How to Buy an Ergonomic Desk Chair

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If you spend most of your waking hours at your desk, you know you need a chair that works with your body to spare you from needless backaches and fatigue. Test drive several chairs at furniture, office supply and back-care stores before you pick the one that's right for you. Prices vary greatly: predictably, superior materials and construction carry a bigger price tag. Good deals abound online and at office furniture consignment and resale shops (see How to Buy Liquidated Office Equipment).

Things You'll Need

  • List of features
  • Research the different ergonomic benefits of a chair. You'll soon find that everything from back support to armrests can make a difference.

  • Understand the back-support features. Height adjustment supports the lumbar area (lower back). Look for chairs that provide mid-back and upper-back support as well. Tilt mechanism maintains support as you move and recline. It's best to have your back slightly reclined while seated at your desk.

  • Look at the benefits of the seat pan.Your weight should be distributed evenly on the seat. Look for a rounded or waterfall edge at the front of the seat, which prevents the seat from catching behind the knees and cutting off circulation. Three to four fingers should fit between the seat pan's front edge and the back of the knees. Seat should extend at least one inch from either side of the hips for optimum comfort. Insufficient hip room can make you sit too far forward and not get enough thigh support. Some seat pans adjust for a forward or backward tilt.

  • Research armrest benefits. Armrests alleviate pressure on the back, but may interfere with lower desks. Look for adjustable width and height to support various tasks, including writing and reading, to ease neck and shoulder tension and to help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. They should be contoured, broad, cushioned and comfortable.

  • Get the right fabric. Cloth coverings are less expensive and breathe well, but vinyl or leather upholstery is easier to keep clean. Look for a durable, permeable, ventilated material and check out the mesh Pellicle material in the Aeron chair, which also conforms to the body.

  • Adjust the height of the chair. Pneumatic levers or gas lifts adjust seating height while in a chair. For optimal posture, thighs should be horizontal with the ground and both feet flat on the floor. The chair's height should allow the wrists to be straight while typing.

  • Find out the stability of the chair. Look for a chair on wheels that swivels to avoid excess stretching and twisting of your spine. A five-point base won't tip over when you recline. Choose hard casters for carpeting and rubber-coated ones for hard surfaces. A good chair can recline and lock into various positions.

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