You Only Get One Back: Is Your Office Chair Ruining It?

Have you ever observed a young baby as soon as it has learnt to sit up? If you have you may well have been struck by the beautiful posture of the child's back.

The spine is straight and shoulders sit naturally by it's side. Not only that, the side movement of the head is huge compared to the average adult. Babies can easily turn their heads well over 90 degrees to the left or right.

Sadly, in a few short years it all starts to go downhill. Sitting in lousy seating at school and then hours in front of a TV or computer soon starts to take its toll.

So, even by the time you start work, it's likely you will have lost a fair amount of the natural back movement you had as a young child. This makes it important that you pick a good office seat if you spend most of the working day sitting in one.

Let's look at how the wrong chair only makes things worse.

How a bad office chair damages your back
To keep your back healthy you need to avoid office chairs with poor back supports. Chairs with low fixed backs aren't a good idea as they leave large areas of your back unsupported.

Chairs that have no lumbar support should be avoided too. The most important area of you back to support is the lower back or lumbar region. Unshaped chair backs are unlikely to give you the support you need. And backs with exaggerated shapes can be just as bad and should be avoided to.

If you prefer a mesh back chair make sure it doesn't have a poorly designed hard plastic frame because it can dig into your back.

So, what should you look for to get proper back support?

What should you chair back include?
The most important feature of any office chair back is that it provides you with good support for your lower back. Ideally it should be able to be adjusted to nest comfortably into the small of your back.

On a chair with a small or medium height back it should be height adjustable with some light shaping allowing it to rest comfortably into your lumbar region.

Alternatively, it may include a separate lumbar support which can be positioned to suit your needs. This is quite popular on chairs with high backs which may well be fixed. Often they have an adjustable lumbar support to fine tune things.

With mesh backs it's best to avoid really cheap chairs as the mesh won't support your back. Better quality chairs use mesh designed to give good support and these sometimes use two or three ply mesh specifically made for the purpose.

And even when you have a chair with good back support you can always do more.

How else can you look after your back?
Sitting for hours on end is not a good idea even in the best of chairs. Our body craves movement and when it doesn't get it it starts to ache. This is nature's way of saying it's time to move.

Getting up out of your chair every 30 minutes or so is a good idea. Take a quick break and make yourself a cup of coffee or tea. Also, do some quick stretches to keep your body supple. This doesn't mean you have to start doing some strenuous exercise routine. Just a few simple stretches is all that is needed to keep things moving healthily.

The older you get the more important this becomes. Unfortunately you will never get back all the healthy posture you had as a baby. Nonetheless it's vital that we maintain our backs by giving them the best support and help we can.

A good chair combined with some basic stretches will go a long way to looking after your back.

Further information
Selecting the right chair back is important, however there are other features that matter too. This short video explains what a good ergonomic office chair should include.

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Sloppy Habits Working On A Laptop Can Result In Back Pain And Posture Issues

Laptops have been a great boon to working virtually anywhere, their portability means they can be fired up and used pretty much wherever you are and whenever you want.

However, this added flexibility comes at a cost as they aren't ideal for healthy working. They let us get lazy in our working comfort and unwittingly encourage a number of bad habits which if left unchecked will result in back and neck pain and discomfort frequently leading to long term health implications.

You see people working badly at their laptop, resting it on their knees in crowded waiting areas, hunched over them on the daily commute by train, and in the house slumped on a sofa with their backs rounded and necks craning forward.

Sometimes it just isn't practical to work in ideal conditions on a laptop, nonetheless a lot of the time it is. Wherever possible they should be used on a flat work surface like a desk, table or worktop with a good quality chair.

Even then because of their small size the screen display can be hard to set at the right height and the simple solution is to use a laptop holder. These devices allow your portable PC to be set at the right height and angle for optimal working.

Depending on how it is designed it may be necessary to use an external keyboard where the holder obscures laptop's built in keyboard.

There are many different designs of laptop holder and this article discusses some of the more popular models of these laptop accessories to help you work more comfortably.

And if you're looking for the ultimate seating solution for wireless working this chair is perfect with or without a desk.

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Are You Aware Of How You Are Sitting In Your Office Chair?

If you study people’s postures when you are out and about you will often find it’s easy to spot those who work at a PC all day.

They are the ones who often carry a certain stiffness in the neck and shoulders as well as restricted lateral movement. The most common cause of this is usually poor positioning relative the desk and VDU screen and also not taking sufficient breaks during the day's work.

Whilst these symptoms are often easy to spot in others, they aren't so obvious in ourselves and it's only when we stand in front of a mirror we begin to see we are burdened by the same problems. Although shoulder and neck pain act as a timely reminder from our body that something we are doing is not helping our body's well-being and comfort.

So how do we become more aware of how we are sitting and what can be done to correct bad habits?

Assuming you have your office chair properly adjusted next make sure you are addressing your workspace correctly. Key to this is the relationship between you and your monitor ensuring you are properly set up.

Here are some vital points:

Screen Height – your eyes need to be set at or slightly below the topmost menu bar on you screen.

Screen Angle – monitor should be angled slightly backwards such that your line of site is square to it.

Screen Alignment – body, keyboard and monitor should be centered together. Imagine a line starting from your nose through the middle of your keyboard's spacebar and finishing in the center of your screen.

Screen Distance – as a broad rule of thumb the screen should be approximately an arm's length away. This will vary from user to user depending on eye sight and body size, make sure you can clearly read on screen text clearly while keeping your back in good contact and supported by your chair back, avoiding leaning forward.

Although it's probably easier to set up a flat panel monitor than an old bulky CRT monitor it still isn't always easy to get things just right. An LCD monitor maybe a lot lighter nonetheless it's still a lump of equipment sitting on your desk which will rarely be moved allowing bad posture habits to set in.

Screen height can be particularly awkward with the stand height often being fixed and frequently too low. You can improvise and build it up with books however it doesn't look very pretty.

The best answer is to invest in an LCD monitor arm, the design and flexibility of modern VDU arms allows us to position our screen very precisely, fine tuning it until finding perfect positioning.

There are additional benefits as well, when you need clear desk space to carry out other tasks, or you want to discuss something you have on screen with a colleague or visitor, an LCD monitor arm allows effortless movement of the screen to where it needs to be.

I'll return to this topic in a future post to look into further ways of helping posture and comfort in the office.

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Laptops Are Great – BUT!

Laptops are great, they allow you to take your business wherever you need to go and work on the fly. However, despite the obvious benefits they actually have some serious drawbacks too.

When you have a mountain of work to complete a laptop or sub notebook can put your comfort and posture at a distinct disadvantage over working at a conventional PC.

For starters, sitting on a sofa or bar stool will soon cause you comfort issues, you need to be seated in an office chair.

Next, the built in mouse is totally inadequate for repeated mouse use, you need to get an external mouse.

Take time to learn any keyboard shortcuts because they're a lot quicker and less stressful than using a mouse.

When you're sitting in an office chair working on a laptop the screen is invariably too low and so you tend to bend your neck downwards to read the screen and it's also likely that you will arch your back at the same time, the end result will be pain and discomfort.

Fortunately, there are specialist laptop holders to address this problem and raise the screen up, depending on the design it may be necessary to use anexternal keyboard too. This actually makes it a lot easier to type because you're not stymied by a compressed keyboard layout.

So, to conclude when you're using your laptop for serious work make sure you're using a good office chair and look into investing in an external mouse and keyboard and maybe even a specialist laptop holder too.

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