Armchairs for Bad Backs


Back pain, whatever the cause, can be a severe impediment to work and relaxation. While exercise and other strategies are part of a good back-care program, a supportive chair can make a significant contribution to managing pain and mobility. Ergonomic design addresses the issues of furniture based on how human bodies work, but the ergonomic label is not enough on its own to assure the right chair for you. Learn the criteria for choosing a comfortable, supportive chair.

Work Chair Standards

  • Many studies of ergonomic chairs focus on chairs used for work. Some criteria therefore have less relevance to choosing a home armchair. Standards summarized in a work-chair study number six: safety, adaptability, comfort, practicality, durability and suitability to the task, and form an excellent checklist for evaluating a chair you are choosing for work. Work-related chairs can also be evaluated in light of American National Standards Institute ratings developed for the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association.

Work Chair-Specific Standards

  • In choosing an armchair for the workplace, safety is a major consideration. A chair should be sturdy and, if wheeled, strongly tip-resistant. Establishing a protocol for reporting and solving problems maintains chairs safely. Adaptability and practicality work with each other. An armchair that will be used by many people should be supportive and comfortable for the majority of them; a goal of 90 percent adaptability can govern your choice. This may mean adjusting the back, seat or height of the chair by one or more users. Practicality dictates that controls be conveniently located and easy to manipulate.

Choosing Chairs for Your Home

  • Although home decor considerations take a stronger role in furniture choices than in an office, comfort and a good ergonomic fit are still very important. While several family members and guests may use your furniture, choosing a chair for your back is physically a very personal matter. Your height, specific back issue, and leg length, both thigh and calf, all need attention. A chair back should reach at least the top of your shoulders to provide good head and neck support; choose an even taller back if you have a tendency to nap. You should be able to sit all the way back in your chair and still have your feet touch the ground comfortably. The chair should not be so low that you need to push or pull hard on the arms to get up. Avoid chairs that feel squishy-soft; they will only become softer with age and provide poor support for your back and the rest of your body. Take your time in choosing, and spend some time sitting in chairs you like. Experiment with chairs of varying heights and depths. This is the only way to be certain that you won't have pins-and-needles tingling in your legs because the seat is too deep. Carry over what you learn about comfort in an armchair to choices of a couch and kitchen chairs. Furniture manufacturers have learned over the years that one size does not fit all.

Further Adjustments

  • To improve your current seating and make your new chair choices even better, investigate lumbar support cushions that can be moved from chair to chair. Some cushions even adapt to fitting over car seat backs, another seating situation in which good back support can make a big difference in how you feel and move.

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