5 Steps to Proper Chair Functioning

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Todd Meier

Are you one of those people who have worked for the same company for many years and have used the same old faithful chair? Have you ever thought that maybe you have become desensitized to the possibility that you are seated on an apparatus that could rival pins and needles, or a contraption seen in one of those grade-B horror films? Or perhaps you even have a newer chair but never bothered to mess will all the knobs and levers.

Either way, the five questions below will help ensure your comfort and safety at your desk.

1. Should your seat pan be frozen? No, there is no Freon in this cushion, but a tilt or sliding mechanism gone awry. Chairs get dusty and parts get stuck over years of use. If this is you, it is time for your chair to be serviced. Your seat pan adjustment is vital to allowing your back to align correctly with your seatback. Additionally, be sure to allow at least two to three finger widths of space between the back of your legs and the edge of your seat.

2. Is it best to have your armrests up or down? Keep them DOWN. We all like to rest our limbs but this is not necessarily a good thing. Shoulder shrugs should be an exercise with dumbbell weights, not a static posture you place yourself in for hours on end. Allow your shoulders to rest in their natural, neutral position and see how that makes you feel.

3. How do I know if my chair is the right fit? If your legs are resting on the edge of your seat pan, it is too small, and conversely, if, when seated with your back against the backrest the back of your legs touch the front edge, your seat is likely too large.

4. How much seat cushioning should I have? Do the compression test: If you are not sinking in approximately 2 inches, and your chair is old, it is likely the cushion has become compressed over years of use and it is time to repair or replace.

5. What is the ideal seat adjustment? Your seat height should be set so that your knees are at the same level or slightly lower than your hips. Your feet should be slightly out in front of your knees. There should be no pressure points on the backs of your thighs or knees.

As for posture, it is always a good idea to sit upright with your seatback slightly reclined, approximately a 110-degree angle. Adjust your chair’s seatback so the lumbar support is lined up with the lumbar region in your back.

Ever wonder why you are feeling pain in your neck and shoulders? Let your seatback be your friend. Try resting your back against it. It is, after all, a backrest. Oftentimes people will lean toward their desk and perch. I refer to this as the T-rex posture and, no, it’s not a good thing. Your body likely will give you negative feedback at the end of an arduous day at the office.

Old habits die hard as the saying goes; old familiar chairs are sometimes our friend, and sometimes not. Practice awareness of your posture and try out these basic pointers and see if this helps.