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From Spinehealth.com
October 29, 2009
by: Sylvia Marten

Having the best designed and most ergonomically-friendly office equipment may not necessarily mean much for preventing back pain, neck pain and other pain if such equipment is out of sync with your workstation, as confirmed in a recent study that provides a great forum for examining how you can adjust an office chair to your work environment.

Detailed in the October issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, a new study found that workers who received not only new ergonomic office furniture but professional set-up by an ergonomist had less symptoms of musculoskeletal pain and eyestrain 18 months later than those workers who had to set up their new furniture on their own based off instructions.

Now what if your employer can’t afford to hire a professional ergonomist to visit your office during these tough economic times? Well, there are still many ways to be proactive when setting up your office chair and desk just right to your needs and the principles of ergonomics.

Understand the Ultimate Goal

11-ergo-chair-image_1

ergonomic chair

Having a special chair is often viewed as the be-all, end-all of correct office ergonomics. While an ergonomically-designed chair can certainly do wonders, remember that the ultimate goal is to achieve balance between finding a work chair that fits you, provides good support and minimizes stress on the back, and using it correctly in relation to your work environment.

Before providing instant analysis of your chair, examine other factors, including your optimal desk level, how you sit, and the height of your computer screen, and strive to improve on these areas.

Get Suited to Your Work Surface
Rather than just going out and buying a new chair, ask yourself “what type of chair will fit your work station?”

Examine how long you sit all day and how you sit at your desk.

Are you semi-seated (similar to sitting on a bar stool) or do you sit straight up? Do you need to adjust your chair? Where is your computer in relation to your body?

Determine your appropriate work surface (which takes into account the position of your arms, elbows and hands in relation to your desk’s height and your laptop or desktop computer) and be sure to have a chair that allows you to attain this specific height.

The correct surface level can vary from profession to profession (for example, architects and draftsmen often prefer to sit higher), and the final decision as to what’s appropriate is thus determined by each individual.

Become a Series of Right Angles While Sitting and Typing ergonomic deskt arrangement

Sit down straight and as close and comfortable as possible to your desk, with your upper arms parallel to the spine and your hands rested on the work surface.

At this point, take a step back and examine whether your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. If they are not, adjust your office chair higher or lower as deemed fit.

Also make sure that your legs are bent at the knees at a 90 degree angle. Try to maintain this ideal sitting posture as much as possible, and if you find yourself slacking, give yourself a break by getting up and stretching.

Don’t Sit Too High Unless Necessary
Did you know that all of our ankles swell up anywhere from 6 to 8 percent by the end of the day, but for patients with back, leg or circulation problems, this swelling can jump from 10 to 15 percent, especially if sitting in a chair that is too high and leaves the feet dangling?

Generally speaking, a seat height ranging from 16 to 21 inches off the ground is suitable for most workers. To tell whether your chair is too high or at the right height for the desk surface, slide your finger underneath your thigh at the front end of the chair.

If this proves easy to do, your chair is likely at a good height. However, if this proves difficult, your chair is likely too high, which can put extra pressure on your feet and require you to proceed to the next tip.=

Boost Your Feet in Certain Situations
In situations where you have to lift your feet off the ground because of a chair or even a desk that is too high, or where the chair height is right but you’re not that tall, consider using a foot stool to prop and rest your feet as opposed to leaving them hanging all day long.

Such action will reduce both pressure on the feet and the likelihood of foot pain at the end of the day.
Raise Your Work Surface When Applicable
Standard seats should allow for 2-4 inches between the back of the knees and chair.
However, if you’re a taller worker, you may be familiar with this problem: your chair seat is not long enough for your thighs, which have too much space underneath them. In these rarer situations, raising the work surface level may be necessary to ensure circulation at the back of the knee.

Make a Fist to Your Calf
Ensure that there is enough room between the front edge of your chair and calves by simply making a fist, bringing it to the edge of the chair and pushing it on the calf.

If you can fit your full fist between the front edge and your calf, you likely have enough space for circulation and pressure. If not, your chair is likely too deep.

Adjusting the backrest forward, inserting a cushion, pillow or rolled-up towel to support your lumbar spine (lower back), or purchasing a new office chair are some possible solutions to this problem.

Have the Support of Your Back
Back support is a main focus of many ergonomic chairs, but what makes a chair good in terms of supporting the back?

Ideally your work chair should do a couple of things: provide back support angling just past 90 degrees or up to 90 degrees, and include cushioning that pushes your back forward when sitting back in the chair.

