Lower back pain was the leading cause of absenteeism from work in 2010, according to World Health Organization’s Global Burden of Diseases study (2010). Lower back pain caused by a person´s job is a growing problem, and the highest numbers are to be found in western Europe. A three month study that examined back problems of sedentary and active workers found that desk workers were at a higher risk.
With this knowledge in mind it’s difficult to argue that investments in healthy and ergonomic work environments is a good idea. The choice of office chair is definitely one of the most important investments you do and is what I have chosen to go deeper into in this article. What features does the best office chair for back pain really have?
Sitting in itself isn’t bad. Until you start sitting a lot. That’s unfortunately what most of us do today, and the amount of desk jobs are only increasing. According to a recent study of European participants, 18,5 % of people above 18 years old sit for more than 7,5 hours a day. People having white-collar jobs and living in urban areas were more likely to sit more. Americans sit 11 hours a day, on average.
Sitting, especially in working positions, gives a static posture that increases stress in the back, shoulders, arms, back of neck and legs. The back muscles and spinal discs often receives a large amount of pressure. A lot of people in sitting positions at work don’t have an optimal chair to support them, which will make this pressure even worse.
With a bad chair and not enough knowledge about how to sit correctly, people tend to end up in some really unfortunate positions, where they are often either bending the body forward in a banana shape, or slouching down the chair. This can overstretch the spinal ligaments and strain the discs and surrounding structures in the spine. If this happens over a longer period of time, it can damage spinal structures and give you back pain.
So what features should a good and supportive office chair have to prevent you from getting back pain?To avoid developing back problems it’s important to have an office chair that's ergonomic, that supports the lower back and helps you to keep a good posture. An ergonomic chair will also prevent you from getting different kinds of musculoskeletal injuries.
1. Supportive and adjustable backrest
An optimal backrest should have a shape that supports the natural curve of the spine, especially in the lumbar region. The lumbar support is crucial for preventing back pain and will take away some of the pressure on your lumbar spine. The backrest should also give enough space for your buttocks.
The backrest should be adjustable in height and depth, and you should be able to tilt it backwards and forward. The depth has to be enough for you to be able to get a good lumbar support, while leaving 2-4 inches between the back of the knees and the chair seat.
Low and narrow backrests are good if you have work tasks that requires upper body mobility. This way your arms have enough space to move as they need. Tall and wider backrests are good for reclining, and then they should reach your upper back or neck. But, make sure you still get good lumbar support. There should also be a locking mechanism that secures the backrest from going further back than the user wants it to go.
2. Adjustable seat height
The seat height should allow you to sit with your feet flat on the floor and your thighs should be horizontal. Your arms should get an even 90 degree angle with the desk. If this is an investment for your colleagues at work, make sure that the seat height is adjustable enough to fit shorter people as well, or that you buy some foot rests to help them sit comfortably.
3. Seat tilting possibilities
The forward or backward tilt of the seat should be adjustable, to be able to support you through different kinds of tasks.
Other important features in in an ergonomic chair is having comfortable seat padding, enough seat width to fit different sizes of people, adjustable and good armrests and a construction that allows for swivel. But those features don´t help you specifically with your back pain.
Now you know what features to look for in an office chair, that can prevent back pain for the user. There are many other things to do as well, except for having the right chair, both in terms of knowing how to sit right or implementing ways and habits to be more active during the work day. Good luck with your chair hunt, and the battle against back pain!
Are you looking for a new chair to solve your back pain problems?
Check out the new lookbook from Flokk Brand RH to find your perfect chair.