An ergonomic office chair is a tool that, when used properly, can help one maximize back support and maintain good posture while sitting. However, simply owning an ergonomic office chair is not enough – it is also necessary to adjust the chair to the proportions of the individual’s body to improve comfort and reduce aggravation to the spine.
The first step in setting up an office chair is to establish the desired height of the individual’s desk or workstation. This decision is determined primarily by the type of work to be done and by the height of the person using the office chair. The height of the desk or workstation itself can vary greatly and will require different positioning of the office chair, or a different type of ergonomic chair altogether.
No matter how comfortable one is in an office chair, prolonged static posture is not good for the back and is a common contributor to back problems and muscle strain.
To avoid keeping the back in one position for a long period, remember to stand, stretch and walk for at least a minute or two every half hour. Even a quick stretch or some minimal movement such as walking to the water cooler or bathroom will help.
A twenty minute walk will help even more, promoting healthy blood flow that brings important nutrients to all the spinal structures.
In general, moving about and stretching on a regular basis throughout the day will help keep the joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons loose, which in turn promotes an overall feeling of comfort, relaxation, and ability to focus productively.
While a traditional office chair is designed to provide complete support, these alternatives help promote good posture without a back support. They also require more active use of one’s muscles (e.g. for balance and to sit upright). If you have an injured back or other health problems, it is advisable to first talk with your doctor prior to using one of these types of chairs.
Not maintaining good posture and adequate back support can add strain to muscles and put stress on the spine. Over time, the stress of poor posture can change the anatomical characteristics of the spine, leading to the possibility of constricted blood vessels and nerves, as well as problems with muscles, discs, and joints.
Having correct posture means keeping each part of the body in alignment with the neighboring parts. Proper posture keeps all parts balanced and supported. With appropriate posture (when standing), it should be possible to draw a straight line from the earlobe, through the shoulder, hip, knee, and into the middle of the ankle.
In addition, the spine is made for motion, and when sitting in any type of office chair (even an ergonomic office chair) for long periods of time, it is best to get up, stretch, and move around regularly throughout the day to recharge stiff muscles.
As experts in restoring and improving mobility and movement in people’s lives, physical therapists play an important role not only in treating persistent or recurrent low back pain, but also in preventing it and reducing your risk of having it come back.
Physical therapy helps use the following strategies to prevent back pain:
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