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Can a Comfortable Chair Still Hurt My Back?


Many people are subject to sitting for long periods of time, especially if they work in an office setting. However, sitting down for a long time can cause some serious lower back pain and aggravate existing back issues.

The cause for this pain is usually the way that you’re sitting, as well as the chair you’re sitting in. The act of sitting, in general, is also straining to the back, shoulders, arms, and legs. It is considered a static pose and can place heavy pressure on the back muscles and spinal discs.

Everybody knows that you should sit with correct posture. But it can be extremely difficult to stick to good habits in the midst of a busy workday. For that reason, it is imperative to invest in a quality chair that promotes great posture naturally.

In addition, depending on the chair, it may not even be possible to achieve perfect posture. A chair must have certain features to properly fit your spine and allow for ample movement of the pelvis.

When sitting in a standard office chair, most people tend to bend their back forward or slouch down into the chair, flexing the spinal ligaments and putting pressure on the discs and other structures in the spine. If repeated often enough, improper sitting technique can seriously harm spinal structures and lead to more severe health conditions.

The first thing you should look for in a chair is not comfort. In fact, you should be much more concerned about obtaining a chair that strongly supports your spine. Once you attain a solid posture, you should feel comfortable anyways.

Can a comfortable chair still hurt your back? The answer is yes. Learn more below with all33’s instructional guide on what makes the perfect chair!

Level Height

The most important fundamental feature that your chair should have is a height-adjustable seat. Being able to adjust the height of your chair seat is necessary to align your body correctly while sitting. A great chair should also have a height-adjustable backrest and headrest.

When you’re sitting down, your knees should be at the same level as your hips. If your knees are lower than your hips, your seat is too high. If they’re higher than your hips, your seat is too low.

Make sure your seat is low enough for your feet to lay flat on the floor as well. If your chair is too high for your feet to reach, use a footrest.

Keeping your chair at an optimal height will prevent slouching and leaning to one side over the other. As a result, it should help relieve muscle tension and fatigue in the spine.

Adjustable Arms

Your chair should also have adjustable arms. If your forearms are sitting too high, you’ll most likely lean to one side of the chair, straining your neck, shoulders, and back. If your forearms are sitting too low, you will overextend your shoulders.

You want to sit with your arms parallel to your spine. Keep your hands on your work surface, and your elbows placed loosely on the armrests.

A great feature to have on your chair is foldaway arms. Foldaway arms are armrests that fold upward, allowing your chair to be pushed into your desk fully. A huge part of maintaining good posture is sitting close to your desk and not having to lean forward.

Spine Support

Some chairs actually have additional spinal support built into their designs. You see, most people sit at a 90-degree angle. In fact, it is commonly believed that sitting with your back straight up is healthy.

In actuality, though, the human spine has a natural curvature to it. And your chair should accommodate that curve. A truly quality chair should include a backrest that stabilizes your spine and keeps it in its slightly curved state.

Sitting with your back completely straight can actually tense the muscles in your spine. You’ve likely found yourself trying to sit straight, only to end up slouching later on. This tendency is caused by fatigue in your back muscles.

Lower Back Support

In addition to supporting the curve in your spine, your chair should also support your lower back. Ideally, your chair should have a cushion on its seat that forces your lower back to arch slightly.

You want your lower back to be partially bent because it’ll prevent you from leaning toward one direction while sitting. The lower back is responsible for much of the weight in your back, so it is crucial to keep it supported.

Thigh and Calves

You can check to make sure your pelvis is angled correctly with a few simple tests. When you’re sitting down, you want to be able to easily slide your fingers under your thigh near the edge of the chair. If the space is too tight, chances are, you’re placing your pelvis in an upward position and straining it. To remedy the issues, use a footrest to extend your legs and make this space wider.

If you are taller than average, you might find that the space between your thigh and the chair is very wide. If it’s wider than your finger, your pelvis is probably facing downward and being stressed. To fix this problem, raise the level of your work surface.

Another test to see if you’re sitting correctly is by measuring your calves. With your buttocks pushed against the chair’s backrest, attempt to run your clenched fist between the back of your calf and the front of your chair. You should be able to move your fist up without making contact with your calf or the chair.

If you can’t easily accomplish this, your legs are too close to your chair. This type of positioning will also strain the pelvis. Instead of moving your legs forward, adjust the backrest forward.

Just moving your legs forward will cause you to lean forward and tense your back. If you don’t have an adjustable backrest, you can use a cushion to push your body forward a bit while sitting.

Take Breaks

Though you can get a chair that strengthens your spine and relieves discomfort, ultimately, you want to sit as little as possible. Simply put, humans aren’t meant to be sitting all day.

Our bodies demand activity and movement, so much so that it begins to weaken when we are sedentary. Have you ever worked out for weeks or months consistently and then suddenly stopped? You probably experienced a noticeable decline in energy and strength afterward. This shift is due to the body’s disposition to exercise.

In conclusion, you must take breaks from sitting, even if it’s just for a minute or two. Every half or so, you should make it a goal to stand up, walk around, and stretch out.

If you absolutely must stay seated for hours at a time, at least make sure to stretch out your back every once in a while. Make sure to move as much as you can while seated too.

In some cultures, where sitting for extended periods of time isn’t as ordinary, back pain is much less common. For instance, in Asian countries like Korea and Japan, squatting and kneeling are encouraged just as much as sitting. As a result, much fewer people have back pain.

The Risks of an Unsupportive Chair

Sitting in a poorly made chair can be very damaging to your back, even if it feels comfortable. If done regularly, it is possible to bulge, herniate, or rupture discs in your spine, compressing its nerves. These injuries are very painful and should be avoided at all costs.

A bulging disk pressing on the nerve can cause sciatica, a radiating pain that stretches across the sciatic nerve. Symptoms of sciatica can feel like pain, tingling, and numbness in your leg.

With a quality chair, issues like these can be prevented. Keeping your spine healthy and strong will lower your risk of injury significantly.

If you have lingering back pain that continues even after finding a great chair, it’s possible that your pain is being caused by a separate condition.

For example, spinal osteoarthritis can cause back pain. This condition is caused by damage and deterioration in the joint cartilage of your lower back. It can lead to narrowing of the spinal column or development of spinal stenosis over time.

You may also have osteoporosis, which is a loss of bone density and the thinning of the bone. This condition can cause small fractures in the vertebrae of your back. Though these conditions are rare, if you are feeling back pain that won’t go away, you should seek professional help from a medical expert.

The Right Chair Will Be Comfortable and Supportive

You can find the best, spine-friendly chair at all33. We carry the only chair in the world that allows for full range of movement in the pelvis and back while sitting. They are also designed to promote blood flow to reduce fatigue and oxygen flow to strengthen your muscles. Check out our BackStrong chair here!

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