Goldilocks would have made a great ergonomist. She noticed the difference between the mama-, papa- and baby-sized chairs right away, insisting on the one that was just right.
Nowadays she would have the added headache of persuading people that seating should be comfortable, not chic. Adjustable, good-for-you chairs are frequently described as funny-looking, but if seating had been designed to fit the human anatomy from the start, it's the standard office chair that would get the laughs. Like many other manifestations of "progress," most chairs neglect to take our shape into account.
How to evaluate a chair? Sitting in the chair should evoke a wonderful "ahhhh" sensation. The seat is neither too hard nor too soft, and it subtly contours the thigh. The backrest meets the lower spine just where it offers best support. The armrests don't bump into the desk, and offer padded support when you are not keying.
PELVIC TILT IS ESSENTIAL
When a chair seat is flat, it reduces the natural curve in the lower spine, compressing the vertebrae and causing lower back strain. If a chair seat tilts down, the spine stays curved, reducing strain.
To some, the pelvic tilt feature may feel odd at first, like you're going to slide off the chair. But once you get used to it, it's much more comfortable than a flat seat.
THE ARMREST: STEADY AS YOU GO
Armrests present a built-in dilemma. They're great when you want to rest your shoulders, but an injury risk if you use them to support your forearms while you compute. And if armrests are too long, they prevent you from sitting close enough to the keyboard. This design forces you to extend your arm, an exhausting position to hold for long periods.
THE INTELLIGENT BACKREST
The optimum backrest can be locked in place or it can move with you. Rather than collapsing under your weight, it requires a slight effort to recline. Then it tracks your spine as you lean forward again. While this "synchronic mechanism" encourages movement, you must learn how to use it properly, because you shouldn't use a computer from a backward-leaning position. Choose lumbar support can be adjusted by moving the backrest up or down.
THE WELL-ADJUSTED CHAIR
Adjustability is double-edged sword. While you want a chair to fit your body, don't buy adjustability for its own sake. Just because the body is capable of making a motion doesn't mean it is an optimal working position.
Sometimes less is better. Don't choose a chair with synchronic movement unless you can use it properly.
CHOOSING CHAIRS: THE SHORT COURSE
Along with features such as pelvic tilt, adjustable height, lumbar support, and short armrests, check the following when buying a chair.
THE INFORMATION ON THIS WEBSITE IS NOT INTENDED AS MEDICAL ADVICE.
IF YOU HAVE THE SYMPTOMS OR WARNING SIGNS OF RSI, SEE A COMPETENT PHYSICIAN IMMEDIATELY.
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