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Ergonomic Seating - 7/19/2011

For years, chairs were made to be economical, space saving - even stylish - but never with regard to the human body’s shape and movement. In fact, the idea of ergonomics was not incorporated into seating until Bill Stumpf designed the Ergon Chair for Herman Miller in 1972. Fortunately, in the time since the first ergonomic seating solution, hundreds of chairs have been created with your body and back in mind. However, with so many options for seating and each with its own specialty, choosing what chair to purchase for your office or home can become a huge headache. There are several key components to look for when trying to find the ergonomic seating choice that fits you. Of course there is no substitute for sitting in the actual chair, but it is important to have an idea of what to look for before you purchase your next chair.

Centers & Base
A chair with casters and a 5-point base is optimal for easy movement and minimal tipping. Generally, nylon carpet casters are standard, but soft wheel casters are usually available for hard surfaces such as linoleum. Rubber locking casters are useful on chairs and stools for stabilization and to prevent tipping.

Seat Pan

The seat pan is the component of the chair that supports the majority of the user’s weight. It is important to purchase a chair that uses dense, small-cell foam padding spring coils, or mesh covering to retain support and contour to your body shape. The front part of the seat should slope down slightly in a waterfall design and allow a fist size gap between the back of the knees and the front edge of the seat pan to relieve pressure and promote circulation. Tilt adjustments are usually optional but preferred to allow a range of working postures from forward to recline.


Adequate lumbar support is the most crucial element of a backrest, as it protects your injury prone lower back. Many chairs come with a built-in lumbar adjustment, which can be adjusted by turning a knob on the side of the chair or directly moving it into an optimal position. If more support is needed, affordable auxiliary lumbar supports can take even more pressure off of your spine. The backrest should also have an angle, in-out, and height adjustments allowing you to find the optimal position for spinal alignment. Newer, innovative ergonomic chairs like the Embody and Mirra by Herman Miller employ a dynamic back that move with and support your body in a number of positions.

Adjustable height and width are absolutely necessary when purchasing a chair with armrests. The perfect position should allow your shoulders to relax while your forearms rest lightly on each armrest. The armrest should be constructed of a soft material such as leather or composite plastic and should be at least 2” wide to provide adequate surface area for your arms to relax. If you prefer, armless chairs like the Surgeon Chair by Nightangale are also available for purchase.

Seat Height and Recline

Almost all ergonomic chairs come with a hydraulic seat height adjustment, which allows the user to
 into a position where their feet can rest properly on the floor or footrest and their upper body is properly aligned with the computer monitor and accessory devices such as the keyboard and mouse. The chair recliner or tilt adjustment changes the angle of the entire seat relative to the floor, transferring some of your upper body weight from your own bottom to the backrest of the chair. Since studies find that humans perform better when constantly moving and changing positions throughout the day, the chair recline feature is a perfect way to stay focused and comfortable throughout the day.

The average worker spends more than 2,000 hours a day sitting at his or her desk; time that can be spent in an uncomfortable old chair or a proactive ergonomic one. Now that you know what to look for when purchasing a new chair, take a look around’s extensive, detailed collection of state-of-the-art Executive ChairsTask Chairs, and also Home seating solutions. For extra help in choosing the correct size for your body type, check out our S.L.A.M. methodology, which helps you find the perfect adjustment for a comfortable, healthy seat. It’s simply amazing what chairs can do nowadays. Find out here!

The Healthy Back Store is a specialty retailer that provides high end comfort solutions and ergonomic products for back pain and other physical conditions. The company offers pain relieving products for sleeping, working, exercising and relaxing including back and neck supports, specialty mattresses, office chairs, exercise and therapy equipment, recliners and massage chairs. Healthy Back sells recognizable name brands such as Herman Miller and Tempur-Pedic, but also represents smaller, specialized manufacturers offering a growing selection of house-branded goods. Healthy Back has 23 stores in 6 states across the United States, and also sells through its website and call center, making it the largest privately owned back care retailer.