Are The Missing Functions On Your Office Chair Ruining Your Health?

Most biking nuts will have ridden on a fixed wheel at some stage and a moment’s loss of concentration can rapidly inflict pain on the rider. Let me explain. A fixed wheel only has a single cog on the rear wheel meaning the rider’s pedalling pressure is always the same uphill, downhill or on the flat. So there are no gears to take the strain.

And if that wasn't bad enough there is no freewheel function you have to keep pedalling and you actually brake or stop the bike by gradually slowing your pedalling and then back pedalling when the bike has slowed sufficiently to bring it to a halt.

So, there you are biking along and you forget you’re using a fixed wheel so you relax and stop pedalling and wham! Before you know it the pedals are making mincemeat of your feet and ankles because they keep rotating and clattering them as they do so.

Chairs with missing functions are a lot like fixed wheel biking, you can never relax in them. They always seem to be controlling how you move in them and inflicting pain with their lack of flexibility.

What functions do all office chairs have?
It’s fair to say that all office chairs will have at least 2 functions, because without them they couldn't perform at all.

First, they all have height adjustability and this is pretty important because the ability to be able to set the correct seat height relative to the user’s leg length is essential.

Second, they all have a 5 star swivel base, which is critical for being able to move quickly and easily when addressing work at your desk. If you’ve ever used a 4 legged chair working at a computer you'll know how limiting it can be the first time you want to move to reach something.

Many believe that these 2 functions are all you need, let’s look at why they will never be sufficient on there own.

Why aren't they enough?
OK, so you might think that being able to move freely around your desk area and setting the height of your chair’s seat to suit your body is enough. Sure it’s a good start and to be honest if you only work at a desk for an hour a day you may get away with it. For those working long hours at a workstation the lack of other functions will quickly become apparent.

The inability to alter the chair’s back position will pretty soon start causing you back pain and probably neck and shoulder discomfort too. Unless you are extraordinarily lucky the back won’t be correctly placed for good support.

Incorrectly positioned legs is a prime cause of leg pain, not surprising when you think about it because when you place any part of your body in an unnatural position it won’t be long before it starts resonating pain signals.

There are other potential problems when you don’t make sure you get the right features.

What other features should you insist on?
You need to be able to move the chair’s back up and down to get it placed in the optimum position for the shape of your back. Having said that some chairs come with fixed full height backs which include an integrated adjustable lumbar support and this achieves the same thing. So, always make sure your chair will allow you to set the back adjustment to fit you.

No two people’s legs are the same length and so you must make sure your seat’s depth can be set to match with your leg length. This is usually achieved with a seat slider or occasionally the back depth can be moved in and out. Either way, you need this functionality and unfortunately far too many chairs don't allow this, which is frankly ridiculous.

Arms should always be adjustable to let you position them in such a way that they support your lower arms and shoulders naturally. Fixed arms are little more than a lottery and too many are based around some funky cool shape without any thought as to whether they will be comfortable.

Being able to set the spring tension of your chair’s recline is another key function to insist on. Without it, light framed people will always feel they are fighting with their chair back when they recline. And heavy built people may well find the opposite effect, as the chair just seems to fall away on reclining. So, insist on tilt tension and leave yourself in control when relaxing.

Let’s quickly recap on the points I've outlined in this article

  • Seat height adjustment and a wheel base isn't enough for proper comfort
  • Proper comfort can only be achieved with proper functions
  • Make sure your chair’s back adjusts
  • Make sure you can alter seat depth to suit your leg length
  • Adjustable arms are necessary for proper arm and shoulder support
  • Tilt tension put you in control when you recline, not the chair

When you insist on these important functions you greatly increase your chance of good sitting comfort. Don’t get stuck with the seating equivalent of fixed wheel biking, always ensure your chair has the necessary gears.


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