Ergonomics: What’s it all about?
Ergonomics is creating quite the buzz in the furniture industry – and for good reason. With the number of hours spent sitting behind a desk or in front of a computer screen on the rise, up to 70% of the population, including school-aged children, are presenting with some form of back or neck pain related to prolonged sitting. Moreover, back pain is a leading cause of missed days at work, lost productivity, and costly rehabilitation fees. Coming to the rescue is ergonomic furniture, designed to keep the body properly aligned, protected, and comforted throughout the day.
How Prolonged Sitting Can Hurt Your Back
Since the human body is not meant to remain sedentary, sitting (or standing still) for extended periods of time puts excessive stress on the body. The harmful consequences include stiff joints, cramped muscles, poor circulation, back pain, neck strain, and cumulative stress disorders. Poor sitting posture is another major contributor to back pain. Whether you are a business executive or secretary who averages eight to ten-hour work days, a college student burning the midnight oil, or a kid who chats online or plays computer games for hours each day, you are at serious risk for back strain and pain.
Sitting positions which are strained, uncomfortable, or poorly postured wreak havoc on your back. Sitting too straight, too hunched over, or in a chair which is not suited to your physique can give rise to a wide range of musculoskeletal injuries. When shopping for an ergonomic chair, look for essential lumbar (low back) support – that is, a chair with a flexible back which conforms to the natural contours of your spine or which allows you to lean slightly back and alleviate pressure to your back (i.e. a mesh task chair); alternatively, look for a chair back with a curve right above the seat, designed to support the lower back where it’s needed the most.
Adjustability is the Name of the Game
Since no two human beings share the same physique, no one chair fits all. Hence when it comes to ergonomics 101, the key element of all ergonomic furniture is adjustability – that is, furniture which can be customized per user.
Features of an ergonomic chair include:
Adjustable height (your feet should rest flat on the floor while you sit, with your thighs parallel to the ground)
Upper/lower back support
Tilt options (for a variety of sitting positions)
Swivel function (to facilitate mobility while you sit)
Features of an ergonomic workstation include:
Adjustable-height desk (allowing you to stretch your legs out under your desk while you work)
Wide desktop space (for easy reach of frequently used items)
Adjustable monitor shelf (to prevent neck, shoulder and eye strain, there should be 20 inches between you and your computer screen).
Adjustable monitor arm (also called a monitor riser or LCD arm), allowing you to lower/raise your computer screen or bring it closer/further to avoid having to lean forward, tilt your neck, or strain your eyes
Ergonomic task lighting, allowing you to control the amount of brightness per task and maximize comfort and productivity in your personal workspace
At the end of the day, however, the best way to prevent back pain is to take regular breaks from sitting. Whether you walk around the office or stand up and stretch every 30 minutes, perform desk exercises designed to reduce muscle tension, or go for a walk or workout during your lunch break, putting your body into motion is sure-fire way to protect your back, get your blood pumping, and keep you energized all day long.