How to Adjust Your Office Chair to Avoid Back Pain

The office chair can be a friend or a foe. This piece of furniture is in regular contact with your spine for very long periods of time. If it's out of position, it can do a lot of damage to your back. If it's in the right position, it can do you a lot of good, and actually improve your health by improving your posture.

The chair affects both the spine itself and muscle groups which are centered on spine. Prolonged sitting in an unusual position can put pressures on the spine, which puts the muscle groups into unusual positions. That can cause potentially serious posture problems which can be real trouble in later life. Curvature of the spine, osteoporosis and other difficult (also expensive and painful) medical issues are major issues for many people as a direct result of posture issues.

Getting to know your chair

There's an easy way of knowing whether you're in a good relationship with your chair. The way you normally sit is the best indicator. When you sit in a chair, you naturally compensate for any imbalances. If you're sitting in an off center position, or leaning away from the back of the chair, it's not positioned properly, and neither are you.

Some people acquire bad posture habits as a result of bad chairs. The result can be pains around the joints, legs, back, and neck, and regular fatigue which is only relieved by movement. These symptoms are very mild versions of what later conditions can be like, so be warned.

Adjusting your chair

This really isn't difficult, but it may take a little time. The "comfort" approach is definitely the best guide to proper positioning.

The correct situation for sitting in a chair is:

  • A good backrest, with neck support.

  • Your feet should be able to sit flat on the floor and not need to adjust much with movements.

  • Your arms should also be able to access your keyboard and other commonly used areas of the workstation without strain or putting pressure on your back.

  • You should actually feel very comfortable, and not be feeling unduly tired.

Start with the backrest, because it's the most important. You may find that your chair feels pretty good if it's new, but older chairs will definitely require significant adjustment, because they've been previously tailored to somebody else's needs.

Height adjustment is the next issue. The seat should allow you to sit level with the workstation without having to reach up or down. Your feet need to be well balanced, because they take the pressure of your whole body weight, and your legs and hips will adjust to their positions. Footrests are fine, but the same basic requirements apply for good ergonomics.

Your neck should be able to rest easily against the back of the chair and you should still be well positioned and comfortable while working. There shouldn't be any tension or need to tense the neck muscles.

Additional adjustments and supports

Some people naturally don't fit office chairs too well. If you're an unusual size, or have existing postural problems, you may need additional supports like special cushions or spinal supports.