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Best Ergonomic Chair - Story of My Family Chairs.

Updated on March 16, 2015

Ergonomic Office Chair Home Based Review.

After studying ergonomics online and learning what an ergonomic chair is. l naturally began to realize that we have ergonomic computer, lounge and office chairs in the house. Just like how you suddenly start noticing many cars similar to the one you intent to buy around you. One striking realization was that we are using three different ergonomic computer desk chairs; two of which where already in the furnished apartment when we moved in. Myself, my wife and our 15 year old son use the three chairs. It is these chairs which prompted me to write this ergonomic chair review which relates my real life experience and observations to documented ergonomic chair research outcomes.

Ergonomic Desk Chairs That my Family Uses.

Ergonomic Chair Research Outcomes.

Research has consistently demonstrated that most ergonomic chair users are not aware of possible chair adjustments, use only the seat height adjustment control 80% of the time and other adjustments are often misused if ever they are used (Kleeman & Prunier, 1980). Yet the 'ergonomisity' of chairs is in its ability for the user to change settings frequently, thereby promoting muscle exercises, improve blood flow and a healthy posture.

The chairs will be reviewed against various dimensions that l learnt during my ergonomics online study. Hopefully, you will also learn a few lessons, which will help you choose the most ergonomic chair next time or at least fully utilize the functionalities of the one you already have.

Best Ergonomic Chair Controls.

Ergonomic chair controls must be easily identifiable.
Ergonomic chair controls must be easily identifiable.

Controls Must be Easy to Identify, Reach and Adjust.

Most of the three chairs' control knobs are easily identifiable and can be reached with one hand while sitting. My wife's inexpensive ergonomic chair, tops the list because it has got only two easily discernible protruding controls. My chair's back rest height adjustment controls are difficult to discern and not easily reachable because they are right at the back of the chair.

While my son's controls are reachable, but l only managed to identify one of the chair's controls when l looked under it. The control blends seamlessly with the chair; an obvious clash between need for aesthetics and ergonomics. This emphasis on appearance at the expense of usability is a common in the design of ergonomic leather chairs where aesthetics are over emphasized.

Unfortunately, when we moved into the furnished house we did not ask for the manual - who would ask for and read a manual on how to sit on a chair? Besides, who would want to read a thick manual about how to adjust ergonomic chair controls. The very reason why after studying how to carry out hierarchical task analysis, l reduced the manuals to a single page (see example at the bottom of the article).

Some Ergonomic Chair Controls are Hidden or are Barely Used.

Did you manage to identify and use all your ergonomic chair controls?

See results

Adaptable to the tasks.

Basically, are family chairs are not tailor mad ergonomic task chairs. They are mainly for studying while occasionally attending to our 3 year old daughter when she visit the study room. My son's chair is the best ergonomic chair when it come to fulfilling both tasks. Its movable ergonomic hand rest allows me to move away from the desk without moving my chair and running over my little angel's toes. It also allows me to twist my body and reach out with out the arm rest digging into my ribs.

Additionally, my son uses it as both his gaming desk chair and student desk chair. The smooth gliding office chair wheels makes it easy to push across rooms. The downside is that only the left arm rest is flexible and this might not work so well with some corner desks. If you need an office ergonomic office chair which requires moving away from the desk or reaching out to access items - it is my best bet.

Ergonomic Task Adaptable Chair.

The movable arm rest makes this chair easy to adapt to tasks.
The movable arm rest makes this chair easy to adapt to tasks.

Ergonomic Chair Movable Arm Rest.

The movable arm rest also helps in accommodating wide hips without being feminist. It is for the same reason that it is one of my recommended ergonomic chair for pregnant women. l observed this when my wife had to temporally use this chair. That is after our son mounted left arm rests for my wife's on the right side and vise versa. l had to literally hold down the chair while my son helped his mother to extract her bottom from the chair. It took time to identify what went wrong because the arm rests fitted perfectly either side. Now l understand why parts are written this side out, even if it appears to be so obvious.

My chair performed the worst on this baby sitting dimension. Its arm rests have a tendency of going under the desk when the chair is in a depressed position. This is a plus if you want to avoid 'perching' (sitting at the front end of the chair pan) which is common with armrests that bump against computer desks. The downside is, if you move off the chair one of the arm rests remain under the table and when released it recoils violently like a trigger. One day it barley missed my 3 year old daughter's chin.

Ease of operation.

My wife's chair is one of those heavy duty office chairs the easiest to operate even with out prior training. Partly because there are only two controls to be adjusted. Unfortunately, as in many cases only the height adjustment control is the most frequently used and other controls are made redundant. My wife admitted to never using the stabilizer gear and was not even aware of its function. My son's ergonomic chair's back rest tilt changes proportionally to an increase in pan height and vise verse. At least chances of messing up the settings are reduced.

