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Avoid Needless Back Pain--Use Care When Choosing Your Office Chair

Sitting at your desk can be hazardous to your health. Office workers often spend seven hours a day seated, and using the wrong chair can reduce their efficiency by causing pain in the back, arms, wrist and literally--in the neck. If you leave your office-- whether it be in your home or a corporation setting--at the end of each workday with aches and pains, it could be the result of sitting in a chair that is not physically appropriate for you.

Experts in ergonomics--the study of efficiency of persons in the work place--have shown that productivity increases as a direct consequence of using chairs that have ergonomic considerations. A well-designed chair is comfortable and supports the key areas of the body without restricting movement.

Since you spend so many hours in your chair typing, talking on the phone, surfing the Web, and meeting with clients and co-workers, it is absolutely imperative that you have the correct chair for your unique body shape. has gathered countless tips and hundreds of useful resources by diligently searching the Internet for information concerning office chairs. How much should I spend? How can I find the right chair? Which manufacturer can I trust? How long will a good chair last? Is leather a good choice for a seat cover?

Once considered "luxury" items by the Ebenezer Scrooge school of office managers, lumbar support chairs actually empower employees to relax while they work. Research now shows that high-quality, supportive chairs create more productive offices and have a major impact on worker satisfaction. A catch-all phrase in today's working environment is "repetitive strain injury"--"RSI". This term includes a wide range of ailments resulting from strain to shoulders, arms, hands, neck and back. Poorly designed or improperly adjusted office chairs can cause great discomfort which may surface years later as a chronic health problem.

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD's) currently account for one-third of all occupational injuries reported to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) by employers each year. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), employers paid $15-$20 billion in workers' compensation costs for these disorders in 1997. Thousands of companies have already taken action to prevent these problems and hundreds of them starting by purchasing office chairs that were ergonomically designed and which provided better support for their users.

What do you look for when choosing an office chair? A chair should feel comfortable when you first sit down, and should remain that way after you've been in it for a considerable amount of time (1-2 hours). Consequently, one of the first things to consider is the seat of the chair. Make sure there is plenty of room around your hips and thighs--at least an inch of space on either side of your body is recommended by health experts. Make sure the seat supports your thighs, yet the edge of the seat does not come into contact with the back of your legs while you're seated.

The chair you choose MUST have adequate upper and lower (lumbar) back support. The backrest is, therefore, another integral part of your decision-making process. The lower portion of the backrest should provide firm support, yet be curved slightly to follow the natural contour of your spine. You should get a chair with an adjustable backrest so you can find a combination of settings that is most comfortable for you.

Other considerations include arm rests, chair covering (cloth, vinyl, leather, etc.), and the chair base--a five point base with casters is a must. Read the instructions and learn how to adjust the chair to properly support your body.

An important tip--when purchasing an office chair keep in mind that one-size certainly does not fit all. People come in different heights and girths and with different arm and leg lengths, all of which affects whether you'll find a chair to be comfortable.

As with any major purchase (a good office chair will run $250-$1,000) your best option is to research and acquire as much information as you can about the products that are available and the vendors who supply them. Become a smart chair shopper!

About the Author

Larry Denton is a retired history teacher having taught 33 years at Hobson High in Hobson, Montana. He is currently Vice President of Elfin Enterprises, Inc., an Internet business providing useful information and valuable resources on a variety of timely topics. For an office full of information, resources and advice about office chairs, visit

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