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Correct Posture for Office Chairs

July 22, 2021

Correct Posture for Office Chairs

By Paulina Wegrzyn.
Paulina Wegrzyn is a physiotherapist residing and practicing in British Columbia, Canada. She completed her Master’s in Physical Therapy at the University of Toronto, in Ontario, Canada. She currently treats a large persistent pain population. Paulina is a certified pelvic floor physiotherapist, and takes a biopsychosocial approach to treatment. She uses a combination of education, manual therapy, soft tissue release, and exercise prescription with her clients. She is interested in educating others regarding the benefits of physiotherapy in order for them to feel empowered to take control of their health. She enjoys writing content related to this field of study as she believes that physiotherapy should be accessible to all.
Pauline - Masters Qualified Physiotherapist



Components of an Ergonomic Office Chair 
-Backrest Angle 
-Backrest Height 
-Lumbar Rolls 
-Seat Height 
-Use of a Footstool 
-Seat Tilt 
-Armrest Height 
-Seat Depth 
Guidelines for Proper Sitting Posture 
-Use the Backrests 
-Evenly Distribute your Weight 

Components of an Ergonomic Office Chair

Sitting in the correct posture in an office chair depends on two factors: the adjustability of your office chair, and your sitting posture. In order to be properly positioned and ergonomically optimised, you should be able to adjust your chair’s backrest reclining angle, backrest height, seat height, seat tilt, and armrest height.

Backrest Angle

Adjust your backrest angle so that it is in contact with your back when you are comfortably seated at your computer. Your chair’s backrest should not be positioned so far backwards that you are reaching for either your keyboard or your mouse. Your backrest angle should also not be so far forwards that you are being pushed forwards towards the desk or screen.

In order to find the optimal backrest angle, sit upright in a good posture, with your shoulders back and your neck straight. Position your low back so that the top of your buttocks is against the back of the chair. Then, adjust the backrest angle to correspond with your proper sitting posture.

Backrest angle

Backrest Height

Your backrest on your office chair should be S-shaped to mimic the natural curvature of your spine.

“S” shaped chair

Ensure that the lower part of the “S”, which is meant to mimic the naturally protruding lumbar spine (your lower back) fits well into the small of your lower back. This will promote a better sitting posture. If you do not have an S-shaped chair, consider using a lumbar roll.

Backrest Height

Lumbar Rolls

Using a lumbar roll can help maintain the lumbar curve while you sit. Bending too far forward in your lower back causes increased pressure on your low back joints, and can lead to pain or back problems over time. While many expensive products exist on the market, you can also fashion your own lumbar roll from a rolled-up towel. Place this towel in the small of your back, just above where your buttocks begin.

Lumbar Roll

Using this roll consistently throughout the day will help you gain awareness of neutral spine positioning and can help prevent low back problems over time.

Seat Height

Your chair should be positioned at a height where your feet are comfortably resting on the floor with your knees bent. Your knees should be in line or slightly lower than your hips. This will put less strain on your hamstring muscles (the muscles at the back of your thighs), as well as your knee joints. It will also prevent pain in your Achilles tendon at the back of your calf.

Seat Height

Use of a Footstool

If you are shorter in stature, your feet may not be able to reach the floor while you sit back in your office chair. In this case, consider using a footrest in order for your feet to not be dangling freely. Try to keep your feet flat on the footrest. Ideally you should find a footstool without any angle of tilt.

Seat Tilt

Your seat cushion can be neutral or the front can be slightly tilted downwards towards the floor. If you have a history of buttock or thigh pain, tilting your seat down by a few degrees can help decrease the amount of pressure put on these structures while you are sitting throughout the day.

Armrest Height

Your armrests should be positioned at a height where your elbows can naturally bend and be supported by the armrests. While adjusting this height, make sure that your shoulders are in neutral, and not sitting up towards your ears. This will ensure that you adjust your armrest height accordingly. Make sure that your armrest height also corresponds with the height of your desk to ensure proper ergonomic usage of your mouse and keyboard.

Armrest Height

Seat Depth

Your seat depth may or may not be adjustable on your office chair. Despite this, you should have around 5-7cm of clearance between the edge of the chair and the back of your legs. If this space is too small, you run the risk of compressing important arteries, veins, and nerves in the back of your legs, which can lead to chronic medical conditions or persistent pain.

Seat Depth

Seat Depth

Guidelines for Proper Sitting Posture

Once your chair is adjusted to optimize ergonomics, you must position your body in an appropriate sitting posture.

Use the Backrests

Use the backrest for support of your upper and lower back, and make use of the headrest for your head. Avoid sitting forward by making sure that your back is in contact with the chair. A good rule of thumb is to keep your ears, shoulders, and hips stacked on top of each other. This positioning helps keep your back in a neutral alignment. The picture below shows a good lumbar position and upper back position, but the chair is not adjusted to meet the needs of supporting this neutral spinal position.

Improper Sitting

Evenly Distribute your Weight

Avoid sitting with one foot up, underneath you, or in front of the other. Do not tilt your body so that more pressure is on one of your hips instead of the other. This bad habit can cause pain in your back, buttocks, hips, or thighs over time.

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