Sunday, May 29, 2011


Writers spend a lot of time sitting at the computer. The most important tool you can have is a chair that fits your body and supports your back. If you have back problems, you know what I'm talking about. If you don't have back problems, protect your healthy back. You don't want to have problems down the road. Trust me on this one.

It may help you to set a timer to remind you to get up and move around once in a while. What seems like five minutes can easily be a couple of hours when you are on a roll.

Dr. John J. Triano, DC, PhD from advises the following when purchasing a desk chair:

1. Elbow Measure: First begin by sitting comfortably as close as possible to your desk so that your upper arms are parallel to your spine. Rest your hands on your work surface (e.g. desktop, computer keyboard). If your elbows are not at a 90-degree angle, adjust your office chair height either up or down.

2. Thigh measure: Check that you can easily slide your fingers under your thigh at the leading edge of the office chair. If it is too tight, you need to prop your feet up with an adjustable footrest. If you are unusually tall and there is more than a finger width between your thigh and the chair, you need to raise the desk or work surface so that you can raise the hight of your office chair.

3. Calf measure: With your bottom pushed against the chair back, try to pass your clenched fist between the back of your calf and the front of your office chair. If you can't do that easily, then the office chair is too deep. You will need to adjust the backrest forward, insert a low back support (such as a lumbar support cushion, a pillow or rolled up towel) or get a new office chair.

4. Low Back Support: Your bottom should be pressed against the back of your chair, and there should be a cushion that causes your lower back to arch slightly so that you don't slump forward or slouch down in the chair as you tire over time. This low back support in the office chair is essential to minimize the load (strain) on your back. Never slump or slouch forward in the office chair, as that places extra stress on the structures in the low back, and in particular on the lumbar discs.

5. Resting Eye Level: Close your eyes while sitting comfortably with your head facing forward. Slowly open your eyes. Your gaze should be aimed at the center of your computer screen. If your computer screen is higher or lower than your gaze, you need to either raise or lower it to reduce neck strain.

6. Armrest: Adjust the armrest of the office chair so that it just slightly lifts your arms at the shoulders. Use of an armrest on your office chair is important to take some of the strain off your neck and shoulders, and it should make you less likely to slouch forward in your chair.

Dr. Triano also says that no matter how comfortable one is in an office chair, prolonged static posture is not good for the back and is a common contributor to back problems and muscle strain. He advises moving around for at least a minute or two every half hour, even if only to stretch or go get a drink of water.

Twenty minutes of walking will help even more by promoting healthy blood flow that brings nutrients to the spinal structures.

Another consideration when choosing a chair is to look at ergonomic chairs, such as a Swedish kneeling chair.

After reading this, I can see that I need to make some adjustments in my own office. How about you?