Such low back support is essential in preventing slouching as you tire and minimizing the load or strain on your back. With this in mind, the backrest of an ideal ergonomic office chair is typically between 12 and 19 inches wide.
Sit Right

Good Posture

A lot of times, workers have chairs with great back support but don’t take advantage of these features because they sit on the edge of the chair.

Make a conscious effort to press your bottom against the back of the chair, and avoid slumping or slouching, which places extra stress on the lumbar discs and other structures of the lower back.

Apply A Different Kind of Eye Test
Once your chair has been adjusted to the height of the table, your legs have gotten comfortable and your back is supported, close your eyes and take a deep breath.

Casually look forward with your eyes closed, and then open your eyes, which should be aimed at the center of your computer screen. Depending on whether the computer screen is higher or lower than your gaze, you may need to raise or lower the monitor.

If you need to raise your laptop, consider using a stack of books or even a small box, which has personally helped me reduce the likelihood of neck strain at work.

Adjust Your Armrest
Armrests play an important role in reducing neck and shoulder strain and diminishing the likelihood of slouching forward in your chair.

Adjust the armrest to the point where your arms are slightly lifted at the shoulders. Doing so will allow the armrest to support just the elbow and take weight off the shoulders.

Perhaps after making all these changes, you ultimately decide that you do need a new office chair.

If you find yourself in the market for a new chair, you’ll want to consider many factors, including the seat’s height, width, depth, materials, armrests, back rest, lumbar support and swivel.

Full article at  Spinehealth.com

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By Sue Shekut, L.M.T., ASCM Personal Trainer and Certified Wellness Coach

Sitting with your feet flat on the floor with our backs resting on the back of your chair is an optimal ergonomic position (versus sitting on the edge of your chair as many shorter people end up doing so their feet can rest on the floor). However, many desks and computer surfaces are too high for people shorter than 5 feet 4 inches. At 5′-2″, I have always struggled to find the best combination of chair height and footrest to allow me to sit all the way back in my chair at my computer.

Recently we tested out two of the footrests shown below. Our clients report that both the 8 inch high Safeco footrest and the Rubbermaid Footrest have really helped them feel less neck and back strain when they work. Two of our vertically challenged clients (one approximately 5′-3″ in height and the other 5 foot) are using the footrests to allow them to raise their chairs high enough so that they are in proper position over their keyboards AND can still rest their feet on the floor or footrest.

Note: My feet are flat on a Safeco 8″ footrest myself as I type this post!

Safeco Footrest, Adjustable Easy-Glide Design, 18-1/2″W x 11-1/2″D x 8″H, Black SAF2106


Footrest, Adjustable Easy-Glide Design, 18-1/2"W x 11-1/2"D x 8"H, Black SAF2106

Price $30.84

  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 15.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6 pounds

Order from Amazon here.

This is a great footrest for people under 5′-2″. If you must raise your chair up to it’s upper most height just to get your hands comfortable on your keyboard, this is a footrest for you. It can sit flat so you can rest your feet flat as you sit. It can also easily angle if you need to rock your feet towards you or if you need a bit less height.

Amazon Customer Reviews

• I had a very old rubbermaid footrest that finally cracked. Tried some out and wasn’t pleased. Decided to try this one, mostly because it was a bit higher than most others and i am short. I was skeptical because it ‘looked’ like it tilted ‘at will’ and wasn’t able to be set at one position. Well, that part is true but i just LOVE it and it is extremely comfortable whether tilted towards me or if i am resting such that it is tilted away from me! This one’s a keeper!

• After reading the reviews posted, I decided to get this foot rest to help relieve my lower back pain. It has helped relieve my lower back pain considerably. I am only 5 feet tall and can never reach the floor. Having this has helped my posture and sitting position immensely. I cannot begin to tell you how this has helped my lower back. Thank you fellow reviewers for turning me onto such a wonderful product!

• I bought this for use at home with my computer… as a woman with short legs, even at the lowest setting my computer chair forces me to sit forward in order for my feet to be comfortably on the floor. This footrest is fully adjustable, tips comfortably and instantly relieved the pressure sitting at the computer, enabling me to work for longer periods of time with less back, neck and shoulder strain! Highly recommend you have one at home… I always had one at work but getting one for home was a great move!

• This footrest is fairly simple but it gets the job done. Because the design is so simple, the likelihood of anything breaking on this is slim to none. I bought one for home and work and they both help me keep my legs up so that my legs aren’t getting pinched by the edge of the chair. I also like how you can adjust it by just moving your feet around which is nice for a fidgety person like myself.

Note: This footrest is very high compared to other footrests. At its full height it is 8 inches from the floor. So for people taller than 5’4″ you may be better off with a shorter footrest, as shown below. Amazon reviewers that were average height or only needed a footrest a few inches off the floor did not like this footrest due to it’s height.

