BUMS ON SEATS – The Right Way

No. 1 The importance of adjusting the lower back support in an ergonomic chair

ergo chairSitting in a chair, although standing desks are gradually becoming more common, is still how many of us spend much of our working day. Because of the long hours spent at work in front of a computer, it’s crucial that we know how to correctly adjust our chair. A task chair which has adjustable components is better for computer work than an executive chair which cannot be adjusted and has fixed arms.

A task chair typically has a separate adjustable back and either a supportive contour or extra padding, in the lower part. The spine’s natural curve at the “small of the back” is supported by the chair’s lumbar support which prevents it from sagging into a gap. To find the right fit, you will need to move the back of your chair up or down, or turn the adjustment knob if there is one. Don’t assume the chair is correctly adjusted unless you have taken the time to do this for yourself. If you are sharing the chair with someone else, it’s a good idea to measure how high the chair back needs to be for your own comfort so you can adjust it easily every time.

For those who spend long periods of time in front of a computer, a good lumbar support can be the difference between sitting in a comfortable supported position and slouching in your chair. Unsupported, the base of your spine will bulge back into the chair, requiring your shoulders to compensate by rounding forward and the top of the neck to tilt back. At the end of a period of computer use you may then feel tight across the shoulders and stiff in the spine. To use the example of a building, we know how important the foundations are – if they are well-constructed the building is strong and well-aligned. And it is the same with your body, so it makes sense to have the base of your spine (your foundations) well positioned so that your upper back and neck are in relaxed good posture for sitting at your workstation.

As a physiotherapist I often see people in their workplaces who are uncomfortable or have back pain from prolonged sitting postures, and am always surprised when these intelligent, articulate people don’t realise that their back pain is related to how they sit, or that they have the means to adjust the chair to do something about it.

Sometimes even with correct adjustment the chair doesn’t adequately support the lower back. Extra lumbar back rests or supports can be easily obtained from office shops and physiotherapists. They vary in shape and size so it is a good idea to trial a few different ones if possible, to see which one suits you the best.

Blog 31/1/2016.

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