What Makes a Chair Ergonomic? How Does It Work?
Having a desk-bound job typically involves spending more than eight hours a day sitting in an office chair. This position is quite detrimental to one’s health as it can put stress on the spine’s structure. If you wish to avoid developing or worsening back injuries, it’s essential to have an ergonomic office chair.
However, getting a chair is just the first step to resolve the common problem of posture and a sedentary lifestyle. While an ergonomic chair encourages a good sitting position, it doesn’t force you to adopt one. Regardless, it’s still highly beneficial to get one. After all, besides encouraging a proper posture, these chairs are also incredibly comfortable.
What is an ergonomic chair? What features do these chairs have? In this article, you can find the answers to these questions and more. Many health risks stem from sitting down for extended periods, and the ergonomic chair features can help solve them!
What Does an Ergonomic Chair Mean?
What is an ergonomic chair? Let’s find out the ergonomic chair definition. Ergonomics is a scientific discipline that concerns itself with the process of arranging and designing products, systems, and workplaces in a way that fits whoever uses them. It does so by bringing together knowledge from several subjects such as physiology, engineering, statistics, and psychology to ensure a design that complements people’s strengths and minimizes the impact of their limitations.
Most people who have heard of ergonomic chair definition that ergonomics associate it with a car’s control and instrument design or just seating, yet it encompasses much more. Ergonomics can be present in everything that involves people: sports, leisure, and workspaces.
In the workplace, there’s a considerable economic cost due to work-related injuries. The most common ailment is lower back pain, and it mostly affects office workers. With ergonomics, people can prevent this issue and enjoy a comfortable and productive workplace. However, getting the right office chair is the first step.
Chairs categorized as ergonomic chairs are those designed to suit a multitude of people. They promote neutral sitting posture and active sitting, reducing the health risks of sedentary work. However, there isn’t a guarantee that they can fit anyone in particular. For example, some chairs may be too high, or their armrests too far apart for a slim and short individual.
Besides, these chairs might not be suitable for every task an employee might perform at their workstation. They’re only ergonomic when they suit a worker’s body dimensions adequately, their workspace, and the job they have to perform there. These are all things that people should consider when they’re deciding which chair they want to use.
What Are the Features of an Ergonomic Chair?
Now, you already know what an ergonomic chair is, so, how does an ergonomic chair work? Ergonomics have a basic rule: an average person doesn’t exist. Still, designing chairs that fit each individual in particular in an office isn’t practical either. The best solution is to use a fully adjustable chair that can accommodate most people. These chairs tend to fit around 85 to 90 percent of the population, while the rest, often too short or tall, need special ones.
Considering that, here are some crucial ergonomic chair features you might want to consider if you choose to get one, regardless of the purpose you intend to give it:
Lumbar support is an essential ergonomic chair feature. It supports your lower body and can stabilize your neck and head as well. An ergonomic chair with back support protects your spine, reduces the risk of injury, and doesn’t create pressure points.
There are three types: fixed, adjustable, and dynamic, and each does as the name implies. Fixed lumbar support is static. An adjustable one allows you to modify its depth, height, and, in some cases, even firmness. Meanwhile, dynamic lumbar support is significantly more advanced as it automatically adapts to your posture and weight.
While you might consider that adjustable and dynamic lumbar supports are better, it isn’t always the case. Several things may affect it and the chair’s overall comfort, including its materials and dimensions. Still, this isn’t an issue if you’re looking to purchase an excellent ergonomic office chair from a trusted brand.
Nonetheless, you may also opt for portable lumbar support, which takes the form of cushions or rolls. It’s an affordable alternative to the standard type, and ergonomic gaming chairs tend to make use of it.
Backrest Angle Adjustment
Almost every ergonomic chair comes with a degree of backrest angle adjustment. A good angle can open up your hips and reduce the pressure your back endures while sitting. Many chairs have either a tilting or reclining mechanism, while some higher-quality ones support both. Regardless, tilting is the standard and vital option you may encounter.
A tilting mechanism changes the backrest angle through an apparatus that’s usually beneath the seat. As a result, both parts tilt together whenever you lean back. There are several types of tilting mechanisms—for instance, a synchro-tilt where the backrest and seat recline at a 2:1 ratio. There’s also a single point tilt that uses a 1:1 ratio and a knee tilt with its pivoting point on the front seat edge.
This mechanism is essential as it incorporates micromovements throughout the day, absorbing part of the pressure that builds up as you work. It would be great if the chair supported tilt locking, letting you fix the angle while allowing some flexibility.
Reclining mechanisms only affect the backrest, making it possible to have greater angles. Some even extend the full 180 degrees, letting you take naps in your chair.
A reclining ergonomic chair can be more suitable for you if you like to take a horizontal posture while reading, watching movies, or napping. It’s also better if you suffer from frequent back pain, as it’s known that a 135-degree angle is optimal to reduce stress on your back. Most tilt mechanisms don’t reach that reclining level.
Backrest Height Adjustment
It is one of the important ergonomic chair features. If the ergonomic chair has a low or mid-back, it would be helpful if the backrest is height adjustable. This ergonomic chair feature improves the chance that it fits your spine’s curvature appropriately while supporting your entire back comfortably. It’s handy for chairs with fixed lumbar supports as you can align the pad as well.
