When was the last time you had a new office chair? Most of us take for granted that the chair we are sitting in all day behind the computer is built for comfort. It is, but that comfort is just not the same for each individual. Adults working full-time in the US work an average of 47 hours per week. In fact, 39% of those polled reported working more than 50 hours per week. Which suggests that almost 40% of US full-time workers are putting in close to 2,500 hours at work per year. Sitting in the same chair, that may be several years old, for most of the day!
Poorly maintained or worn out office chairs can contribute to a multitude of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), repetitive strain injuries (RSIs), and cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs). Combined, these injuries “account for an estimated 130 million total health care encounters annually including outpatient, hospital, and emergency room visits.”
This all adds up to employees missing work and businesses missing manpower. So how do you know when it’s time to shop for a new office chair? These tips will help you decide:
Listen to Your Body – If You’re In Pain, You Need a Change: “Our bodies were not designed for sustained positions for extended periods. Pain is the easiest way of telling that your chair is not for you,” states chiropractor, Dr. Scott Schreiber. “ An ergonomically correct office chair can provide comfort, but if it is not replaced every few years, it can also be your undoing.”
Replace Your Office Chair Every 5 Years: Daily use and friction on the seat will cause normal wear and tear that can, over time cause you more harm than good. “Office chairs should typically be replaced within a five year period,” states chiropractor Dr. Matt Tanneberg, “This helps to keep the cushion and structural support strong enough so that you aren’t sinking into the seat too much or able to slouch back in your chair.”
Trust Your Eyes: If your office chair is looking a little worse for wear, or has been passed down from prior employees for more than a few years, then it’s time for a change. Your chair’s posture will directly impact your own. Sitting strategically to avoid tears in fabric or bumps in padding can throw off your posture. The indicators that you may need a new/different chair include:
Physical damage to the chair
Ongoing issues with appropriate posture
Complaints of physical pain
Little to No Lumbar Support: If you are getting back fatigue of any kind, and your office chair’s backrest doesn’t provide good lumbar support or lacks a back at all it’s time to find a replacement. An Iowa State University ergonomic risk study noted that “when there is no lumbar support and the back is bent forward, the muscles of the back are trying to force the lumbar region out of it natural curve which places pressure on the discs and reduces blood supply to the spinal tissue. The constant exertion of the contraction force leads to muscle fatigue soreness, stressed discs, and pinched nerves.”
Doesn’t Facilitate Good Posture: According to the American Chiropractic Association, good sitting posture includes:
Keep your feet on the floor (or on a footrest, if they don’t reach the floor)
Keep a small gap between the back of your knees and the front of your seat
Your knees should be at or below the level of your hips
Adjust the backrest of your chair to support your low- and mid-back
Avoid sitting in the same position for long periods of time.
Chances are if you are experiencing neck, back, and wrist or arm fatigue, your chair is the culprit. If your office chair isn’t helping, it’s hurting, and it’s probably time for a new chair. Most of us still sit all day, but if there are standing desk options you should try them out. A change in your routine may not only nurture better posture, but it may also increase your focus on the task at hand. There are many seating options available today, so experiment until you find the one that best suits how you work.
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