If you do, you’re not alone. Millions of Americans are suffering along with you, and if you spend a large portion of your day sitting in a run-of-the-mill office chair, you are doing your back a disservice.
Think about it. Did our ancient ancestors spend the majority of their days scrunched down in front of a computer typing?
Sitting for long stretches has been shown to produce a wide range of adverse health outcomes. Ailments such as reduced blood flow, weight gain, higher levels of “bad” cholesterol in the blood, and yes, back pain. At this point, you may be thinking to yourself: Good Heavens! I work a desk job! What can I do?!
I’m glad you asked, that is what this post is for! So without further ado, let’s get into it.
The two best alternatives to your standard office chair are either a standing desk or an ergonomic office chair. A standing desk, as the name implies, raises the work level, forcing the user to stand upright. An ergonomic chair uses a combination of padding and adjustable components to minimize back strain and to promote proper sitting posture. The ergonomic chair back support feature makes it much more comfortable for long hours of work. Now that you have a brief idea of each alternative, let’s go a little deeper, starting with the desk.
Standing desks come in a variety of flavors which vary according to your budget. Cheaper desks are made from plastic (typically PVC), mid-grade from wood, and higher-end from metal (think aluminum or steel). There are also several adjustment options to choose from as well. A fully manual hand crank tends to be the cheapest option, while a fully automatic electric/pneumatic motor with remote control tends to be the most expensive. Desks can also be fitted with a hybrid system somewhere in between those just mentioned.
Ergonomic chairs also come in a variety of flavors, but a few of the common features shared by all are discussed briefly below.
Armrests- An armrest should be adjustable. The ideal height is 7-10 inches above the seat cushion.
Lumbar Support Knob- A ‘firmness’ and a ‘position’ control are staples in any lumbar support system. Proper lumbar support relieves pressure from the lower back by angling the torso (usually 110-130° as opposed to 90°).
Seat Height– A quality chair will allow for a cushion range of 15-22 inches from the floor.
Materials- Low-quality chairs come with cheap foam padding and synthetic fabrics that tend to be hot, stuffy, and difficult to clean well. Higher-quality chairs have better padding foam and cloth, even leather, covering. Backrests are either mesh or solid, the more breathable option being mesh.
So what are the pros and cons?
Let’s start with the obvious, posture. A standing desk forces one to stand all day, and the chair, well, one sits all day. Standing at work has been shown to reduce obesity and improve energy levels in workers. This may lead to a happier, more productive workforce. However, standing all day can lead to pain, especially in the feet. Taking periodic “sit breaks” can solve that issue. Conversely, an ergonomic chair optimizes both sitting posture and comfort. This optimization prevents back pain. However, sitting all day (even in an ergonomic chair) will still induce several negative health outcomes. Taking occasional “Stand breaks” can solve the issue. Cost. While the two are fairly close, ergonomic chairs tend to be cheaper than the desks, though not by much. You can also use an adjustable sit stand desk where you can use it as a standing desk but also a sitting desk.
Which should I buy?
When it comes down to it, personal preference matters most. If standing for the majority of your day, having more energy, or burning more calories appeals to you, then the standing desk may be worth the extra cost. If, however, standing all day seems taxing, or distracting; then perhaps the chair is the best option for you. Whichever one you pick, your back will surely thank you!