Does your office chair leaves you sore, cramped, or uncomfortable? There is no doubt that the average office worker spends way too much time sitting. The British Psychological Society estimates that the average worker sits at their desk for an average of 5 hours and 41 minutes each day.
Such prolonged periods of inactivity may lead to psychological and physical stress. In fact, extended sitting puts an exuberant amount of stress on the back, neck, arms, and legs. All that excess pressure can even force your spinal discs to compress. This can lead to premature disc degradation, mobility issues, and acute discomfort. Unfortunately, that poorly made, generic office chair is probably only worsening the impact of your mostly sedentary lifestyle.
Fortunately, there are plenty of small changes that you can make to reduce the impact of a shoddy office chair.
We’ll show you what you have to do to make that run-of-the-mill office chair more comfortable.
What You’ll Need
- Office chair
- Lumbar pillow
- Seat Cushion
1. Identify Your Problem Area
Take the time to identify which areas of your body are experiencing the most discomfort. Your initial assessment will help you to make the most targeted changes to your office chair.
Are you having trouble standing up? That may be because your office chair lacks lumbar support. Are you experiencing lower back pain regularly? A poorly padded seat might be failing to support your lower vertebrae. Check UCLA’s “Ergonomics of Prolonged Sitting” to see if the discomfort you are experiencing is closely related to one or more sitting specifications.
2. Adjust The Height of Your Chair
For this activity, you’re going to need to be seated in your office chair. Seat yourself as close to your desk as possible. Next, position your arms so that they are parallel to your spine. Place your hands on the surface of your desk. Now, take a look at the position of your elbows.
Your elbows should form a sharp 90-degree angle. If this is not the case, raise or lower your chair until you can comfortably shift into the target position.
The feet should be flat on the ground. Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle. If you cannot adjust your chair low enough, you may raise and stabilize your feet with the help of an under-the-desk footrest.
Check out this video to see the proper way to sit in an office chair:
Moreover, check out the diagram at UCLA’s Spine Center. The hand position is marked with an arrow and the number one.
Here are five premium office footrests:
- Everlasting Comfort Office Footrest: This office footrest has a curved teardrop design, a non-slip bottom, and a memory foam center. It’s a supportive yet cushiony pad that’s perfect for anyone who cannot adjust their chair low enough.
- Huanio Adjustable Under-the-Desk Footrest: We love that this under-the-desk footrest has three adjustable height positions and a non-skid surface. The raised bubbles on the surface massage the bottoms of your feet, offering you improved circulation and overall comfort.
- Mind Reader Comfy Rest: The Mind Reader is another adjustable, angled footrest with a unique surface texture.
- Eureka Ergonomic Footrest: This incredible under-the-desk footrest will help you correct your sitting position. Plus, it features three built-in massage rollers for increased circulation and relaxation.
If a footrest isn’t in your budget, consider using a small stool or stack of books to raise your feet to the appropriate level.
3. Adjust The Seat Depth
Some chairs feature a lever or levers that allow you to adjust the depth of the seat pad. A seat that is too far forward may prevent someone from flexing their knees over the edge of their seat. Moreover, a too far back pad may prevent someone from accessing all of the essential pressure points on the backrest. Simultaneously, a forward-positioned seat pad might force someone to put an adverse amount of pressure on their knees.
The ideal seat depth should leave no more than a few centimeters of space been the backs of your knees and the front edge of your seat. Your back should come in contact with the backrest and maintain all three natural back curves.
See how it is done here:
4. Adjust The Tilt Tension
Most office chairs have tilt or recline mechanisms. They are as follows:
- Swivel (Center) Tilt: The chair pivots back and forth for a center pivot point. While swivel tilts enable you to lift your feet up and off the ground for momentary relief, they are not always ideal for comfort.
- Knee Tilt: This type of mechanism enables you to rock back and forth without lifting your feet or knees.
- Multifunction Mechanism: This mechanism enables you to lock your seat and backrest position before engaging a swivel function.
- Synchro-Tilt Mechanism: The seat and backrest move at different angles to ensure that you maintain an ergonomic position when you recline.
You should recline the back of your chair at a 100- to 110-degree angle.
5. Adjust the Backrest
You may be able to raise or lower the position of the backrest. If possible, adjust the backrest height, so that curved lumbar support fits into the recess in the lower back. You may also locate adjustable support on the reverse side of your backrest. This mechanism is referred to as adjustable lumbar support.
6. Adjust The Armrests
Many office chairs feature adjustable armrests. Check to make sure that the chair’s armrests are positioned at identical heights somewhere just below your elbows. Then, adjust the tilt of your armrests. Your ideal armrest angle will depend on the position of your keyboard and the activity you are performing.
7. Adjust Your Monitor
Back and neck pain is often a consequence of poor posture. Please take note of the height and position of your computer monitor to ensure that it isn’t forcing you into a strenuous position. Allow the experts over at Pain relief Chiropractic to guide you through the monitor setup process:
During this process, you will check to be sure that:
- Your eyes are aligned with the top 2/3 of your monitor screen.
- If your monitor does not boast an adjustable height bat, consider using books or paper stacks to raise the monitor to the appropriate height.
- Position your monitor so that you will not be tempted to tilt forward or backward to see the screen.
According to the experts, you should position your computer screen approximately 20 inches away from your face. At the same time, bring your mouse and keyboard close. They should be located directly in front of you.
