Dr. Mike The Chiropractor: How to buy an office chair.

MODEL:  High Back Task Racing Chair
STAPLES SKU:  320794

by Dr. Mike the Chiropractor

If you worked for a company in your past life, buying office furniture was the responsibility of Purchasing, Operations, Facilities, or even Human Resources, depending on the company.

But if you’ve hung out your own shingle and are now your own boss, guess what?  You are now responsible for buying furniture for your home office. Whether your office is in the den or in the basement (or even garage!), buying a desk and an office chair is up to you.

Part of being a chiropractor is helping people make choices that do not harm the body. Some broad brush concepts in chiropractic are these two:  straight lines and 90 degree angles are good.  They help to keep the spine and major joints in the right positions to avoid undue strain, stress, and fatigue. Respecting these two concepts of straight lines and 90 degree angles, you’ll have fewer back problems years from now.

[caption id="attachment_6388" align="alignright" width="200"] The ideal home office chair has a high back, adjustable height for the seat pan, and adjustable armrests. This one also has a headrest—a bonus.
MODEL: High Back Task Racing Chair
STAPLES SKU: 320794[/caption]

Buying office furniture becomes even more important for the 50+ crowd—the fastest growing segment that accounts for nearly 30 per cent of businesses start-ups, according to a recent CIBC survey—because flexibility of your neck, back, spine, and joints are reduced as the body ages.

At least one-third of people in Ontario will have back pain at any given time, according to the Ontario Chiropractic Association.

So, what are the important things to pay attention to when selecting an office chair? A desk?

I visited a Staples Business Depot in Woodbridge, near my clinic, and had free rein to rearrange the furniture to set up a good pairing of a chair and a desk for a home office.

Here are some tips to prevent strains, sprains, fatigue, and carpal tunnel. The good news is that a proper office chair and desk do not have to cost a lot of money.

Select an office chair that has a high back, to support both your upper and lower back;  this model from Staples also has a comfy headrest. A chair with a high back is a good investment in preventing future problems with your neck, shoulders, and back.

Chairs that have short backs contribute to fatigue of the neck, upper back, and shoulders. They put undue strain on the body;  they also make poor posture even worse.

The really good news is that the chair that met all the criteria from a chiropractic standpoint was actually mid-priced.

Next, adjust the seat height of the chair so that your sock feet lie flat on the floor when your hips are all the way back in the chair. If your toes just touch the floor (or dangle to the floor) the chair is too high, so lower it.

[caption id="attachment_6389" align="aligncenter" width="614"] If only your toes touch the floor, the chair is too high for you. When your chair is properly adjusted, your sock feet should lie flat on the floor.[/caption]

When you sit in your home office chair to type, the back of the chair should be at 90 degrees to the floor. That means your back is straight and not angled. It may feel awkward, but it is the best position to reduce strain and stress on your neck, spine, and shoulders.

Resist the temptation to push the chair away from a desk, or to take advantage of the chair’s tilt back feature. It will cause you grief if you sit in that position to type, for extended periods.

You can tilt your chair back for a break, to read, or to watch online videos on your computer.

[caption id="attachment_6390" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Move your hips all the way to the back of the chair. Better chairs have supports for your lumbar region—your lower back. This chair has lumbar support. Resist the temptation to tilt back, to work or to type, especially for extended periods.[/caption]

Next, select a chair with armrests that can be raised and lowered. Armrests are not decorations or status symbols, they actually have a purpose:   to support your elbows at a 90 degree angle when you type.  Adjust your armrests so that your forearm is at a 90 degree angle to your shoulder.

[caption id="attachment_6391" align="alignleft" width="120"] This chair does not provide back support, shoulder support, or elbow support.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_6392" align="alignright" width="180"] Armrests on your office chair actually have an important function: they support your elbows. Armrests on a good office chair should be adjustable up or down, not forward and backward.[/caption]

So-called “Secretaries Chairs” have short backs and no armrests at all, and don’t make the best home office chairs.

And, rest your elbows on your armrest when you are typing. This way, your wrists will be at the same level as your elbows, preventing carpal tunnel syndrome (numbness or tingling in your fingers from a constricted carpal tunnel, the main channel, in your wrist).

When you sit in your office chair, be sure to push your hips all the way back in the chair, using the full support of the chair for your back.

If you sit forward, you are not allowing the chair to do its job, namely to support your neck, upper and lower back, and shoulders. Eventually, you will experience neck strain, shoulder strain because your head will tilt too far forward. Did you know that a human head weighs about 10 to 12 pounds? That’s enough to cause strain if you are sitting improperly, especially for extended periods.

[caption id="attachment_6393" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Sitting too far forward like this in a chair will give you low back pain.
When your elbows are not at a 90 degree angle to your shoulder, so you may experience shoulder pain over time. The body does not like undue strain.
Sit all the way back in the chair, with your lower back and shoulders fully supported by the chair back. This way, stress on your body is reduced.[/caption]

Next, let’s look at an office desk.

Choose a desk with an ergonomic keyboard (a pull-out tray for an external keyboard even if you have a laptop computer. If you type a lot, an external keyboard will help prevent carpal tunnel.

This desk at Staples has a keyboard tray that pulls out far enough to be very useful if you need to type for long periods.

MODEL:  Roll-Out Computer Cart
STAPLES SKU:  673694

Most home office desks are designed for desktop computers, which have large monitors not connected to keyboards. Yet today, most people have laptops that they take with them to meetings, rather than desktop computers.


Web:  www.DrMiketheChiropractor.com
Email:  [email protected]
Tel:  (905) 264-0024

By Adam

October 19, 2012