Choosing the best ergonomic chair for the shape of your individual body may not seem like an easy feat, but with some vigilant research you can find your ideal solution in no time. The tips below will provide you with a basis of what to look for when choosing an ergonomic chair, whether for at home or the office.
Tip #1: All ergonomic chairs are not the same. The saying “you get what you pay for” absolutely applies here. They range in price from about $100.00 to over and above $1,000.00, and every price point in between. Some will fail in one way or another within a year and some will last a lifetime. Make sure you spend as much as you can if you want to purchase the best, most comfortable chair for you.
Tip #2: Many different users cannot sit in the same chair comfortably. When shopping for an ergonomic chair you need to look for the most adjustable features. This will make it easier to adjust the chair to your body type and if the chair you buy is going to be used by other people it also will make adjusting it to fit their body types as easy as possible.
Tip #3: Be aware of the size and shape of the seat cushion and back rest of the chairs you look at. Most office chair manufacturers have multiple seat sizes available and they provide measurements of each size so you can match it with your body size. This is the main area ergonomic chairs are different from regular computer chairs because regular chairs usually do not come in multiple sizes.
Tip #4: Is the depth and tilt of the seat cushion adjustable? Most chairs have the ability to adjust the seat height, but adjustable tilt of the seat cushion is a feature that high quality ergonomic chairs come with. Setting the seat cushion tilt to a comfortable position allows for even greater versatility than height adjustment by itself. Seat depth adjustability is also extremely important and this is usually accomplished with a “seat slider” option. This will allow you to change the position in seconds.
Tip #5: Is the depth of the back cushion adjustable to multiple positions? Most ergonomic chair manufacturers include features for you to adjust the depth or tilt of your back support cushion, and some even allow you to adjust the backrest height. When sitting for long hours at the computer an adjustable back rest can mean a world of a difference.
Tip #6: Look for adjustable chair arms. Adjustable arms let you change the height and tilt of the armrests so they can fit users of varying sizes and sitting habits.
Tip #7: Make certain the chair you purchase comes with a good warranty, backed by the manufacturer. High-end chair manufacturers usually include a great warranty and they stand behind their products 100%, it’s the less expensive brands that end up costing you more in the long run between chair replacement and your own personal comfort and productivity.
Some of the best, most adjustable ergonomic chairs available today are made by Neutral Posture and VIA Seating, in terms of quality and value. We personally use and highly recommend the Terra chair by VIA and the 8000 Series by Neutral Posture. Both models are fully customizable, meaning you can choose which features you want and what size you want the chair to be when you’re ordering it. You can also choose from dozens of color and fabric combinations, and many are available to ship within 3 business days.
We as humans are always looking for quick answers to our problems. When we start to feel uncomfortable in our workstation it is natural to first think of things you can buy, upgrade, or replace to relieve your discomfort. Many people attribute back related pains and strains to inadequate seating, and get it in their head that buying a fancy new ergonomic chair will make them more comfortable and productive. In most instances, this is correct. Most computer chairs out there that you can buy at your local office supply store are not adequate for daily use, and a more advanced chair may very well reduce your symptoms and solve your dilemma. However, in some cases your situation may need to be looked at from a different angle to save yourself time, energy and money.
Ergonomic chairs can only do so much. Let’s face it, most of us don’t get enough exercise and sit for most of our day, every day. Regular stretching and exercise is vital to physical health and well-being, and if you omit it from your daily routine you’re setting yourself up for bad things to happen. Keeping a proper posture while sitting down requires work from your back, abs (core) and legs. If these areas of your body are not loose and in shape you’re much more likely to feel pain or discomfort after long periods of being seated at the computer. I’m sure you’ve noticed yourself hunched over your keyboard on many occasions; it’s where the body wants to go without the proper support. When you have a toned and “engaged” mid-section and lower body you will sit up straighter and find yourself hunching over much less often. This will help prevent any back related injuries or discomfort and may save you the frustration of expecting products to make you feel better. Plus, you’ll just have a greater sense of well-being from the exercise and will definitely increase your productivity.
