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Working from home only means more aches and pains in the neck and back and having a horrible work environment. After all, the dining table and chairs are for eating, and not working. Ergonomic chairs are nice and a good ergonomic chair can be pricey but the question to ask is are they worth the price? This blog will answer the most commonly asked questions about ergonomic chairs and the title of each paragraph is one of the questions from the list!

Why Use an Ergonomic Chair?

If you are young enough, you don’t realize that in the old days, there was no such thing as an Ergonomic chair. In fact, the whole concept was as odd as taking supplements was (yes there was a time when supplements were looked at as a waste of money and just a bunch of nonsense by the ‘alternative health’ practitioners. The next thing we knew, manufacturers were popping a new style like there was no tomorrow, and everyone was claiming to have the best ergonomic chair.

We tend to park ourselves behind our digital devices too much for too long and what we sit on, when uncomfortable and not set-up right, can make the matters worse. The problem is when people sit on their ergonomic chairs and think they don’t need to pay attention to anything else! No matter how great your ergonomic chair is, you still have to get up every hour and then hopefully have a stand-up/seated desk so the next hour you stand up with the concepts of ergonomics in place.

How Do Ergonomic Chairs Work?

Ergonomic chairs essentially are designed to accommodate our sitting style, which include:

  • Support for the lower back
  • Adjustable armrest
  • Adjustable height
  • Adjustable seat
  • And parts that can be set to fit the user

Do they work? Sure BUT I have a problem with many of them.

For instance, I don’t like armrests at all!!! The problem with armrests is that by the end of the day when you have sat for so long, your whole body sinks in the seat while the arms on the armrest stay at the same height; this pushes the top of the shoulders up and creates a whole bunch of issues related to the neck, mid-back, shoulders, and between the shoulder blades to name a few.

My favorite ergonomic chair is discussed next and costs you less than $50 tops!

Which Ergonomic Chair is Best?

The best ergonomic chair is an exercise ball! Yes, you heard me right. An exercise ball is clearly not as stable as a regular chair. The whole time you are sitting on your exercise ball, the portion of your brain called PMRF (Porto-medullary-reticular-formation) is constantly being activated, trying to keep you balanced. PMRF is in charge of your upright-against-gravity command. As you know, if your brain tells your body to do anything, your body WILL do it.

By activating the brain, you will not only continue doing your work behind your desk, but you will be simultaneously stimulating your body to activate muscles to balance you the right way. This is called positive neuroplasticity and on top of that, you don’t get a chance to collapse over your abdominal diaphragm and cut your level of oxygen down by slouching. You don’t believe me? Slouch and take a deep breath at the same time!! Clearly, you see the two don’t go together.

So the best ergonomic chair is in fact, your good old exercise ball BUT it needs to be XXXL – no less than 95 cm in diameter. The basic concepts of ergonomics with regards to your hand, arm, neck, and body positioning still apply. Take a look at these concepts here.

What Ergonomic Chair Should I Buy?

If you are wondering which ergonomic chair is best and don’t want to use an exercise ball, then I suggest you get something that has as many adjustable parts as possible. Your feet have to be on the ground and your knees  should be higher than your hips slightly.

Now, I am not a big fan of lumbar support because who says the curvature in your lower back fits what the manufacturer designed the chair with? I, instead, suggest rolling a small bath towel or a larger hand towel and fit it in the curvature of your lower back as you lean back against the chair. You don’t want the roll to be too big that arches your back too much or too small that it does not cover your lower back curve enough.

No matter what, you HAVE TO get up every hour and walk around for a few hours and maybe even do the stretch shown below before sitting down.

Can You Buy an Ergonomic Chair with FSA or HSA?

That is a great question and something you should confirm with your HR. Your chiropractor will more than likely write you a prescription for it if you are seeking care for conditions that are aggravated by sitting (mmm, that should be pretty much every muscle-skeletal issue!).

I have had patients who were okay’d by their CPA to write off their 10K mattress as an HSA expense which to me, makes sense too. I was seeing the couple for lower back pain and their mattress was too old, not supporting their weight.

Will My Insurance Pay for Ergonomic Chair?

I am almost positive the answer is NO!! If we were that lucky, your supposed health insurance, (more suitably called ‘sick insurance’) would have paid for your supplements, your organic food, and your health club memberships!

There/s much more to office ergonomics than just your chair. I have written a blog on laptop stands that you may want to review but remember, no matter how great your chair and desk are, you are not meant to sit for as long as you sit. Make sure you get up every hour, walk around, drink some water, and then the next hour stand up at your stand-up desk and alternate between sitting and standing up every hour.

Dr. Shakib