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Ergonomic Office Chair: Can It Reduce Back Problems?

06 May 2021

Sitting in an office chair for extended periods can cause low back pain or worsen a pre-existing back condition. That’s because sitting, especially in an office chair, is a static posture that puts stress in the back, shoulders, arms, and legs. This can also add huge pressure to the back muscles and spinal discs.

Usually, people tend to slouch down in the chair, and this overstretched the spinal ligaments and strains the discs and supporting structures in the spine. Eventually, it will damage the spinal structures, result to back pain.

Guidelines for Office Chair Setup

An ergonomic office chair is a tool that can help one maximize back support when used properly. It can maintain good posture. But simply owning an ergonomic office chair isn’t enough. It is also necessary to set the office chair to the proportions of the user's body to make it comfortable and reduce putting pressure on the spine.

The first thing in setting up an office chair is to adjust to the desired height of the individual’s desk or workstation. This is set by what kind of work and the person’s height using the office chair. The height of the desk or can varies greatly. It will require different adjustments of the office chair or a different type of ergonomic chair altogether.

Once the workstation has been established, the user adjusts the office chair depending on his or her physical proportions. 

Here are the important guidelines to make sure that the office chair and work area are as comfortable as possible:


1. Elbow measure

Start by sitting comfortably as close as possible to the desk. The upper arms are parallel to your spine. Rest your hands on your work surface like a computer keyboard. If your elbows are not at a 90-degree angle, adjust your office chair accordingly to match the required angle of the elbows.


2. Thigh measure


Check if you can slide your fingers under your thigh at the leading edge of the office chair. If it is too tight, you need to put your feet flat by using an adjustable footrest. If you are too tall and there is more than a finger width between the thigh and the chair, raise the work surface so you can raise the height of the office chair.


3. Calf measure


With your bottom pushed against the chair back, pass your clenched fist between the back of your calf and the front of the office chair. If you are having difficulty, the office chair is too deep. Adjust the backrest forward. Place low back support such as a lumbar support cushion, a pillow, or rolled-up towel. Better yet, get a new office chair with lumbar support.


4. Low back support


 Your bottom must be pressed against the back of your chair, and a cushion that causes you to arch your lower back slightly to prevent slouching over time. The low back support in the office chair minimizes the strain on your back. Never slouch forward in the office chair, this places extra stress on the supporting structures in the low back, especially on the lumbar discs.


5. Resting eye level


Close your eyes while sitting comfortably with your head facing forward. Slowly open your eyes. Your gaze should be aimed at the center of your computer screen. If your computer screen is higher or lower than your gaze, you need to either raise or lower it to reduce strain on the upper spine.


6. Armrest


Adjust the armrest of the office chair so it slightly lifts your arms at the shoulders. The armrest is to take some of the strain off your upper spine and shoulders. It should less likely to prevent you to slouch forward in your chair.

Try to Move Around to Reduce Back Pain in the Office

Even having a comfortable office chair will not prevent back pain, prolonged sitting posture is bad for the back and is a common cause of back problems and muscle strain.

Avoid keeping the back in one position for a long period. Stand up, stretch and walk for at least a minute or two every half hour. Some minimal movement such as walking to the water cooler or bathroom breaks will help in reducing the occurrence of back problems.

A twenty-minute walk will do wonders for the back, promoting healthy blood flow that transports nutrients to all the spinal structures.

In all, moving about and stretching regularly all through the day will help keep the joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons loose, which will promote an overall feeling of comfort, relaxation, and the ability to focus more on productivity.

Alternatives to Traditional Office Chairs

While ergonomic chairs can provide good back postures, some people go for the more active, ergonomic chairs, such as a Swedish kneeling chair, a Swiss exercise ball, or the Home office All-in-One Desk Bike/Bike Workstation V9 by FlexiSpot.

While a traditional office chair can provide complete support, these alternatives help encourage good posture without back support. They require active use of one's muscles for balance and to sit upright. If you have a pre-existing health problem, first talk with your doctor before using one of these types of chairs.


There is no single office chair that is suited for all patients, and people must determine their individual preference for comfort while following the guidelines in this article to promote good posture and back support while sitting in an office chair.