Ergonomic office chair. What to buy and why.

The big question. “What task chair should I buy for my home office?”

Now that we have mostly working from home, our couch and/or kitchen table is not that comfortable anymore. You may be thinking “that’s it! I am going to the office supply store to buy a chair”. Please stop and read this post.

Before you buy your chair, please ask yourself these questions:

  1. what is my main complaint or area of discomfort?
  2. what is my budget?

A standard task chair can be $100-$300, while a chair that will give you more support and comfort can be $800+.

Is an ergonomic task chair worth it?

The simple answer is yes, it is worth it. Working without adequate support for a sustained amount of time (7.5 hrs/day, 5 days/week, 52 weeks/year) can lead to symptoms including muscle, nerve, and joint discomfort. I normally work with people who already have more severe symptoms. It is better to prevent these things from happening rather than reacting to them. I see a lot of neck/shoulder/upper back pain and tightness. Also, people with numbness/tingling that goes into both hands or one hand, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel, and bulging disks. In these instances, I am helping reactively and the person is being treated by a chiro or physio or doctor. Ideally, we would not let it get that far and we would use the proper equipment right away.

What to look for in a chair?

When you do decide to invest in your chair here are some key things that it should have:

  • Height adjustable backrest. Moves up and down.
  • Adjust the angle of the backrest. Not everyone wants to sit up perfectly straight or reclined while working.
  • Adjustable lumbar support (increase or decrease depth to provide you with more or less support). Some people like a lot of lumbar support and some people prefer less.
  • Seat depth. When you are sitting to the back of the chair, you want 1-3 fingers between the seat pan and the back of your leg. The seat pan is too long if it’s touching the back of your leg, and too short if you are not getting any thigh support
  • Chair height. A good chair can be adjusted from 16”-21” above the floor. Ideally the chair should be able to be raised high enough to align your forearms with your desk.
  • Seat width. Make sure you can sit comfortably in the chair with some room on either side of your hips
  • Armrests. A good chair’s armrests will be height adjustable from 6.5”-10” and will either 360 degree rotate or laterally glide. Try this out: sit up straight, relax your shoulders, put your elbows at 90 degrees and move your hands inwards as if to type. This is where your armrests should be. This is where they are supposed to be giving you support.
  • A good chair will come with a warranty which is generally 8-12 years depending on the product you buy (make sure to ask how long the warranty is).

I want to talk about armrests for a bit longer. There are tons of chairs that are advertised as ergonomic and cost $700+ but why should we, the consumers, purchase a chair only to remove the armrests to get support from the desk? Why shouldn’t we spend the same amount of money on a chair that has armrests that can provide support giving my back and shoulders a chance to relax while working.

Something to think about…

If you only have mild discomfort and do not have the money to purchase a more ergonomic chair. I suggest trying to make changes to your current workstation that could make it more comfortable for the short term. I don’t know exactly what your setup looks like so I can’t offer those solutions here, but if you take a look at my Workstation Setup Guide, it offers ways to adjust your workstation using items found around the house. If you aren’t convinced, you can set up a quick 20-minute virtual consultation with me and we can take a look at your workstation together.

Save the money you were going to put towards the cheaper office chair and when you have enough money, buy an ergonomic chair. 

If you have more significant pain, it could be worth reaching out to your employer to request an ergonomic assessment. They may have a go-to organization. If they do, not only will they take your full symptom history, but they will also get your chair measurements and optimize the rest of your workstation (Ie. desk height, monitor height, keyboard, etc.). They will get you all set up!

Good luck!

-Alana, Kinesiologist

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