You should still have the proper seating in your work station just remember how important physical activity is to your health and how there really isn’t any substitute for it. One thing you can try to implement some movement into your day is using an exercise ball as your chair sometimes. These inflatable balls range from 55cm to 75cm in circumference and provide what is called an “active sitting” experience. This means that while you are seated on the ball your core muscles are engaged, so you are essentially working out while sitting down. Since you need to slightly balance yourself on the ball to prevent from tipping over your body is forced to use your muscles to keep you in place. This is a great tactic that is even recommended by many chiropractors, but it can be a little intense over long periods so we suggest alternating the ball with a good quality chair throughout your day.
Some of the most comfortable ergonomic office chairs are made by a company called Neutral Posture. Every part of their chairs is customizable so you can build one that is the perfect size with all the features you need. The 8000 Series is the most popular model among computer users and you can get more info about it on their website www.neutralposture.com. If you decide on one of their chairs you should look at ErgoDirectUSA.com when shopping around. They’re an authorized dealer with an easy-to-use website so customizing your chair and choosing all your options is very easy. Their pricing is also the lowest allowed by the manufacturer. Neutral Posture enforces what is called “MAP” pricing on their products, which means all authorized dealers are required to sell the chairs at the same price. This makes it better for everybody, and makes it easier for the buyer because it’s one less thing to worry about so you can just buy from whoever has the best shopping experience.
The Neutral Posture 8000 series is the ideal blend of ergonomic comfort and contemporary executive styling. The 8000 series features Neutral Posture’s patented pressure reducing seat contours and maximum adjustability including Neutral Posture’s unique three-way adjustable armrest. Choose from different seat designs, different adjustment mechanisms and an infinite range of upholstery options to create the ultimate office chair. You even have the option of adding a fully adjustable head rest to any 8000 series model.
Seat height adjustment
The seat height is the very first thing you should adjust. Before you get into the chair, lift the seat height lever and your chair will continue to rise to its maximum height. To adjust the seat height, sit in the chair and raise the lever again, the chair will lower until you release the lever. You’ll know the seat height is adjusted properly when your feet are flat on the floor slightly in front of you and there is a slight downward slope to your thighs.
Seat tilt adjustment
The seat tilt or angle should be the second adjustment you make after adjusting the seat height. While sitting in the seat, push the seat tilt lever all the way down and leave it in the downward position. Using your body weight rock the seat forward or backward depending on your task. If your task requires a reclined posture the seat tilt can be left in this free floating, rocking mode. For desktop intensive tasks you can lock the seat tilt in a position that will support a more upright posture. Simply raise the seat tilt lever and lock the seat in place.
Seat tilt tension adjustment
The tension knob that controls the seat tilt should be adjusted from a kneeling position in front of the chair. If while adjusting the seat tilt you feel that the rocking motion is either too stiff or too loose you should adjust the tilt tension for your particular body weight. From a kneeling position in front of the chair first place the seat tilt in its most forward leaning position; this relaxes the main spring of the chair and makes the spring tension knob easier to turn. Then turn the knob to the right to increase the spring in the seat tilt, or turn the knob to the left to loosen the spring tilt tension. It will take several turns of the knob before you will notice any change. There is an arrow with plus and minus indicators on the face of the knob if you need a reference. You’ll know the seat tilt tension control is adjusted properly when the chair responds easily to a shift in your body weight while the seat tilt is in the free float position. If you find the seat too easy to move each time you release the seat tilt you need to increase the tension. If you find that you’re forcing the chair to rock in the free flow position you should decrease the tension.
