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How to Set-up Your Chair

The majority of office jobs require us to sit for hours in front of a computer. While we know that a sedentary life can negatively impact our overall health, we may not be aware of the role that good posture plays in the prevention of work-related strain and injury.

What is good posture?

When we are sitting up straight, our bodies are actively working to maintain a neutral position in the spine.  This position, without your back supported by a chair backrest, requires a 20 percent contraction from your core musculature.  This may not pose any problems at all, granted you remain in this position for only a short duration.  However, this will inevitably lead to muscular fatigue and failure to stabilize over the course of a work day, which then transfers damage to the passive structures, such as the discs of the spine.

In other words, awkward postures — working in a position that requires muscle activity to maintain position — should be avoided. A natural or resting posture is best for the back.

A proper chair makes all the difference

A properly adjusted chair can help take unnecessary stress off your back. If your chair is adapted to suit your body type and job tasks, you can alleviate strain by letting the chair do the work for you.

Here’s a checklist you can follow to make sure that you will be in the proper position to work without causing muscle strain:

  1. Chair Height:
  • Make sure that your feet are flat on the floor or on a footrest.
  • Never let your feet dangle; make sure they are always supported.
  1. Seat Pan Depth: (The distance from the back of the chair to the front.)
  • Backs of the knees should not touch the seat pan.
  • Maintain at least a two finger gap behind knees.
  1. Backrest Position:
  • Back support angle should be between 100 – 110 degrees reclined.  Having an angle near 90 degrees is a common mistake.
  • Sit with your spine against the chair backrest as much as possible. This allows your weight to be absorbed by the chair, thereby holding you in a neutral spine while allowing the muscles of your back to relax.
  • Shift your hips to the back of the seat.
  1. Set Remaining Adjustments:
  • With your shoulders resting down and back, the armrest should then be lifted to lightly support the forearms (which are parallel to the floor).
  • Maintain elbows at a 90 – 110 degree angle.

Combating strain and fatigue

One of the best things you can do for yourself during the day is to take micro breaks. These are short 30 – 120 second breaks every 15 or 20 minutes spent away from your desk. This will prevent stress from being endured by your soft tissue structures, potentially causing repetitive strain. This is very easy to do during the day, because a short break can be as simple as standing up for a quick stretch or walking a short distance. And there is an added benefit — research suggests that frequent breaks also improve one’s mental agility and focus.

Now that your chair is properly fitted to your body and you are ideally positioned to work, we can make some modifications to your workstation, which will be the focus of my next post, desk ergonomics.

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Dr. Justin Guy, Oakville Chiropractor

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