It is common that ergonomic chair users make adjustments that are tangentially different from their anthropometric data (Stewart, 1980). Operation of the chair controls is generally easy because they conform to our normal cognitive map - pull lever up to increase height and vise verse. The very reason why non-conforming controls such as the swivel chair height adjustment control is hardily used. The challenge is on establishing the clockwise or anti-clockwise directions of a rotational control directly under the seat. Adjusting the back rest of my son's chair is however not trivial and the locking mechanism on the left is very difficult to operate.

Ergonomic Chairs With Lumbar Support.

My wife's chair fairs badly on this dimension because the back does not recline nor tilt. My son's chair although the back rest reclines, the effect is not on any specific part of the backbone. My chair's self adjusting back rest which is curved inwards to match increased spine curvature rules the roost. Ergonomic office chairs with lumpar support are recommended for patients to reduce excessive lordosis which may exert pressure on the spine and the cervical area.

The small back rest is also curved inwardly, to maintain a more natural lordosis curve which makes it one of the cool desk chairs. On the contrary, other researchers demonstrated that supporting the lumpar area is less useful in maintaining a healthy posture than stopping the spine's rotation (Zacharkow, 1988). l love my lumbar support office chair's dynamic back rest thugh, which increase pelvic tilt, exercises abdominal muscles and improves hamstring tension. l don't need to continuously change the back tilt with any change in posture. The small back rest's height can be adjusted to support either the lower or upper back.(Don't mind the penguin, my daughter wanted it to be part of the story).

Office Chair Back Support.

My Chair's with a dynamic back rest.
My Chair's with a dynamic back rest.

Ergonomic Desk Chairs for Back Pain.

Some manufactures are already designing ergonomic desk chairs for back pain patients, although the research on the efficacy of using them is still on going. One of the popular stools to hit the market is the ergonomic kneeling stool or chair. Back rest height and tilt must also be adjustable. While ergonomic chair back rest height adjustment is popular, it is the backrest tilt angle that is detrimental to individual well-being (recommended; 20-30 degrees).

Most ergonomically designed office chairs offer lower back support for chair users through self adjusting back rests which fit the individual's posture. It is imperative that ergonomic office chair's lumbar support, follow the natural spine curvature as much as possible. Tilt must be related to the proportional pan adjustments. l look forward to the development of an ergonomic office chair for bad backs which can be adjusted according to the doctor's recommendation. More research is also needed to come up with the best chair for the back with calibration to make it easy to adjust chair to meet recommended healthy settings.

Must Cater for Various Individual Preferences.

My son's chair can easily suit my wife who likes tall and wide ergonomic chairs. Everyone has got no problem using this chair except of course my 8 year old daughter. Ergonomic anthropometrics dictate how the range of adaptability of the chair according to the targeted population and government regulations. A reason why it is difficult to find ergonomic office chairs for short persons whose height is below the official range.

Even if l reduce the chair height to its minimum, her legs remain dangling in the air and l will have to provide a footstool for her to step on. Individuals can not adjust chairs beyond the manufacture's set limits even if one is not feeling comfortable. Individuals may want go beyond the maximum tall and wide chair adjustments. l wonder if there are any ergonomic child chairs given that children quickly outgrow the expensive chairs, rarely sit in on one place for a long time and at most are not bothered about adjusting their chairs.

Ergonomics vs Athropemetrics.

Paradoxically, an individual's most comfortable office chair position or comfort zones are often not related to the officially recommended ergonomic settings of the chair (Stewart, 1980). Ever wondered why you at times experience muscle pain when you stand up to stretch even if you thought you were sitting comfortably? You end up asking if an ergonomic chair is good for you? In my opinion, they are some of the most comfortable office chairs as long as you know how to optimize the settings to support a healthy posture.

To make it easy for my family to learn how to adjust their chairs, l came up with a Hierarchical Task Analysis based chart (see rough sketch below) to reduce the learning curve. It can also substitute the need to read thick manuals and it greatly improved the frequency with which they used the chair controls. l also explained why and when they should make the adjustments which is conspicuous in its absence in traditional bookish manuals.

Ergonomic Chair Manual

An alternative to thick manuals.
An alternative to thick manuals.

Other lessons learnt from ergonomics studies.

