COMPUTER POSTURE: IT’S ALL ABOUT YOUR CHAIR

graphic of man sitting upright at a computer, with a good chair.
Man hunched over a computer

Discovering a comfortable computer posture will change your life. Are you spending considerable time at your computer? Feeling kind of “wiped out” at the end of it? Are you getting back or neck pain from sitting too long? You can make it better by followiing the steps below.

Your posture, whether sitting, standing, or sleeping, affects your energy and, to a large degree, how healthy you are. There are several reasons for this; tension in posture causes stress on the nervous system by pulling on the brainstem, and, compression of the thoracic cage can constrict the heart and lungs. Basically, what sitting posture comes down to is knowing how to get into a comfortable and upright sitting position.

Attributes of Office Chairs That Affect Posture

Poor Computer Chair

To understand correct posture when sitting at a computer, you need to understand your chair. The computer chair pictured to the left IS NOT a good chair. If any of the posture determining factors about a chair aren’t right then your body will never be completely upright and stress free. The factors are:

Seat Height - The seat needs to be high enough so that your hips are slightly HIGHER than your knees. Your elbows should be at about the keyboard height.

Graphic of man sitting lower and one sitting higher

Seat Tilt - This is the ANGLE that the seat sits compared to horizontal. There should be a slight forward tilt being higher at the back of the seat and going down toward the front of the seat.

Seat Shape - The seat pan (the hard plastic or wood underneath the foam cushion) on nearly all computer chairs as molded into some kind of wave-like support which disturbs balance.

Seat Material - The density of the foam that you sit on needs to be firm. I know that this may sound uncomfortable to some of you but when the angle and seat height are right then you'll feel like you're sitting on a cloud.

Seat Back - A seat back ISN’T necessary when your body is in a comfortable, upright computer posture. It BECOMES necessary when the distortions mentioned above cause a weakened, fatigued body to slump.

Effects of Proper Computer Posture on Your Body

Improper Seat Height causes your body to lean forward or backward creating poor computer posture. If your hips are too low then your entire upper body leans forward. Your muscles then work overtime to keep you up in a working posture. As a result, you need to lean back into a Seat Back as your body gets more and more tired, simply from trying to sit up.

You can TEST THIS FOR YOURSELF: sit on a low stool without a back on it and let your body slump; really let go of your muscles. Which direction does your body fall?

On the other hand, if your hips are too high then your body leans backward. Then, the muscles in the front of your body pull you forward so you don’t fall over. There’s an optimum height were your body isn’t leaning forward or backward and this is with your hips just above your knees. You’ll know when you are at the correct height because your body relaxes when you have it just right (you can’t get this just right if the Seat Tilt is backwards, as in most chairs).

Interestingly, there’s only one Seat Tilt angle that works properly for you when your hips are at the right height. Also, I have found that this angle doesn’t vary between individuals as the Seat Height does. It’s the Seat Tilt that determines the tilt of your pelvis, and so, affects the curves of your spine, all the way up to - and including - your neck.

The right Seat Tilt allows all of your upper body weight to be focused on the part of the pelvis designed best for sitting - the ischial tuberosities (often called sit bones). Too much Seat Tilt forces your lower back curve forward. Reversed or too little Seat Tilt and your lower back curve flattens out and your spinal muscles have to work more to keep you in the chair. This is also why you notice that your lower back is pressed against the low back support of your chair.

The Seat Shape is a function of the seat pan underneath the foam cushion. The seat pan should flat. This is the best shape to support the ischial tuberosities. Any other Seat Shape will unnaturally support your gluteus muscles or the back of your thighs. These are not weight bearing structures and will hamper proper weight distribution.

With all of the above being said, there are really only a few things to look for in a chair to have good computer posture. A good chair will have a FLAT seat pan, which is tilted at the proper angle forward, and it doesn’t need a back on it. The chair simply needs to be adjustable - up and down - so it's useable by all.

Sponsor

This website is sponsored by EZ Posture Products, where we build the right products to help support your posture.


Pure Posture Chair

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Posted by Dr. Gabriel Russo on 5th Jul 2012

"I loved this chair as soon as I sat on it. I got rid of my old office chairs and I now use this chair at home and at the office. This is the best chair I’ve ever sat on!"

Watch videos of people sitting on the Pure Posture Chair for their first time!