Neutral Posture’s unique lumbar pump allows you to inflate the lumbar portion of the backrest. You should use this when you feel like the backrest is not firm enough, or when the curved portion of the back rest is not making firm contact with the lumbar portion of your back. To use the lumbar pump from a seated position use your right hand to locate the lever at the bottom of the backrest. Leaning firmly against the backrest, use the lever to pump air into the backrest. If the backrest height is adjusted properly you will feel the backrest getting firmer where it makes contact with the lumbar area. Your lumbar is right at your belt line or slightly below it. If the backrest becomes too firm, simply press down on the lever to release some of the air.
The backrest height should be the third adjustment you make immediately after the seat height and seat tilt. From a seated position, lean forward slightly. Reach behind you and grab the outer edges or bottom of the backrest. Simply raise the backrest in half inch increments. You will hear and feel a click each time you move the backrest. There are 8 of these click stops including the bottom position which does not click. When you raise the backrest passed the last stop the backrest will drop down to the lowest position and you can start over. You will know the backrest height is adjusted properly when the contoured shape of the backrest fits into the contoured shape of your back, firmly supporting your upper and lower back when you lean against the backrest.
After the seat height, seat angle, and backrest height and angle have been adjusted you may find that you cannot get the backrest close enough to your back without sitting so far back on the seat that the front edge of the seat pan touches the soft area behind your knee, or you may find that your legs are so long that you feel like you’re barely on the seat. In either case, you can use the backrest depth adjustment to help fix the problem. To adjust the backrest depth, get out of the chair and locate the L-shaped backrest post that connects the seat and back. Flip the cam lever up and slide the entire backrest farther back or closer to the seat. When you get the backrest to the position you think will work best, flip the cam lever back down and lock it into place. This adjustment does not need to be made frequently unless multiple users are sharing the same chair for multiple shifts. You’ll know the backrest depth is adjusted properly when the backrest is in a position that allows it to make firm contact with the natural curve of your back without the front of the seat pan touching the soft tissue area behind your knees. The prominent nerves and blood vessels that serve your lower leg run through this small area. If the front edge of the seat puts pressure here it will cause your feet to tingle and fall asleep.
Arm height adjustment
After adjusting the seat height and angle, and backrest height and angle, make sure your arms are properly supported by adjusting the height of the arm rests. Neutral Posture standard armrests allow 4 inch range of height adjustability to ensure an ideal ergonomic fit for your body. To raise or lower the height of the armrest press the button located on the side of the armrest. While squeezing the button move the armrest up or down until it properly supports your arm. To lock the arm rest into place just release the button. There are preset notches that will allow you to position each arm at the same height. You will know the arm rest height is adjusted properly when it fully supports the weight of your arms as you lean against the backrest without pushing her shoulders up. If you feel like your arm is unsupported raise the height so you can rest your arm on the armrest without pushing your shoulders up or allowing them to droop.
The arm pads on your Neutral Posture chair pivot 360°. When you need more forward arm support for tasks such as typing or more rear arm support for reclined tasks such as talking on the phone or conferencing you can easily rotate the arms for maximum support. A 180° rotation of the arm pad produces a front to rear location change of the arm pad of approximately 2 inches. It is very common for thin users to prefer the armrests rotated back and in while larger users may prefer forward and out positions. This is a personal preference that is greatly influenced by posture and upper body position relative to the arm support posts. To rotate the arm pad find the finger indents located on the bottom edge of the arm pad, this is the pivot point for rotation. Firmly grasp the pad and raise it up. This will release the pad from the notches that hold it in place. Pivot the arm pad until you find a position that best supports your arms than simply push down on the pad and lock it into place. You will know the arm pad angle is properly adjusted when you can quickly rest your forearms on the pad as you pause during typing without having to assume an comfortable or awkward posture to do so. Be sure you don’t adjust the arm pad height to a position that leads to significant bending of the rests while typing.
