Sitting in an office chair for lengthy periods of time can absolutely cause low back pain or worsen an existing back or neck problem. Office chairs can increase stress in the back, neck, shoulders, arms and legs, and in particular, can add large amounts of pressure to the back muscles and spinal discs. People have the natural tendency to slouch over or slouch down in the chair, and this posture can overstrain the spinal ligaments and strain the discs and surrounding structures in the spine.
- Armrests. Choose armrests that can be adjusted in height and width. To provide support they need to be at least 2 inches wide and made by a soft material. The soft materials reduce irritation to the blood vessels and nerves in the forearm.
- Backrest. The backrest should be height-adjustable with an outward curve so that it fits into the small of the back. It should also be able to move forward and back so that all people of all sizes will be able to sit comfortably, and the angle should be adjustable.
- Chairbase. Look for a strong base. The best base has 5 legs. The base should also be on casters to allow you to move around without muscle strain from pushing, bending and reaching.
- Seatpan. Look for a soft cushioning that allows the height to be adjusted. Don’t go too soft though!
The Aeron Chair by Herman Miller has all of these features built in to the chair making it one of the best therapeutic chairs for back pain relief. It is sold on Amazon.com (The Aeron Chair) for $939.00 which is a bit pricey but, for the features it offers, is worth every penny.
We recommend doing the following in your work area to make it as comfortable as possible and will cause the least amount of stress to the spine:
- Armrest. Adjust so that it just slightly lifts your arms at the shoulders. This will help take the strain off your neck and shoulders, and make you less likely to slouch forward.
- Calf measure. Push your bottom against the chair back, try to pass your clenched fist between the back of your calf and the front of your office chair. If you can’t do that then the chair is too deep. Adjust the backrest forward, insert a low back support, like a lumbar support cushion, a pillow or rolled up towel.
- Elbow measure. Sit comfortably with your upper arms parallel to your spine. Rest your hands on your work surface. If your elbows are not at a 90-degree angle, adjust your office chair height either up or down.
- Low back support. Once again your bottom should be pressed against the back of your chair. There should be a cushion for your lower back to arch slightly so that you don’t slump forward or slouch down. Never slump or slouch forward in the office chair, as that places extra stress on the structures in the low back, and mainly on the lumbar discs.
- Thigh measure.
You should easily be able to slide your fingers under your thigh at the leading edge of the office chair. Use a footrest if it is too tight.
- Resting eye level. Your gaze should be aimed at the center of your computer screen. You need to either raise or lower if your computer screen is either higher or lower you’re your gaze to reduce neck strain.