I know we’ve talked about this before, but it bears repeating. In years past when good ergonomic positioning was taught it was taught that a person’s hips, knees and ankles should all be at 90 degree angles. This was thought to be good positioning, so a good ergonomic chair was one that put you in that position. Therefore, a good ergonomic chair would help keep you from having back pain.
Let’s talk about sitting for a moment. Sitting is the position that puts the most pressure in the discs of your low back. It can also cause changes in the muscles, ligaments and tendons in your low back. Back pain sometimes seems to come out of no where, but often it’s an accumulation of the microtraumas from sitting for long periods even in an ‘ergonomic’ position. In fact, a person should not sit in that ‘ergonomic’ position for more than 10 minutes. In addition to all the pressure and long term affects it can have, there are other health issues, see the blog “The Sitting Disease”.
Recently, I wrote about what kind of chair is ‘best’. There are things to look for in a chair, but the best true ergonomic chair is the one that allows easy posture changes at a variety of joint angles. The most important recommendation is to continually change the settings on the chair. Lean back in the chair with your feet on the floor. Put your feet up on the desk and your keyboard in your lap. Sit cross-legged in your chair. Cross your legs one way, then the other way. Only stay in any one position for 20 minutes. Ideally, you want to stand up and stretch your arms over your head. I created Descaid to remind people to do things like switching positions. It can give you a subtle reminder every 20, 30 or 40 minutes or you can do it every time the phone rings. This movement varies the load on the internal tissues in your back to help keep your back healthy and strong. Ideally, you want to start this before you ever feel pain to help prevent it, so even if you don’t have pain, you need to be changing your position. Just because you don’t feel it doesn’t mean the pressure isn’t there and taking it’s toll.
Make sure your chair fits your body and makes it easy for you to move and change positions.
Dr. Stuart McGill is considered the lead researcher of low back issues. He has a lot of great info out there is you are looking for more.