Arm width and removal
If you feel that you’re having to work with your arms too close to your body you may want to move the armrests out slightly. This will give you more elbow room and allow you to properly function in the chair. From a seated position, follow the arm down the bracket where it connects to the seat. Locate the rubberized knob and loosen it without unscrewing it all the way. Slide the arm bracket out for more elbow room or hip clearance, or in to position the arm pads closer to your body. To lock the arm bracket into place tighten the knob firmly. You will know the armrest width is properly adjusted when your arms are supported comfortably at your side without having to stretch to place them on the arm pads. If the arm pads are making it difficult to get in and out of your chair they probably need to be adjusted outward slightly. You can also remove the arm rests on your chair by unscrewing the knob all the way and sliding the arm out of the bracket. You should only do this if your arms are fully supported by another surface such as a desktop or worktable. If you do remove the arms be sure to replace the knob and washers in the bracket.
It is difficult to find one chair that is perfect for everyone. In fact, it’s impossible. However, through in-house testing and the analysis of sales reports and user reviews we can make a few recommendations when it comes to the best ergonomic chair for the money.
We personally use and really like the Terra task chair by VIA Seating. This is by no means the most expensive chair out there, but its not a cheapo either. It is a very well-made, highly popular ergonomic chair that is in the $300 to $700 price range. The thing that is great about this chair is that its not a one-size-fits-all solution. When purchasing this chair you have the option of three seat sizes, three back support sizes, four adjustable seat mechanisms, three arm options, and dozens of colors and fabric grades. Depending on which options you choose you can acquire this chair for as low as about $300, or as much as $700 if you choose the very advanced features or high-end fabrics.
VIA Seating is a major player in the ergonomic seating industry and their brand is well-known worldwide. The Terra chair has been the top selling VIA chair for many years, and it is expected to remain so. They are generally not as expensive as brands like Humanscale and Herman Miller, but their product is at just about the same level in terms of quality and durability. The really expensive chairs may have a few extra bells and whistles, and may look a little cooler, but if you’re not rich don’t feel bad that you can’t afford them, you too can be extremely comfortable and productive for about half the price.
If you really want ultra-high quality, and you’re willing to pay a little more, we also like chairs made by Neutral Posture. They are one of the most well-known and respected names in the chairs business and for a good reason. They provide so many variations and options there’s almost no chance you won’t find a chair to fit everybody. You can view a line-up of their best-selling models in the Ergonomic Office Chairs category over at ErgoDirectUSA.com. Their pricing is competitive and they offer free shipping on both the VIA Seating and Neutral Posture chairs.
So you’re at the point where you are seriously considering the purchase of an ergonomic computer chair. Your back hurts, your body aches, and you’ve had enough. The best thing you can do is go out and buy the most expensive chair you can afford, right? You should be surprised to know that this is not always the case.
Before you go to the store and buy a chair you need to do a little self-assessment. A quick analysis of your personal behavior will help determine which ergonomic seating products are most logical and will be the most beneficial. The main consideration is how active you are on a daily basis. Lets face it, if you happen to be someone who works out or plays a sport four or more days a week you are probably in better shape and have stronger muscles than someone who has little physical activity other than being seated. If you are an active person and have fairly strong core muscles (back muscles and abs) you are probably best with a high-end ergonomic chair that has an advanced adjustment mechanism and plush material.
Now if you are someone who is not very active and does not have very strong core body muscles that expensive ergonomic chair is not your best choice. The following advice is not just a random thought, it is actually recommended by chiropractors for many people. Believe it or not, an exercise ball makes a fantastic chair, and will relieve back pain faster than an expensive chair in some scenarios. This is the type of exercise ball that is usually available in 55″, 65″ and 75″ sizes and in a variety of colors. They are normally used for exercise routines but they in fact make great chairs for people who need to strengthen their core muscles or those with frequent back pain. What is does is it makes you sit up straight because if you slouch you will start to roll off of the ball. This sitting up straight posture makes your abs and back muscles work and will over time strengthen your mid body.
