Computer Ergonomics: It’s Time to Say Good-Bye to Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is a very common problem for people who have desk jobs. Sitting in the chair for prolonged periods is the major reason why it may occur. When you keep sitting for long hours, the static posture puts stress on your lower back, shoulders, legs, and even on the spinal disc and back muscles.
Fortunately, you don't have to live with lower back pain all your life. If you learn about computer ergonomics and how to incorporate it at work, you can say goodbye to your lower back pain once and for all.
What could be better than that?!
Curious to know how?
Let’s explore.

What to Look for In an Ergonomic Office Chair

An ergonomic office chair is an effective tool designed to help with lower back pain. When used properly, it provides excellent back support and maintains a healthy sitting posture.
A good ergonomic office chair should have certain features to ensure they are effective. These include:

  • The Height of the Seat: The height of different chairs may range between 16 inches and 21 inches off the floor. You can choose the height that enables you to comfortably place your feet on the floor and arms perfectly in-line with the desk.
  • The Depth and Width: Just like the height, the depth and width of the seat should be set according to your comfort. The standard width is usually between 17 and 20 inches. From the front to the back, the depth should allow the user to sit comfortably with his/her back leaning against the backrest. The distance between the back of the knees and the chair should be approx 2-4 inches. It's best to pick an adjustable chair that can be fixed according to the user.
  • Lumbar Support: The lumbar spine is designed in a curved shape. If you sit for long periods without proper support, it could flatten the natural curve and eventually cause slouching. The ergonomic chair you choose should have the flexibility of adjustment for both depth and height so that the body posture can maintain its natural curve.
  • Backrest: Depending on your own body width, the width of the backrest should be between 12 and 19 inches. If it comes as a separate component of the seat, it should have the adjustment ability for both angle and height. Besides helping you maintain the natural curve of the lumbar spine, it should provide proper support to the back so longer working hours give you no harm. In case it comes as a single piece, the backrest should be adjustable at different angles.
  • Seat Material: Be very particular about the material of the seat you are picking. It should be padded enough to provide a comfortable support. Use softer material instead of a hard surface. A fabric that's breathable should be the preferable choice.

Your Guide to Setting Up the Office Chair

Just investing in an ergonomic office chair won't help. It’s also essential to set it up right so it fulfills the main purpose: to help you manage your lower back pain. Set the chair according to your body proportion. A chair well-adjusted will also reduce the stress it causes to your spine.
While adjusting the height of the chair, take note that it shouldn’t only be adjusted according to an individual's own height but should also align well with the workstation. To decide, take into account the type of work you do and the height of the chair you require.
Your feet must comfortably touch the ground as you sit on the chair with your back on the backrest. Also, determine the height of your workstation before adjusting the height of your chair.
To make it a worthwhile experience, follow this checklist:

1.Elbow Measure

To sit comfortably, your spine should be straight (i.e. in its natural curve) and your upper arms parallel to your spine. While sitting, keep your chair closer to the workstation. Now, place your arms on the surface. To be perfectly parallel to the spine, your elbows must form a 90-degree angle.
Adjust your seat until the perfect angle is formed.

2.Thigh Measure

There should be a few inches gap between your under-knee and the edge of the chair. You must be able to slide your fingers under the thighs from the edge. If it's too uncomfortable or tight, you can place a footrest under your feet to create the space.
If you are too tall and there is too much space between your thighs and the leading edge, you must work on adding more height to the desk or work station to make it parallel to your body. This way, the height of your chair can also be adjusted to create the perfect thigh measure.

3.Calf Measure

Adjust your body to the chair and lean your back towards the backrest. Now, try passing your clenched fist between the front part of the chair and your calf. If this isn’t possible for you to do, it's an indication that your chair is too deep.
To avoid this, readjust the backrest forward and place some sort of support for your back. You can use a rolled towel, a pillow, or a proper lumbar-support cushion to adjust this. If your chair doesn’t have the adjustment option, you might want to consider buying a new one.

4.Support for Lower Back

Your bottom should firmly be pressed against the backrest. The natural cushion should allow you to arch your lower back slightly to keep you from slumping forward. The wrong posture could eventually cause you to slouch over time.
It is essential to provide yourself some lower back support as you sit in your office chair to minimize the strain to your spine. Avoid slouching or slumping forward as you sit. Doing so adds more strain to your lower back structure and can be harmful to your lumbar discs.

5.The Perfect Eye Level

The eye level may not have a direct contact with your spine health, but it does say a lot about your posture while you’re sitting. Close your eyes as you sit. Now, open them slowly and focus. Your eyes should be aimed right at the center of your computer screen.
If the screen is higher or lower than your eye level, you must readjust it accordingly. It reduces strain on your eyes as well as your spine.

6.Armrest

It's best to have your arms a little lifted to maintain your shoulder and spine health. Adjust the armrest accordingly so it reduces the stress from the upper spine. It doesn’t only ease the way you use your keyboard but also keeps you from slouching forward to work.

Get Moving!

In order to maintain your spine health and say goodbye to your lower back pain, you should be aware of your posture at all times. Tired muscles, slumping, slouching, and other poor postures may be relaxing for the time being but can eventually damage your lumbar discs.
Besides using ergonomics for your office chair, it’s equally important to give your muscles a break. After every half an hour, get up and move around for 2 minutes. Stand up, stretch, and walk a little to give a little break to your tired muscles. You’ll feel the difference!

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