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ShipShape? SitShape!

20th Oct 2015

ShipShape? SitShape!

Shape source only the very best ergonomic chairs to support your posture and get you in shape for the day’s work!

But what makes a good chair?

Support and movement, movement and support – these two things in equal measures are so important to keeping your posture healthy. Whether this is sitting at a traditional height desk, standing up with a sit-stand desk, or perching somewhere in between!

Support

Every chair has support to some degree, but is it where you need it? And can you adjust it? There really is no point in using a chair with the same settings forever…. Your body changes over time, from day to day, even hour to hour, and having the right settings to allow you to change your posture regularly will benefit you in the long run.

  • Lumbar Support — traditionally the one that everyone knows about and tries very hard to achieve! But everyone is different, and the tasks you perform may also be different and require different levels of support for each one. The human body is so varied that we can’t just provide one chair with the lumbar support in one area and expect everyone to be instantly comfortable. This is why we work so hard to find the chair that fits you best and puts the support where you need it most. We can choose where to place the lumbar air cell on many of the chairs we supply, and we can even choose to reduce the amount of lumbar support if you find that a flatter lumbar curve is more comfortable for you. 

    However, you can support the lumbar curve without the need for a backrest! If you put the body into the right position your back will support itself! The concept of the kneeling stool was the first chair to offer an option that allowed you to sit down for long periods of time without the need for a back support! Why? Because when the pelvic angle is open to around 135 degrees (i.e. the thighs angled down to the floor at about a 45 degree angle) this should maintain the natural curve to the lumbar spine in such a way that supports the weight of the upper back as well. This principle then applies to sit-stand stools and saddle stools, but these do work best with a height adjustable desk.

  • Pelvic Support — often, people tell us their pain is lower down, moving into the top of the buttocks, and they find that putting a cushion at this point helps relieve their back pain. Essentially, with both lumbar and pelvic pain we try to achieve the same thing: to prevent backwards rotation of the pelvis. If we can stop this happening we can go a long way towards reducing compression in the lumbar vertebrae. When you sit down, or perch, and the pelvis is allowed to rotate backwards, instead of your vertebrae being parallel to one another, they will compress on one side and this can put pressure on the intervertebral discs, facet joints and connective tissue that supports the spine.

  • Thoracic Support — upper back pain is increasingly common, and can be caused by so many little things. I often find when talking to people that they hunch forwards over the desk a lot – to view paperwork, to rest the elbows on the desk, because their monitor is too low, and so on. The key here, as I see it, is to bring the shoulders back and open up the chest. Try to get contact with the upper part of the backrest if possible, or use a sit-stand chair that allows you to sit with an open posture

  • Neck Support — you don’t necessarily need neck support, although some people will certainly benefit for this if they have sever cervical issues or spend a good deal of time sitting back and reading! If you can achieve the right body posture this will automatically support the weight of the head without the need for support. That said, many of our chairs do have the option of a head or neck rest simply as a rest, not a support

  • Leg Support — there is a huge range of issues associated with support in the legs; particularly the thighs, sitting bones (Ischial Tuberosity) and coccyx bone. There are equally vast numbers of solutions that can be provided to reduce discomfort in these areas – from split seats. Memory foam, coccyx cut-outs, ischial cut-outs, and custom designed shapes. Taking measurements of the leg length is critical in finding the right ergonomic chair for you, but that is just the starting point.

  • Arm Support — when asked if they want armrests, most people say, ‘ooh yes please’, without really thinking about how they will use them. I like to set people up in their chair as close to the edge of the desk as possible – as this encourages them to recline back into the chair properly – and in doing so this creates space at the front edge of the desk to give support to the weight of the arms at ‘rest’. I stress the use of the word rest as this is what they are intended for. Not as a support whilst typing, or a tool to help you in and out of the chair, simply as a rest in between tasks. This means that you must also be at the correct height for working at your desk to allow your shoulders to be relaxed whilst typing, and not hunched up – otherwise you will always want to rest the weight of your arms on something. I certainly try to avoid suggesting armrests when someone is working in a curved edge desk as armrests may interfere with the edge of the desk and prevent you from getting close enough to comfortably type!

(This is all merely the opinion of me, the author. I am not medically trained and you should always follow the advice of a medical professional first. However, should you like some printed advice, please feel free to download our Workstation Posture Leaflet (/files/public/Resources/WorkstationPostureLeaflet.pdf)

Movement

As humans we are not designed to sit down. We are designed for movement. Our bodies benefit from movement, they like movement, it makes them happy! The only way for the discs in the vertebrae to get blood flow is through movement! So if you sit in one position all day your body won’t like it at all. It will fight against it. Occasionally the muscles may spasm to let you know they don’t like it. This is why we encourage you to use a chair with an active mechanism. One that works with you and follows the bodies’ movements. There are several ways we try to do this:

  • A ‘free-float’ mechanism — by this we mean a chair that moves with you, a seat and backrest that follows the micro-movements that you make. There are different mechanisms out there, some of which pertain to be the ‘best ergonomic office chair’, and whilst everyone is different and requires different levels of support in different ways, our experience suggests that a mechanism that allows the seat and backrest to move together (A-Synchro) gives the user a much better level of support. In contrast a synchronised mechanism can create a small gap in the lower back as the person moves, depending on the curve of the backrest/posture of the user. I’m not suggesting there is a right way or a wrong way, it’s just that most people prefer the A-synchro mechanism – and one that pivots towards the front end of the seat tends to work best too! The lower budget ‘ergonomic’ chairs, whilst offering some degree of a-synchro movement, tend to pivot in the centre of the seat, and the user is less able to balance the chair correctly. We find the Adapt 600, RH Logic and Orangebox Flo chairs offer the very best in movement.

  • A sit-stand stool with movement — sitting down, even in the best chair, is a sure fire way to keep you less active than if you were to stand up, or perch on the edge of something. So while our business is set up around seating, this is simply born out of necessity as this is often the best solution for someone with severe back pain. If we could rewrite the rules we would! And those rules would include a sit-stand desk with a perching stool or saddle stool. The more we can put our body into as close a position to standing as possible, the more ‘natural’ our posture will be. The curve of the average human spine is supported best when standing, and the closer we get to a sitting position, the less supported/supportive the spine becomes. A sit-stand stool with movement, such as the muvman, or backapp, gives you the best opportunity to take the weight off your feet whilst keeping a more natural curve to the spine and promoting movement!

  • Just stand up…a bit! — You may not want to stand up all day, and we wouldn’t suggest you did, but a little goes a long way! A height adjustable desk with instant movement at the touch of a button will let you stand, perch or sit as often as you like. The change is what is important. A lot has been written this year about the benefits of using a standing desk. Some are all for it, others can’t see the point, and some are downright negative. I can see the reasons for and against, but I think a lot of what is written is based on the precept of someone standing up all day. This is not something we would ever suggest. We think you should change your position as often as you can. Like I say, MOVEMENT!

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