Anatomy Of An Office Chair Part 3: Selecting The Right Chair Arms

In the third of our series on the anatomy of an office chair it's time to turn to chair arms and what you need to do to get proper working comfort.

The majority of office chairs start with no arm versions and then have one or more arm options to consider. Most people prefer to have arms on their desk chair because they offer welcome support while you work.

However, all too many chairs have fixed arms and they are rarely a good idea. In fact you're probably better using a chair with no arms than one with fixed arms.

Why is this?

The drawback of fixed arms
As indicated by the name fixed arms don't adjust. No matter where you would like them to be they're always going to be in the same place. Unfortunately more often than not they set your lower arms in an unnatural position. And that's not all, they also push your shoulders and neck into an unhealthy posture too.

You might just get lucky and find they are alright for you.

That's rare though. What's needed is something with a bit more flexibility.

Simple height adjustable arms
This sort of arm allows users to move the arms up and down vertically.

simple adjustable arms

Simple Height Adjustable Arms Leap Chair

They are very easy to adjust normally it's just a case of pressing a button to move them up and down. So straight away you are able to rest your lower arms in a comfortable position.

However it's just as important to make sure your shoulders are correctly supported. They should be placed in a relaxed posture and not hunched up in the air.

Some arms have an option for padded tops and this is always worth going for. Hard arm tops can soon cause lower arm discomfort even when your arms are correctly supported.

What other refinements can you get with adjustable arms?

Highly adjustable arms
Whilst simple height adjustable arms will answer most people's needs there are some useful refinements worth considering on more sophisticated arms.

Here are some of the possibilities.

You can get arms which allow you to angle the actual arm tops inwards and outwards. This can be useful for people with narrow shoulders as it sets the arm supports closer together. As well as this some slide forwards and backwards which can also be handy for fine tuning your arm support.

A number of chairs let you alter the width between the chair's arms. Mostly this is done when assembling the chair, although a few can be easily adjusted at any time. The good thing about width adjustment is it means you can set the arms up to better suit your shoulder width. Once adjusted you arms sit vertically aligned with your shoulders so you aren't straining them at odd angles.

It's also possible to find arms that push out of the way when you don't need them.

swing arm

Swing Back Arm Detail HÅG H05

This can be handy when you want to work close in at your desk. Different chairs handle this in different ways. Humanscale's Freedom chair lets you rapidly drop the arms to seat level. On HÅG's H05 chair the arms swing back around the back of the chair. And Neutral Posture chairs let you swing the arms down towards the underside of the chair.

Let's recap on what matters on chair arms

Summary

  • Fixed arms are bad, they rarely support your arms and shoulders properly
  • Simple height adjustable arms are fine for most people
  • Choose padded arm tops if available
  • Highly adjustable arms can add some useful extra features

That's it for chair arms. In the next article we will be looking at the final part of the puzzle the chair's back.

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