If you’re considering buying yourself or your employees a new office chair, the most important thing to consider is how it is going to support your back.
Back injuries are the most common cause of work-related sickness, following colds.
It is estimated that over 1/3 of these back injuries could be avoided if the right designated workspace were to be put in place.
This is why it is so important to consider lumbar support when it comes to buying your office chairs. Whether an employee has suffered with back pain previously or they have no history, prevention is always better than cure.
The lumbar itself is referring to the lower spine and it’s surrounding area. Lumbar support is what is going to support your lower back, using the right functions and mechanisms on an office chair.
This function can already be built in the chair or come separately as an assistive support mechanism.
But it isn’t just about supporting the back itself, it is also about the alignment of your body as whole. You want your body, in its entirety, to be able to be supported from every angle.
It’s only natural that during the day we are bound to fidget, move and stretch out. If your chair isn’t set to its correct potential, then you could be at risk of harming yourself.
By having your office chair set with the correct lumbar support, even if you move here and there, you will still come back to the original position and therefore decrease the risk of injury.
Due to the amount of work-related injuries there have been chairs designed especially for offering lumber support. These chairs are known as Ergonomic chairs.
Ergonomic office chairs
An ergonomic chair is an adjustable chair providing height, seat depth and lumbar support mechanisms. There is no “one size fits all” when purchasing an ergonomic chair, and it is always best to note how high, low, deep etc. a chair will adjust to suit a specific person.
A person with long legs and short arms would ideally look for adjustable armrests and a good distance of height. But most products should have a basic description of what features and mechanisms it provides.
The best ergonomic lumbar support chairs should have features such as adjustable headrest, contoured lumbar, adjustable arms, sliding seat pan, a good base and adjustable height. Again, not all of these features are supposedly necessary, and it is down to your personal lumbar needs.
What features to look for
If you are really dedicated to the cause then here are a few features to especially look for, and what they can offer you for your lower back/lumbar needs.
- Seat Depth: For a perfect seat depth, you ideally want a chair that offers a range of 1-4 inches between the front of your seat and where the back of your knees hit the chair when sat up straight. This will allow blood flow to the lower body and offers great support to both the legs and base of the spine. A chair with a good range of depth is also ideal for both tall and short users, so if you are looking to bulk buy then this may be something to keep an eye out for.
- Seat height: It is really important to be able to adjust your seat height if you want to protect your lower back, and whilst sitting comfortably. Sitting with your seat at the correct height will show if you are sat down with your knees ever so slightly lower than your hips. You don’t want to be sat bolt upright in a ninety-degree angle as this can cause stiffness and tension. This position will allow your feet to fall flat on the floor and alleviate and tenderness on the lower spine.
- Casters: Something that is sometimes overlooked, but when you think about it, these small but mighty elements are holding up your bodyweight. These support the rest of the chair and if done cheaply, they can break and cause havoc with alignment.
- Headrest: This is probably more of a luxury item over lumbar support. However, if it makes you feel comfortable then it is worth getting. A headrest is more beneficial for neck pain, but as lumbar support is connected to your whole bodies’ alignment, then it’s always a great little addition to have.
- Swivel base: Having the ability to move your chair without moving your body is a must. There is going to be countless times you need to turn to speak to a colleague or move to answer a phone. If your chair doesn’t swivel, then your back could face some serious trouble. A chair that swivels allows great flexibility, so it does all the hard work, so your back doesn’t have to.
- Armrests: Having an armrest with cushioned pads is ideal but not over necessary. They make for nice comfort, which is always a plus, but an adjustable armrest is what you’re looking for. If you think about being sat down, you don’t your arms too high or low, as this causes unalignment within the body. You want your arms to be resting at a comfortable position that doesn’t cause any tensions on the shoulders or upper back region.
- Back rest/tilt: Some chairs may come with a contoured back rest, which is great but ideally you want something that you can adjust for your own lumbar needs.
It’s good to have the option of a backrest that can actually unlock, which means you can shift to different positions whilst being seated. If you were to stay in the same position all day this would cause tension. Being able to a bit more freely allows flexibility in the spine.
- Lumbar support: Even though this should be a given, you should check if you are able to adjust this area. You need to ensure it is comfortable when you are sat with your feet flat on the floor, to decrease any pressure on the lumbar itself.
Some chairs can even come with a lumbar pressure adjustment.
- Stable base: The best bases to look for are those with a five-caster feature. As this is an extension of the casters and supporting your entire body, you need something that is going to withstand stability.
Does an office chair have to be ergonomic for lumbar support?
Not necessarily, no. Ergonomic chairs are based on providing adjustable support but numerous others such as leather or executive can still offer you these features. Some of the top of the range executive chairs will certainly offer all the mechanisms an ergonomic can. As long as you are able to find a chair that suits your specific needs, that’s all that really matters.
Yes, ergonomic chairs are designed to provide lumbar support, but with the right browsing you will find what is right for you.
How should you sit in an office chair?
In an ideal world, you want to sit in a way that is comfortable. However, if you have experienced poor posture, any back injuries or even no history, there is still an incorrect way to sit that may be causing you more harm than good.
If you can, the most suitable way to sit for both comfort and preventative of back pain is to push your hips as far back as possible onto your chair. This will give you a secure base and promote upwards posture. It should deter you from slouching and hunching as well.
The next thing to do is to adjust your seat height so your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are slightly lower than your hips. Try to avoid crossing your legs if possible.
This position will allow the blood to flow freely around your lower body.
Finally, is to make any other minor adjustments such as armrest height, seat recline or headrest movements. Your arms should be at a level that you don’t feel that they are straining your upper back or shoulders.