Reasons Why Ergonomic Office Chairs Will Reduce the Back Pain

April 30, 2021

setting up an office space with an ergonomic chair

So, you convinced the boss to get you an ergonomic chair for the office. The new chair helps you to focus on your work for longer periods. Your back has started to improve from all that sitting in an uncomfortable chair. The coworkers are noticing that you are more engaged at work and your productivity is higher than ever before. They ask what you are doing differently to get these positive results. You tell them that your new ergonomic chair reduces your back pain and makes you more alert.

Ergonomic chairs are created to help the person sit comfortably for long periods while working. They are more adjustable than the average office chairs and can customize the fit to your body or seating preferences. It can improve productivity and enhance job satisfaction. They also reduce your risk for musculoskeletal injuries such as back pain. 

Reasons Ergonomic Chairs Will Reduce Your Back Pain

1. Support Proper Posture

It will reduce if not eliminate your back pain. They are designed to support the natural posture and to reduce pressure on your body. The chair backs are usually full length extending from your shoulders to the seat. A section in the lower part of the back that curves forward slightly to follow the natural curve in your lumbar spine. It is often referred to as lumbar support. It helps to protect the lumbar spine.

Adjustable armrests support the elbow and forearms as your arms hang naturally at your side. It allows using the keyboard and mouse without having muscle fatigue in the shoulders and arms. Adjusting the seat height enables the user to sit with the feet flat on the floor. Along with the hips and knees flexed to approximately ninety degrees. Other ergonomic chairs have backs that can be moved accordingly to shorten the depth of the seat. This is to prevent the front edge from cutting into the back of your knees.

2. Proper Hip and Pelvis Alignment

A prominent cause of low back pain while sitting in the improper alignment of the hips and pelvis. When sitting in the proper position, the bony structures on the pelvic bones called the ASIS and the PSIS must be level relative to each other. The ASIS and PSIS are located on the front and back of the pelvic bones respectively. When they are level, the low back has a slight arch with the convex part facing forward.

If the ASIS and PSIS are leveled, there is less strain on the low back. If you swing side to side, you feel pressure on the bony structures called the ischial tuberosities. Also known as the sit bones, or sitz bones, they are the weight-bearing part of the pelvis in sitting. Whenever you sit on a hard bench, you feel your ischial tuberosities pressing into the hard surface.

Most of us sit with our pelvis tilted backward position called the posterior pelvic tilt, or sacral-sitting. The PSIS in this position is lower than the ASIS. We carry the weight more on the sacrum than on the ischial tuberosities. As the pelvis tilts backward, the lumbar spine flexes which causes more strain on the ligaments and muscles in the low back. Sacral-sitting leads to more posterior pressure on the lumbar discs. When sitting in this position and leaning against the back of the chair, a hammock effect is created in the lumbar spine.

3. Prevent Slouching and Forward Head Posture

When sitting with posterior pelvic tilt (sacral-sitting), the lumbar spine flexes and shoulders roll forward making a slouched position. The shoulder blades slide away from the thoracic spine and the head moves into a protracted position. When looking at the computer monitor, your neck extends and further puts the head further forward. This leads to muscle guarding, pain, and headaches during long periods.

Slouching is caused by internal and external factors. Internal factors include limited hip flexion range of motion, tight hamstrings, obesity, and weak trunk (core) muscles that cannot hold the spine upright against gravity. External factors are that are outside of your body such as improper chair design. These are seat depth that is too long or short, seatback that is too vertical, and armrests that are too low.

Ergonomic chairs cannot change your internal limitations, but they can correct the external factors. The adjustable seat depth and contour of the seatback support the lumbar spine, prevent slouching, and encourage sitting in the proper position. Some chairs can adjust the angle, or tilt, of the seatback. Using a proper ergonomic chair will eliminate slouching and forward head posture.

4. Reduce the Need for Repetitive Trunk Flexion

An aftereffect of sitting with poor posture in an average desk chair is repetitive trunk flexion. When sitting in a slouched position, there is difficulty reaching things on your desk without leaning your trunk forward. This occurs several times throughout the day and will make your low back pain. Sitting in an ergonomic chair with good back support lets you sit more erect. It allows you to reach everything on your workstation without leaning forward and putting additional strain on your low back.

5. Improved Comfort

Most ergonomic chairs are made with higher quality materials than low-budget office chairs. The seat cushions and back cushions are thicker or can adapt to the contour of the back to improve the fit. Some have additional lumbar support built into the design. If the user has shorter legs, it can lower the chair and slide the seatback forward to shorten the seat depth. The armrests are raised to support your elbows if you are a tall person. The key to comfort is the capability to adjust nearly every component of the chairs. This is to accommodate different body types and sizes.

Final Thoughts

An ergonomic chair is an important piece of office equipment to reduce back pain. This is done by promoting a sitting posture that allows proper alignment of the shoulders, hips, and spine. This lessens the abnormal strain on the body and prevents improper positions such as slouching and forward head. The wide adjustability of ergonomic chairs lets users have a more custom fit than standard chairs. They can help with a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions including pain in the neck, mid-back, and low back. Although ergonomic chairs are typically more expensive than a standard office chair, it is worth the price.

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