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How The Right Work Chair Can Prevent Chronic Tension Headaches
If you suffer from chronic tension headaches, back pain, or neck pain, you probably know that poor posture was at least partially responsible.
However, did you know that how you sit may have more to do with your pain than how you stand?
If you’re like most Americans, you spend a good portion of your day sitting. This is because your workplace is probably at a computer terminal, assembly line or desk.
Also keep in mind that a large part of your time at home is also spent sitting – either watching TV, surfing the internet or reading. As a result, of the 16 or so hours you are awake, you may spend 12 or more of them sitting.
Doesn’t it make sense, then, that you should focus on your posture as much as your posture while standing?
And while proper posture is important—shoulders back, head up, chest out—the benefits of good posture will be minimal if you’re sitting at your desk all day.
You’re probably one of the many unfortunate workers forced to slouch because your office chair doesn’t adjust to fit your body, or because your chair isn’t properly adjusted.
HAZARDS OF IMPROPER SEATING
Three things can happen when you take long naps every day. They are all bad:
* stiffness and pain in muscles, connective tissues and joints
* restricted breathing
* postural deformities
STIFFNESS AND PAIN
The problems associated with inadequate seating are cumulative. The first noticeable symptom is usually stiffness and pain in the lower back, upper back or neck. They can cause chronic tension headaches, back pain, and muscle spasms or restricted blood flow to the legs.
Sitting in a supine position all the time causes other body segments to break down because when one part of the body is out of order, it will affect the structures above and below it.
For example, if you habitually sit slouched, you risk not only back and neck pain, but also repetitive strain injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
When sitting straight, the muscles of the lower abdomen should be well-toned so that the diaphragm is in the correct, raised position. This is important for optimal breathing.
But when you sink into your seat, your lower abdominal muscles relax and your diaphragm drops. This forces you to breathe from your upper chest instead of your diaphragm.
As a result of the decreased support of a relaxed lower abdomen, along with the lowering of the diaphragm, the organs in the abdominal cavity are pushed down, which restricts your breathing.
If you’re a woman, pelvic pressure from long periods of lying down all day can be an undetected cause of back, pelvic, and menstrual pain.
And – especially if you’re a woman – you’re at risk of skeletal deformities if your bad sitting position isn’t corrected.
Often, when people think of a “round back” pose, they usually associate it with a post-menopausal woman who has already had osteoporosis.
However, many premenopausal women have a rounded back due to the way they sit all day.
HOW TO DETERMINE IF YOU ARE SITTING CORRECTLY
Here’s a checklist you can use to help you determine if you’re sitting correctly:
* your feet are firmly on the floor or on a footrest, slightly in front of you
* your seat is adjusted so that your thighs are parallel to the floor, your knees are at about 90 degrees and slightly lower than your hips
* your seat allows your weight to be supported mainly on your upper thighs
* your knees are shoulder width apart or closer
* Your chair seat is not too deep (you should not sink into your chair)
* you can sit straight, keeping the natural curves of your back
* your back is adequately supported
* your pelvis is neutral
* your chest is raised
* you can draw a straight line down through your ear, shoulder, ribcage and pelvis (check this by sitting in front of a full-length mirror, or ask a colleague to analyze your sitting posture)
ERGONOMIC TIPS FOR COMPUTER USERS
If you sit at a computer terminal all day, there are other factors to consider:
* you must sit directly in front of the keyboard and computer screen
* your monitor needs to be 18-24 inches from your eyes and you need to look down a bit to see it
* you should use a work surface that allows your elbows to maintain an angle of approximately 90 degrees
* shoulders should be relaxed; do not slide forward
* you should relax your hands and keep them in a neutral position; do not bend them up or down
* keep your shoulders relaxed and your elbows free at your sides while writing
* takes breaks
When doing extensive computer work, it is important to take short breaks to stretch and walk around every 30 minutes. Vary work activities that use different muscle groups.
Be sure to give your eyes a break every now and then. For example, blink often, close them for a while and look at different objects.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF CHAIRS
In most work environments and almost all offices, chairs are mounted on casters so you can easily move from task to task. These wheels are usually mounted on a five-point base.
In some industrial settings, a chair with a stationary base is more commonly used due to safety concerns. Such chairs can often be found in laboratories, as the floors tend to be hard and smooth, making wheelchairs risky.
