t despair! There are multiple modifications you can make to create a safer and healthier ergonomic working space.
Adjust Your Office Chair
Being stuck in a cheap and seemingly inevitably painful chair for ten hours a day feels hopeless. However, even the most inferior of chairs can be adjusted to improve your circumstances.
Start by adjusting your office furniture. If that fails to fix the problem, add extra support! Here’s how.
Your seat should evenly distribute your body weight and thus be adjusted to fit your body type. Unfortunately, most office workers don’t know how to do that.
Let’s go over a few ways you can tailor your to meet your specific needs.
Examine Chair Height
Pressure points in the lower back and hips or numbness in your legs are indicators your chair’s height is off.
The first and easiest step is to adjust the height of your chair so that your feet are flat on the ground.
Your legs should rest at a 90-degree angle with your knees directly at or just below your hips.
If your chair is too tall, you’re likely leaning forward, omitting the chair’s lumbar support.
Not only can this cause lower back pain and lack of circulation, but it can also cause musculoskeletal disorders.
Unfortunately, most office chairs are not constructed in a one-size-fits-all manner but are often purchased as so. If your office chair is still too tall, turn to a footrest.
Pain and aches in your hips and lower back are tell-tale signs of a chair too short. Luckily, this is much easier to fix than a chair too tall.
Check Seat Depth
The best way to check seat depth is to stick your hand between your calves and the edge of your seat.
If there’s not enough space to make a fist or the bend in your legs hugs the edge of the chair, your depth is too deep.
This is typically the source of neck, shoulder, and upper back pain as it forces you to slouch toward the monitor.
Some chairs have a knob or second lever beneath the seat that moves the backrest forward, forcing you to scoot up. If your chair doesn’t have this feature, opt for a lumbar support pillow.
Evaluate Backrest Height
If you’re lucky, your chair’s backrest moves up and down, too. Props to your boss! However, the backrest isn’t positioned correctly, it’s useless.
Most office chairs have a knob on the back that loosens the backrest so you can move it up and down. Loosen the backrest, and slide it until it rests comfortably in the small of your back.
However, if you’re not one of the lucky ones, start shopping for a lumbar pillow.
Fix Armrest Position
Adjust your armrests so that your elbows sit comfortably on them when your hands are in your lap.
If armrests force your shoulders above where they rest when you’re relaxed, they’re too high. Upper back pain is the largest giveaway.
On the contrary, shrugging to lay your arms on the rests suggests they’re too low. Shrugging causes spinal compression and severe back issues if not corrected.
Unfortunately, many office chairs don’t have highly-adjustable armrests. Luckily, most office chairs do have raisable or removable armrests.
If your chair’s armrests cannot be correctly adjusted, omit them and actively practice proper posture.
Use a Footrest
Footrests pair well with chairs that are too tall. They also promote joint and muscle movement, blood flow, and pressure relief.
A simple footrest like a small stool or wedge works, but there are multiple ergonomic footrests to choose from.
With that said, the most important feature is that it allows your feet to rest flat on the floor. Let’s take a look at some of the best types of footrests on the market.
- Massage footrests have textured surfaces that tackle pain points in your feet while encouraging movement.
- Memory Foam Footrests are ideal for anyone with leg and foot pain. The foam cradles heavy bodyweight and alleviates pressure points.
- Rocking footrests encourage movement as well. Most tilt at a 20-degree angle, relieving pressure from joints while stretching muscles.
Employ a Lumbar Support Pillow
Per the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, sitting at a desk or in a chair without enough support causes lower back pain.
Therefore, building support for yourself is a necessity. A lumbar pillow is one of the easiest ways to do so.
If your office chair doesn’t have an adjustable backrest, a lumbar support pillow is beneficial.
Lumbar support pillows evenly distribute body weight and promote proper posture. They also alleviate any painful pressure points already present.
Most impressively, they do what a chair’s backrest can’t – mold to the curvature of your spine.
Memory foam and inflatable lumbar pillows are extremely popular. Memory foam relieves pressure while inflatable pillows have customizable firmness.
Add a Office Chair Seat Cushion
Let’s face it, we don’t all have cool adjustable desks and rarely practice perfect posture for eight hours straight.
This is unfortunate considering prolonged sitting and slouching places tremendous pressure on the lumbar spine.
Luckily, a contoured seat cushion can help bear some of that pressure, potentially preventing disc compression.
Contoured cushions mirror the shape of a pelvis, evenly distributing body weight and subduing spinal pressure.
When combined with a lumbar pillow, a seat cushion improves posture and lower back pain.
Install Arm Pads on Your Office Chair
If you’ve chosen to keep your office chair’s armrests, at least ensure they’re comfy! Too many desk chairs have callous armrests that wear on the joints after a while.
Much like the lower back and buttocks, our arms need pressure relief. Arm pads are a quick and easy fix, as most slide right over armrests.
But before breaking your new comfy arm pads in, ensure you can use them at the proper height. If your armrests can’t be adjusted to the right height with them on, keep shopping.
No matter how soft and plushy the pads are, shoulders that are too high or too low will still result in back pain.
Lower your Keyboard
Your keyboard has nothing to do with your office chair, but its placement plays a significant role in how you sit.
While typing, your hands, and wrists should not extend above the rest of your arms.
Instead, your hands, wrists, and forearms should form a straight line, with a 90-degree bend in your elbow.
Another way to find the best height for your keyboard is to situate your forearms parallel to your thighs. In other words, your keyboard should be closer to your lap than your chest.
If you don’t have an adjustable desk, achieving the proper height can be difficult. Therefore, adjusting your chair then adding a footrest is sometimes the most feasible option.
You may also install a keyboard drawer or keyboard tray beneath your desk.
A keyboard drawer typically needs to be drilled in, so you’ll likely have to receive permission from your boss first. It’ll also be more time-consuming, but certainly worth it.
A keyboard tray is the simpler of the two and is both quick and easy to install.
Most trays clip onto the edge of your desk and sit at the exact spot a keyboard drawer would when extended out.
Position Your Monitor to Eye Level
Much like your keyboard, your monitor has nothing to do with your chair. However, it’s important to mention that its level affects how you sit.
If the monitor is too high, you’ll gaze up and lean forward, straining your neck and compromising lumbar support. If it’s too low, you likely slouch and compress your spine.
Unless you have a monitor from the early 2000s or work from a laptop, your screen is likely adjustable.
To properly set it, set all your ergonomic equipment in place. Sit as you do when working. Slide your monitor up or down until the top of the screen is directly or just below eye level.
This will encourage proper posture and allow you to sit comfortably for the entire day.
You may also consider getting standing frames for frequently referenced physical documents. Peering down at a resource paper for long periods disrupts the natural curvature of the spine.
If you do work from a laptop or have an unadjustable monitor, invest in an adjustable stand instead.
Why Should I Invest in My Office Chair?
Unless you’re the boss or work from home, you probably didn’t get a say in your office chair. Luckily, you can invest your time and money into improving its comfort.
A lousy office chair appears innocent at first sight but leads to health issues that prevent us from fulfilling our duties.
Whether your desk chair needs a quick adjustment or multiple additions, it’s worth your while and health!
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