An adjustable seat height is an essential ergonomic chair feature, as most of them, if not all, have it. It should be easily adjustable with a range of 16 to 21 inches off the floor. This height range often works for most people. It allows them to maintain their feet flat on the floor and their knees at a rectangular angle or slightly above the hips.
Seat Depth and Tilt
The seat depth is a crucial ergonomic chair feature that helps ensure the necessary gap between the chair’s front edge and your knees, regardless of your size or sitting position. It can prevent the chair from restricting your blood circulation when the seat is too deep or applying too much pressure on your knees when it’s too shallow.
Some of the best ergonomic chair options allow you to adjust this feature. If the chair doesn’t have it, you should make sure it’s adequate for you. You can calculate the proper depth by sitting on your chair and measuring the distance between your tailbone and inner thighs minus one or two inches to ensure there’s a gap.
The seat angle is also a useful ergonomic chair feature but not as essential. It can help you support your feet easier on the floor or your chair’s footrest. When the seat is forward sloping, it should have a surface with enough friction to prevent you from sliding off the chair or placing excessive weight on your feet.
A good armrest should take some pressure off your shoulders and neck while you’re sitting. At a minimum, the chair should have height-adjustable armrests, but it would be ideal for them to be width-adjustable as well. You should be able to raise them to your desk’s height to have your armrest parallel to its surface while you’re working.
Some excellent ergonomic chairs have armrests that pivot, meaning they can angle inward or outward up to a certain degree. They’re helpful when you do tasks that require your hands to be close to each other, such as typing on a small keyboard, using your phone, or working on a small object.
However, if the armrests prevent you from sitting close to your desk and keyboard, you should remove them or consider getting a new standing desk. Ideally, the chair should lower just enough for you to tuck it under the desk with its armrests, but some chairs with flip-up ones circumvent this.
While a headrest isn’t a necessary ergonomic chair feature, it can make a significant difference in some cases – for instance, when you suffer from neck pain or work from a leaning position. An ideal headrest is tiltable and height-adjustable. You can ensure that it conforms to your neck and head in various sitting positions with these characteristics.
Although there are cases in which an ergonomic chair with a headrest can be somewhat restrictive, It encourages a proper sitting posture and lets you regain your focus for the most part.
Seat and Backrest Material
The ergonomic chair should use comfortable materials that allow you to sit for prolonged periods. Ideally, the seat should have a waterfall edge. This design can relieve pressure from the back of your things and promote blood circulation.
Regardless of the material or fabric, the seat and backrest should have enough padding to provide a comfortable work experience. A low amount can make it uncomfortable, while low-quality foam makes it sag quickly.
Currently, mesh fabric with high-quality molded foam is a typical choice for ergonomic chairs. It’s breathable and flexible in a way that reduces moisture and heat build-up, and it’s easy to clean.
A chair with leather upholstery is another common type, and it comes in many varieties: faux, dyed, aniline, and top-grain. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but the best option is the latter. It can be breathable and significantly durable, but it comes at a higher cost.
Most ergonomic chairs have casters that allow you to move around your ergonomic workspace with ease. However, what most people don’t know is that some types of casters can damage your floor. Hard wheel casters are ideal for carpets, while soft wheel ones are better for hardwood. Meanwhile, some premium rubber casters are suitable for both surfaces.
Regardless, if your job doesn’t require you to move around, getting a chair with a five-point base should be enough. It would be best to consider whether to get casters with breaks as well. These can prevent unwanted rolling on hardwood surfaces in particular and are helpful for children and seniors.
There are manual brake casters with physical switches that can lock or unlock it, safety brake casters that lock when you stand, and pressure locking casters that lock when you apply weight to the chair.
How Do You Adjust an Ergonomic Chair?
First, you have to stand in front of your chair and adjust the seat’s height so its highest point is below your knee cap. Afterward, sit on the chair and lay your feet flat on the floor. Check that there’s a gap between the seat’s front edge and your calves that can fit a clenched fist.
Then, adjust the backrest if you can in a way that supports your lower back adequately. It’s good to note that some chairs with dynamic lumbar support adapt automatically over time. Sit upright, bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle, and proceed to adjust the armrests’ height until they’re nearly in contact with your elbow’s underside. If you can’t do this, it might be a better idea to remove them.
Can These Chairs Solve Every Ergonomic Problem That Stems from Working While Sitting?
Well-designed chairs enable you to sit in a balanced position easier. Getting one is an excellent beginning, but it may not bring the benefits you expect initially. The advantage of these chairs becomes more noticeable over time as you adapt to them. Still, it’s crucial to make an effort on your side to sit correctly. After all, these chairs only encourage you to do so with their features.
It’s also essential to note that an ergonomic chair is merely a single component of an ergonomic workstation. Other furniture, such as a standing desk, file cabinets, proper lighting, etc., might be necessary to support the workspace better.
It’s helpful as well to be aware of the hazards of sitting for extended periods. You should include in your work routine several opportunities to stand, walk, or move around to reduce the time you spend sitting. Even the best chairs can’t solve every problem that surges from sedentary working.
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