Stationary chairs are standard on assembly lines because they are more stable.
Bench chairs are often used in small parts assembly areas in manufacturing, as well as in other jobs that require manual dexterity. Bench chairs are taller than regular office chairs and usually have footrests for stability and comfort.
CHAIRS THAT SIT ON A STAIR
Sit-to-stand chairs are best if you frequently move from sitting to standing during your shift (if you work as a receptionist or assembly line worker, a sit-to-stand chair would be a good choice).
These chairs usually do not have a back. the seat tilts down, allowing for easy crouching.
OTHER FACTORS AFFECTING ERGONOMICS
The backrest of the chair should stabilize the pelvis and raise the rib cage, supporting the lower back.
If it doesn’t support your lower back properly, it will sink into the backrest. A too soft, sloping and/or concave backrest causes this.
As a result of these defects, the backrest supports in the wrong places, which exacerbates sagging.
If your worktop is too high for you to put your feet on the floor, you need a footrest. The footrest should be large enough to allow some movement during the day. It should also be adjustable to fit your height and leg length.
FIVE POINT BASE
The five-point base provides maximum stability and can usually be found with any type of chair.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT WORK CHAIR FOR YOUR BODY TYPE
When purchasing an office chair, you should understand that one size does not fit all. You need to consider what you do at your chair all day, as well as your physical size.
Generally speaking, you want a chair that provides adequate support for your back, legs, buttocks, and arms.
Here are the different components of a work chair and what to consider in them:
You want a chair with a five-pedestal (point) base, whether or not you need castors (casters). If you choose a chair with less than five pedestals, you sacrifice stability and safety (chairs with four casters can tip over more easily).
Make sure the base allows the chair to turn easily.
Note that the armrests should only be used when reading or resting between typing sessions, NOT when you are actually typing or using the mouse. Depending on how you spend your time in the chair, you may not even need armrests.
If you buy a chair with armrests, make sure they are adjustable, wide, padded and comfortable. When sitting, you should be able to independently adjust the height of the armrests and move them closer or further apart.
The part of the chair you sit on (the seat) should provide even weight distribution and comfortable support. Pay attention to the width and depth of the seat base – it should be wide enough to allow at least one inch of unused space on either side of the thighs and hips.
It should also be deep enough to comfortably support the thighs and not create pressure behind the knees (which harms blood circulation).
The seat should feel comfortable even after sitting for an hour or more. Insufficient cushioning and poor contours can cause hip and back fatigue, so make sure the padding is of sufficient quality to prevent permanent deformation.
You should buy a chair that allows you to easily adjust its height. The best chairs have a device that allows you to adjust the height of the base while you are seated (a chair with a rotary mechanical height adjustment mechanism is also suitable).
Either way, make sure the adjusters are within easy reach while you’re seated — you don’t have to get up to change the chair’s height.
If the chair will be used by more than one person, make sure the height range is suitable for all users. You should be able to adjust the height of the seat base so that the fronts of your knees are level or slightly below level with your feet firmly on the ground or on the footrest.
Good lumbar support (the part of the chair that supports the lower back) is essential. Many chairs have padded lumbar supports that can be adjusted up and down as well as forward or backward. This is what you want because these supports are better suited to your shape.
The ability to adjust the chair is especially important if more than one person will be using the chair.
A fixed height lumbar support might be suitable if you are the only user of the chair and it feels comfortable when you sit back against it.
When sitting against lumbar support, make sure there is enough room for your hips and that you are not pushed so far forward in the chair that you lose support for your thighs.
The back support should be reclined so that you can sit at an angle of more than 90 degrees. The best chairs allow your back to move as well as track your back as you move back and forth.
Try to avoid locking the back support in one position. Look for support that is wide enough and does not put pressure on the sides of your back. The support should also be high enough to provide good support for the middle of the back – at least up to the shoulder blades.
If you like to lean back in your chair to read, talk on the phone or relax, look for a chair with a high back and good neck and head support.
Good chairs are coming down in price, but they can still be expensive. You can get a good chair for $300-$500.
(Remember this – you get what you pay for)
While $300 to $500 (or more) may seem like a lot of money for a chair, if you’re among the millions of people who spend most of their workday sitting, a high-quality, comfortable chair is a smart investment.
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