Using an exercise ball as a chair also has the health benefit of being an “active sitting” alternative. It is considered active because while you are seated you can gently pivot your hips left and right, and front to back to relieve tension in your spine and give your muscles a light stretch. Some people just cant get used to sitting on an exercise ball at the computer but if you are someone who experiences back pain while sitting it cant hurt you any more to give this a try. An exercise ball will cost you about $20 while most ergonomic chairs range from $200-$1000.
The Humanscale Freedom Chair, priced between $500 and $1000, is an ergonomically designed chair reputed to fit 90% of the population. The Freedom chair’s manufacturers boast that the design’s simplicity ensures maximum support and comfort without a lot of buttons, levers or other controls.
The five adjustments you will need to make to the freedom chair are seat height, seat depth, back height, arm height, and headrest height. The seat height is adjustable by a lever just below the seat. The chair’s seat depth is also controlled by a lever under the seat, so that you can slide the seat out to a position that is comfortable. The back of the chair moves up or down for proper positioning. Arm and headrest adjustments are also relatively simple.
The standard model comes with several features including self-adjusted recline with no tension springs to adjust and no locks to set or release. The dual pivot backrest allows for provides up to 1 inch of extra support if needed. Synchronized armrests eliminate the possibility of uneven arm positioning can also be position below thigh-level when the chair is being used for tasks close to the desk or table. The headrest automatically moves into place to support your head when you recline, but moves out of the way for upright seating.
As with most high-end office chairs, you can add on optional features. For an additional fee, you can upgrade to a gel seat cushion to distribute pressure more evenly and reduce pressure points. Advanced armrests are offered, too. They are lockable in five-degree increments and extend 1 1/4″ beyond the standard arm rest length. For large and petite users respectively, you can order high and low range cylinders. You can also add foot rings and casters.
Freedom chairs can be purchased in a variety of colors. You can choose from mesh or fabric coverings and three different frame colors (titanium, graphite, and polished aluminum) are available.
Here’s what others have had to say about the Humanscale Freedom Chair:
• Great shoulder and upper back support
• Reclines easily and supports the head and neck
• Fabrics are durable and show little wear
• Replacement parts are covered by warranty
• Seat bottom lacks cushioning and causes soreness
• Some chair fabrics do not breathe easily, causing discomfort and sweating
• Small washer that hold metal pins in place frequently work loose
There are a few different main types of ergonomic office chairs and each type must be chosen carefully to match your daily routine. Many people assume they can buy one type of chair and use it for various functions throughout the day. While this is possible, and most people do it, it is not necessarily the right way to go about the situation if you’re trying to be conscious of ergonomics.
If you sit at a desk most of your day you probably fall into one of two categories: those who are computer-task oriented whose main job function involves direct computer desk most of the day, and those who could be supervisors, managers or executives who sit at their desk most of the day but do not actually sit there doing computer work as much as others. Ergonomic seating is available to fit each of these user types.
For the task-oriented computer user who does computer work for 4 or more hours per day you need to look for what is commonly called an “ergonomic task chair“. These types of chairs are specifically designed for heavy computer use on a daily basis. They take into account how the human body should be positioned (your posture) during this type of job function and incorporate body supporting features into their designs. Good task chairs worth spending your money on are in the $300-$1000 price range. Prices depend not only on the brand but the size of the seat and back cushions, the fabric the chair is made of, and the mechanism controlling the adjustments of the chair.
For the supervisor/manager/executive computer user who does actual computer work for less than 4 hours a day you should look for the keywords “office” or “executive” in the name of the chair. These types of chairs are designed to support the user while doing computer work, like a task chair does, but it also doubles as a posture-assisting chair for meetings, conferences, and other situations where you may be seated for an extended period but not actually working on the computer the entire time. Office chairs tend to be slightly more expensive than task chairs and their prices are determined by all of the same characteristics. A good ergonomic office chair will run you anywhere between $300-$1500.