8. Adjust the Lumbar Support
Most office chairs do not provide the lumbar region (lower back) with sufficient support. The lumbar region contains five vertebrae, several musicals, and several ligaments. When excess pressure or stress is placed on the lumbar region for extended periods, people experience lower back pain, stiffness, and even paralysis. Studies show that prolonged sitting without intermittent breaks can cause discs to change position.
If you’re fortunate enough to have an office chair with built-in lumbar support, use it! Lumbar supports are usually small plastic pieces located on the backs of office chairs. Slide your lumbar support up or down until it fits into the curve of your lower back. Adjust the supports pressure until you feel a bit of pushback in your lower back region.
9. Invest in a Lumbar Cushion
Some office chairs have built-in lumbar support mechanisms. However, if your office chair does not provide sufficient lower back support, you may need to invest in a lumbar support pillow. Studies show that lumbar support pillows with cut-outs for posterior pelvic tissues are the most effective.
Here are some excellent options:
- Villsure Lumbar Support Pillow: This inexpensive lumbar support cushion is made from pressure-reducing memory foam and breathable three-dimensional mesh.
- Vive Lumbar Roll: This roll cushion offers firm ergonomic support for the lower back region.
- Kingphenix Lumbar Support: This two-pack of mesh lumbar supports offers exceptional lower back support.
10. Invest in an Ergonomic Seat Cushion
Sitting puts excess pressure on the hips, pelvis, buttocks, and tailbone. This pent-up pressure can lead to reduced circulation, increased inflammation, and exaggerated back pain. Scientists have evaluated various seat cushions and found that products designed to redistribute body weight can improve your posture and make your chair more comfortable.
A reliable office chair seat cushion should:
- Boast ergonomic contouring
- Be made from high-density foam, memory foam, or some other weight distributing material
- Cover your office chair’s entire seat pad
- Be well within your budget (a quality ergonomic seat cushion should not cost more than a new office chair)
Here are five ergonomic seat cushions that you should check out:
- ComfiLife Gel Enhanced Seat Cushion:
The ComfiLife is a gel and memory foam seat cushion designed to ease coccyx (tailbone) pressure to relieve lower back and sciatica pain.
- Purple Double Sear Cushion
- Everlasting Comfort Seat Cushion: This memory foam cushion provides support to the coccyx and lower back.
- Cushion Lab’s Pressure Relief Seat Cushion: This seat cushion has an overtly ergonomic design that is guaranteed to reduce sitting and hip pressure while improving posture. You can use it with just about any office chair.
- Stimulite Contoured: This revolutionary seat cushion utilizes a soft layer of honeycomb support material to reduce ischial and coccyx pressure.
11. Make Adjustments Depending on the Task
Once you’re familiar with the position and function of your office chair’s adjustment mechanisms, you should feel more comfortable making momentary adjustments. Consider making adjustments depending on the task you are performing. For example, position your chair in a rigid, upright position when you’re performing tasks on the computer. Allow it to pivot more freely when you’re in a meeting or conversing over the phone.
12. Sit With Your Best Interests in Mind
Here are a few steps that you can take to improve the comfort of your office chair. These steps do not require you to make any amendments to your seat. Still, they have the potential to dramatically improve your comfort during and after periods of prolonged sitting.
- Practice Good Posture: Do you cross your legs while you’re sitting? Crossing your legs during prolonged periods of sitting can lead to pelvis tilt and spinal misalignment, both of which are proven sources of pain and stiffness.
- Take Frequent Breaks: Most spinal experts agree that extended sitting isn’t good for the back or neck. You can optimize your overall comfort by taking frequent yet brief breaks from sitting. Stand up and move every 30 to 60 minutes to ensure that your muscles get a break from that prolonged pressure.
- Stretch: There plenty of quick, simple stretches that you can do to improve your comfort during extended sitting sessions. Here are a few to get you started.
- Relax Your Shoulders: Tensed, strained shoulders can worsen back and neck pain. Use these stretches to reduce the tension in your upper back.
13. When to Replace an Office Chair
Many people fail to realize that office chairs have measurable lifespans. If your current office chair meets one of the following qualifications, it might be time for you to invest in a replacement.
- Damaged: Is your seat padding torn? Are the armrests wiggly? Has one or more of the mechanisms fail? Many tend to push products well beyond their expected lifespan. We cross a line when we use a product that can have long-term negative effects on our health.
- Flattened seat cushion: Overtime, the foam in office chair seat pads tends to break down or compress over time. While an ergonomic seat cushion might provide you with temporary comfort, it’s usually best to invest in a comprehensive replacement.
- Poor Fit: Your chair will be no use to you if it isn’t the right size. Standard office chair seats are 16 inches to 22 inches from the floor. This height is ideal for anyone between 5 feet and 6 feet 10 inches. If you are exceptionally short or tall, you’re going to want to seek out an office chair with more appropriately tailored dimensions.
If you do opt to replace your office chair altogether, make sure that your replacement has:
- Multiple adjustment mechanisms, including tilt, depth, height, and pivot controls
- A supportive headrest
- Weight-redistributing, supportive padding on the seat, and lumbar
- Adjustable lumbar support
- Dimensions and capacity that are suitable for your height and weight
To choose the right ergonomic office chair, you can use our guide: Top 9 Best Ergonomic Office Chairs For Lower Back Pain
Office chairs can be a major pain in the back! Fortunately, there are plenty of steps that you can take to improve the ergonomics of even the most disagreeable pieces of office equipment. Remember, even the most ergonomic chairs do not make sitting a wholesome activity. So, be sure to fill your most sedentary days with plenty of movement breaks and beneficial stretches.