Safeco Ergo-Comfort Adjustable Footrest – Black


Ergo-Comfort Adjustable Footrest - Black

Price:  $26.31

  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 20 x 5.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.2 pounds

Product Features

  • Elevates feet, improves circulation and allows shoulders to relax backwards naturally.
  • Easy-Glide design improves circulation allows repositioning of legs and feet while footrest is in use.
  • Tilt angle slides easy to any position that is comfortable for individual users.
  • Available in two heights.

This is a shorter version of the Safeco 8″ footrest. it’s also simple in design but gives you just a few inches of height for those that are taller than 5′-2″ or 5′-4″

Amazon Customer Reviews:

• There are fancier and more expensive foot rests out there, but they offer little more than an increased price and decreased reliability. This unit sturdy consisting of a metal frame and a solid (plastic or wood, I cannot tell) platform. It has only one moving part: the platform tilts in place on the metal frame.

• I am 6′ tall and find this foot rest to be quite comfortable. It’s at just the right height to keep my posture straight when sitting at my desk in my office chair. The tilting feature is effective in allowing me to find a comfortable position, and allows me to change the easily position when I want as is recommended for maximum benefit. Changing position is done by simply moving the platform with the feet — it is held in position by friction which seems sufficient to prevent unwanted slippage, yet yields when required.

• I looked at a lot of foot rests before choosing this one. The size is good, lots of foot room. I like that it can set over the cords rather than having to push them out of the way. It’s bulky or heavy and though it does not lock in place, it doesn’t move unless I want it to, I prefer it that way as I can’t sit in one position for long.

• I looked at all the reviews on footrests first. This one had none; I went for it. All the others seemed to have some problem. It is not fancy, only two pieces. Little or nothing to break. It looks and feels sturdy. It does what is supposed to do: adjust to your feet-and-back-needs with a slight pressure with your soles. It stays in place until you change it. No wobbling. Rubber on the bottom has enough traction to keep footrest from slipping on hardwood floor. Feet don’t slip from rest surface, either. I started using it this morning. Very comfortable. My back feels better already. I recommend it.

Note: Not every Amazon shopper was pleased with this Safeco footrest. But the unhappy reviewers main complaint was that the footrest broke when they applied too much pressure to it. Remember, this is a footrest, not a foot stool!

Rubbermaid 4653 Height-Adjustable Tilting Footrest, Charcoal, 18-1/8w x 14-1/4d


Height-Adjustable Tilting Footrest - Charcoal

Price $46.99 at Amazon.

Order Rubbermaid footrest here.

Product Details

* Item Weight: 6.5 pounds
* Shipping Weight: 6.5 pounds

Our 5′-3″ Working Well Massage client really likes this footrest. She’s only had it about a month so she can’t attest to it’d durability. However, it has made her much more comfortable sitting at her compute r and visiting coworkers like to putt heir feet  on it under her desk when they come in for meetings as well.

Amazon Customer Reviews:
• I’ve had this for about 4 years and it works great. It is the only footrest you’ll find that goes to a full 6.25″ in height, so if you are 5’3″ or shorter, a standard footrest probably is not going to be high enough for you. If you are taller than about 5’7″, you could probably get a standard foot rest. This one is very solid, and while the height is not easy to adjust, I have needed to adjust it exactly one time–when I took it out of the box–unless your height fluctuates from day to day you’ll never have to change it.

• I bought this to use at work and liked it a lot. However, one month later, it broke. A piece of plastic snapped off and now I no longer have three positions. Just one, flat on the floor. If you buy one, treat it gingerly and push it aside so no one else will use it when you’re away.

• My husband and I both bought one Eldon Height-Adjustable Tilting Footrest for our offices. We were delighted at first, because it did seem to relieve back pain and adjust our sitting positions. However, a few months later, two piece of plastic which change positions snapped off on his footrest. I thought he was not gentle enough. Not long after that, mine broke too, just when I needed it most (pregnant women have achy back!) I swear I was very gentle, and with my husband’s experience, I was trying to be extra careful with it. Oh well. I will need to get another one. This time, I will buy one with metal support.

• I am so happy with this product for several reasons – 1) Its the only footrest that I found that has 3 adjustable heights with the highest being almost 7″. This is great for me being only 5’2″! 2) It adjusts very easily…to raise it, just pull up to each height and to lower, hold the front and tilt it back. 3) It tilts back and forth, for added comfortability and increased circulation. The one thing I don’t like is the raised hard dimples. I know these are supposed to increase circulation in your feet, but I found them rather uncomfortable.

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