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Selecting an Appropriate Chair

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An appropriate chair for computer and desk work must adjust to fit the user. One chairwill not accommodate all body types. Suitable chairs for office work range from $200 -$800, depending upon materials used and the warranty. The chairs suggested in the Products section of this website have been chosen due to their adjustability, size, warranty and price.

Back and seat

Lumbar support

For optimal support, the back(rest) should tilt back and forth to match body movementsand move up and down to fit different lumbar spine shapes. In addition, the back and seatshould adjust separately. Dr. Marvin Dainoff, director of Miami University’s Centerfor Ergonomic Research states, "...it is crucial to have a chair that allowsindependent adjustment of the backrest and seat pan angles." In some chairs, the seatpan slides in and out, allowing for more or less support of the leg.

The back design is the deciding factor. You should feel adequate support in the lumbarspine and not experience any aches in the back or neck after the chair is adjustedcorrectly (see below) and healthy work habits are practiced.

Different types of work require different types of backrests and/or seat angle.Individuals who do not perform keyboard activities are more likely to require astraight-backed chair than computer users who work with arms or hands extended. Thesetasks require a backrest that conforms slightly to the small of the back.

Other features

For total comfort, some chairs provide a "rocking" feature.

Arm rests are an option on all chairs and are an additional cost. Note: When usedincorrectly, arm rests will contribute to upper back tension and shoulder problems. Theyshould be used only when necessary when not typing, writing or pipetting.

Headrests are not necessary since you should be moving your body regularly; however, insome cases cervical support is recommended. Special chairs have this feature.

An adjustable lumbar roll is a standard feature on Office Master chairs.

Adjusting the chair

Refer to the manufacturers instructions on where controls are located for your particular chair.

Adjustment Sequence:
  1. Begin by adjusting your chair away from the work surface so you don't subconsciously compensate for inadequacies in the workstation.
  2. Lower the chair so your feet are flat on the floor with your knees slightly lower or even with your hips (knees should never be higher than hips). The front of the seat pan should be a fist distance from the back of your knee.
  3. Adjust the seat pan tilt to set your pelvis in its natural position.
  4. Adjust the back angle to allow you to sit upright in comfort. Your ears and shoulder should be aligned to allow the vertebrae in your neck to carry the weight of your head, instead of your neck muscles.
  5. Adjust the back height so you experience full support in your low back (i.e., approximately belt line height).

After achieving the proper fit, pull the chair up to your worksurface to see whatchanges need to be made to allow you to work in this ideal seated posture. For example,check the placement of your computer monitor and keyboard/mouse. A monitor that is too faraway causes you to lean forward or extend your neck, and a keyboard/mouse that is too highor far away requires harmful elbow extension that pulls your shoulders and head forward. Use our Workstation Design guidelines to help you decide what needs to be changed.

Seat adjustments may vary throughout the day depending on your current activity. The images below illustrate sitting positions for three different activities. Note that the use of armrests is appropriate for a relaxed position, but not for active keyboarding.

Reclining positionUpright positionForward position

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