Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Office Chair Q & A: Ergonomics and You

Office chairs aren't the stone-age pieces of equipment they once were - and we couldn't be happier! Today, advancements in ergonomics and technology have produced chairs capable of keeping us comfortable, supported, and healthy. However, advanced tech often calls for advanced knowledge of how to work it. Ergonomic chairs nowadays are precision instruments. For anyone who's ever been confused by all the controls, switches, and features on their office chair, today's article is for you!

Q: What Is Lumbar Support?

A: The "lumbar" refers to the abdominal portion of the body's torso, but in today's terminology, "lumbar" more often alludes to the lower back located behind the abdominal region more than anything else. This part of the body has a lot of responsibility holding up the rest of you, and sometimes taking all that weight can cause pain. In the office, slouching, lifting, and unnatural seating positions can force the spine out of it's natural S-shape causing pain too.

The goal of ergonomic chairs for back pain relief is to provide plenty of lumbar support to keep the spine's shape as much as possible. These chairs will offer "lumbar supports" in the form of built-in or inflatable cushions, a sliding back support, or an attachable device to encourage proper back health.

Q: What Chair Back Height Is Right For Me?

A: The best way to determine the chair height right for you is to stand up straight directly in front of your chair. Ideally, the highest point of the chair's seat should rest just below your kneecap; if it isn't adjust the height accordingly.

Next, sit down in the chair. If your feet can remain comfortably flat on the floor, and you can fit your fist between the back of your calves and the edge of your seat, then your chair height and seat depth are just right!

Finally, to determine if the chair's back height is correct, sit down in the chair and make sure the bulgier curve of the backrest (the lumbar support) fits comfortably with your body's lumbar region - like a puzzle piece. Sitting up straight, bend your arms at 90 degrees to properly adjust the armrests, and voila! Your chair's height and back are perfectly adjusted!

Q: What Is A Pneumatic Cylinder?

A: The pneumatic cylinder is simply the mechanism that determines the chair's height. It's what makes the chair go up and down, adjusting total chair height rather than just chair back height.  On most models, the pneumatic cylinder also acts as the support structure of the chair. Height is usually adjusted by a lever or knob on the side, just under the seat. Some brands like Global Total Office chairs offer patented comfort features, such as a Soft Descent™pneumatic lift for fluid height transitions.

Q: Are Adjustable Arms Important? 

A: Believe it or not, armrests are pretty controversial in the office chair world. In the past, doctors and chair experts did not usually recommend them. Too often, armrests would get in the way, keeping users from getting close enough to their desks to work. This resulted in slouching, which resulted in back pain, which resulted in the great office chair armrest controversy. Alternatively, some users find the support of armrests invaluable in the office, especially if they type using ergonomic keyboard platforms for health purposes. When armrests are adjusted to keep the elbows at 90 degree angles, blood flow to the wrists and hands is healthier, reducing joint pain. For those that can't decide, we recommend picking up a chair with removable arms - there are plenty of options out there!

Q: What Angle Should I Be Sitting At?

A: Many office chair users don't even consider chair angle adjustments, but if your chair offers this feature, we suggest taking advantage of it! Try to consider your office layout, work habits, and seating preferences before adjusting the seat tilt. Some folks like seats to tilt slightly forward for easier access to a workstation and smoother blood flow between the legs and the rest of the body. Folks with back pain often like luxury ergonomic chairs with seats that tilt backwards, in a more reclined position, so the chair's backrest can take some of the weight off the spine.

Q: Are All Office Chairs Ergonomic?

A: No. There are many affordable ergonomic chairs for sale out there, but not all chairs are ergonomic. Some users trick themselves into thinking a chair is ergonomic with advertisements of "passive ergonomic comfort," meaning the chair is formed like an ergonomic model, but likely lacks the adjustability or features of a true ergonomic chair. Other task chairs for office use may look ergonomic on the surface, but in reality, they could lack adjustable features as well.

We recommend shopping from a reputable office furniture dealer, and always looking at product descriptions to see what features the chair actually offers. Many dealers will have an "ergonomic chair" page filled with nothing but the real thing. If you find a product you want with no description, don't rule it out. Call the dealer instead for more info. They're usually happy to help, and you may win yourself a great deal in the process!

Q: How Much Does An Ergonomic Chair Cost, and What Are the Best Brands?

A: There is a good ergonomic chair out there for every budget! Brands like Flash Furniture offers ergo chairs as low as $70! Most users shop between $200 and $400 for their office chairs, and this is the average range. Chairs with these prices offer excellent ergo features, such as lumbar support, spring tilt mechanisms, tilt locks, adjustable arms, adjustable height - the works. All the best brands will have chairs in the average price range. Global Total Office, Boss, Eurotech, Woodstock Marketing, Offices To Go, and OFM are the favorites, offering perfect comfort at the perfect price!

Anything over $600 leans more towards the expensive price range, but the chairs are superbly crafted and extremely comfortable. RFM Preferred Seating chairs and some Eurotech chairs will offer models in this range with comfort features targeted for specific health concerns. This drives up the value, but most users are very happy with their chairs, especially if they suffer from chronic pain at work.

We hope we've answered some of your most pressing office chair concerns. If you have any other questions you'd like answered, leave them in the comments below and don't be afraid to call a reputable office furniture dealer with any concerns you may have. Most are extremely knowledgable, and will jump at the chance to give you the best deal on a great chair! 

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