Feeling a little sore after work? You don’t need to work outside to develop an injury on the job. In fact, many of today’s office workers are just as likely to develop severe back pain over the course of their career as people in physically demanding jobs.
From the posture a modern office workstation creates to the sheer unnaturalness of sitting down for eight hours every day, many of the normalities of the modern office can have a serious negative effect on your back.
Luckily, your choice of chair – both at work and at home – can reverse a great deal of the damage that bad posture, long periods sitting down and an inactive lifestyle can do to your back. The right chair could even eliminate your back pain entirely.
In this guide, we’ll look at the best types of chairs to use at work and at home to give your back the support it needs. Whether you have an existing back injury or simply have concerns about poor posture, read on to discover the best chairs for your back.
HOW YOUR CHAIR (AND LIFESTYLE) IS HURTING YOUR BACK
With more people than ever spending their work hours behind a desk, the biggest health risks in today’s workplaces aren’t on-site injuries or accidents, but slow and gradual damage to your joints, bones and posture.
One of the biggest causes of back pain in adults is poor posture, often caused by a workstation (both your office chair and your desk) that doesn’t match the unique needs of your body.
Common work-related cause of back pain include a computer monitor that’s too high or too low relative to your eye level. In order to adjust to your point of focus, you might be slouching forward or back to compensate for your workstation.
Every technology guru has heard of “programmer posture” – the arched forward posture endemic to people who spend long hours in front of the computer. If you feel sore after a long day at work, it could be your posture that’s to blame.
THE RIGHT CHAIR CAN CHANGE YOUR POSTURE
Many people think your chair should support your body and compensate for a bad back or bad habits. A lot of the time, the opposite is true: your chair should make it as easy as possible for you to develop these good postural habits yourself.
In a digital workstation setting, the keys to healthy posture are simple: your eyes should be between 20 and 28 inches from the top of your monitor, and you should be able to view the entire screen without needing to move your head.
Your pelvis should be at a right angle, with your legs 90° from your upper body and pointed forward. Your feet should be firmly planted on the ground or, if you aren’t comfortable with your feet on the ground, rested on a comfortable footrest.
The best chairs don’t force you into this position – that would be uncomfortable –but they do encourage it. From inexpensive office chairs to exotic Herman Miller designer work seats, the best office chairs share several characteristics:
- They have strong, steady backrests that help you sit upright
- They have a vertical aperture of 90° or greater to prevent lordosis
- They provide some spinal alignment (for example, a head rest)
It’s difficult to recommend a perfect chair for today’s office worker in need of back support or postural improvement, since everyone’s back is different. Some people are affected by lordosis, while others are affected by the opposite issue: kyphosis.
If you suffer from a bad back and spend a long time sitting down at your desk, it’s important to speak to your doctor or physical therapist. They can recommend the right chair to support your back and neck and treat your specific back problems.
KEEPING YOUR BACK SUPPORTED AT HOME
No matter how good your posture may be at work, bad posture at home can often cause serious problems for your back. Many stylish, comfortable sofas are built to feel as soft and comfortable as possible without any level of back support in mind.
When selecting a sofa for your living room, choose one with a relatively strong and supportive back. Heavily cushioned sofas – the type that you sink into upon sitting – might feel great, but they can worsen curved seating positions and bad posture.
If you have a soft, heavily cushioned sofa, consider purchasing a supportive pillow for your lower back. Back support pillows are inexpensive, compact and provide an additional level of support for your spine and lower back muscles.
Likewise, recliners with back support are always preferable to those designed with only comfort in mind. La-Z-Boy’s Power Recliner living room chairs provide full back support in all positions, even when fully reclined.
GOOD HABITS CAN LEAD TO GOOD POSTURE
Whether at home or at the office, sitting all day can lead to a variety of health issues not limited solely to poor posture. High blood pressure, coronary heart disease and depression can all stem from a sedentary lifestyle involving lots of sitting down.
If you work in an office environment in which sitting for long periods of time is the norm, get out of your chair every hour or two for a short walk. One lap around the office is often all it takes to prevent you slouching forward in your chair.
Your sleeping habits could also have an effect on your posture and back health. Our guide to selecting the ideal mattress for your body type explains how the softness of your mattress could have an effect on the curvature and alignment of your spine.
Finally, consider working using a standing desk. By standing up while you work, you keep your back and shoulders correctly aligned and avoid many of the health issues associated with long periods spent sitting down.
DOES YOUR CHAIR OFFER THE BACK SUPPORT YOU NEED?
Many people avoid spending more than the bare minimum on office furniture, only to pay significantly more for physical therapy after years of poor posture. If you’re affected by back pain, ask yourself if your chair is offering the support you need.
From office chairs to recliners, workplace and home furniture with built-in back support is surprisingly affordable, especially when you compare it to the cost of physical therapy caused by decades of poor posture and weak back support.