  • Improve blood flow. An important aspect for both ergonomic chairs for home use and office chairs is that they must popliteal vein blood flow from the legs. This is achieved by having the end of the seat pan pointing downwards and an adjustable pan to accommodate both tall and short persons. The leg to thigh angle must be more than 90 degrees. Kleeman and Prunier (1980) reported that in United States, individuals preferred pan heights where tangentially different from those recommended by certified ergonomic assessment specialists.
  • Adequate stability. The material must be light, yet so strong that the chair does not warble. The chair must adjust its weight distribution or pivoting according to settings, weight or tilt. This aspect is very important for ergonomic rocking chairs. ln my local shop, l saw Ergo-human Mash ergonomic chair with head rest black mesh and chrome frame which are very light in weight yet are very stable. The designers did a great job of utilizing the lightness and high strength of chrome metals.
  • Maintain postural support. This must be achieved with out restricting movement and flexibility. Once movement is restricted, multi-skeletal discomfort sets in.
  • Design is user centered. Feedback from users is en-cooperated into the design. Takes into consideration individual physiological differences in muscle stress tolerance, back posture and so forth.
  • Cater for special need population. Ergonomic chairs must be able to support people with back, neck pain, pregnant women and so forth. This is what differentiate ergonomic chairs from rigid waiting room style chairs.
  • Adjustable seat pan height and tilt. There is a challenge in using such controls if individuals are not aware of the best ergonomic pan height or ignorant of the importance of pan tilt angle. Ideally, popliteal height is the distance from the underside of the foot to the underside of the thigh at the knees should be higher than the seat pan height to avoid pressure on the thighs.
  • Adjustable seat slope, depth and arm rests. Although these are rarely used compared to seat height adjustments they are important in maintaining a healthy posture. These aspects are important when choosing an ergonomic living room chair where relaxation is most important. Ergonomic chairs with arm rests that change with the back rest tilt are recommended.
  • Research based design. Ergonomic chairs must be based on rigorous well designed research outcomes. One of the possible reasons why ergonomic chairs are so expensive and you can hardly find the good ergonomic chairs for under $300. In my opinion, another perceived high cost of ergonomic chairs is due to the fact that users only use a fraction of the possible adjustments. The benefits of ergonomic chairs is also too subtle and difficult to quantify in monetary terms. Most of them remain high end office chairs although use of robust usability and error identification techniques may cut the research costs. There may be a low return on investment if one purchases expensive ergonomic dining chairs for home use - an event which last for less that an 2 hours per sitting.

Comparison Between the Three Chairs.

Specification
Son's Chair
Father's Chair
Wife's Chair
Control Dicernability
60%
70%
95%
Easy to Operate
50%
60%
80%
Task Adaptability
90%
60%
50%
Individual Preferences
90%
80%
50%

Knowing What You Know Now About Ergonomic Chairs.

Which Ergonomic Chair Would You Choose?

See results

Ergonomic Kneeling Chair and it's Benefits.

The chronic challenges with adjusting ergonomic chairs using manual controls has lead to the sprouting of modern ergonomic chairs which are part of contemporary office furniture. Compared to adjustable office chairs they have only maintained the frequently used height adjustment control. l am talking about chairs such as the ergonomic Kneeling Chair, the Swopper, Balance Ball Chair and other desk chairs without wheels. While these chairs remove the pain of wrongly adjusting ergonomic chair settings it remains to be seen if they can replace traditional big and tall office chairs.

There is need for a trade off between 'appearance' and ergonomic design principles. Would ergonomic chairs for executives remain formal or can they can even use the kneeling chair in the office? Ergonomic high-back executive chairs with back rest and office chairs with back support are likely to remain popular for a while. Imagine chairing a board meeting sitting on an ergonomic ball chair? Probably people will embrace them as ergonomic task chairs and still maintain the old ergonomic office chairs for formal interactions. are still popular though.

Ergonomic Kneeling Chair.

l will probably go with the green kneeling chair.
l will probably go with the green kneeling chair. | Source

Time to add an Ergonomic Kneeling Chair to the Collection.

l will soon add the ergonomic kneeling chair to the group and see if it real works. l have read on forums people questioning if ergonomically designed kneeling chairs, are worth it? By purchasing this chair l will be able to write an informed review. Probably because it it does not have many controls, it is one of the cheap ergonomic chairs under $200. l will check if it is available at Ikea family shop here in Sweden or its time to heard to Amazon and order it online. l hope the shipping charges will be reasonable depending on the stool's weight.

Wrapping it up the Ergonomic Chair Review.

Ergonomic computer chair adjustments alone are less useful unless they are combined with adjustments to keyboard height, distance, computer screen height and inclination. With out this holistic approach to the ergonomics of work stations, musculo-sekeletal and visual discomfort complains will not be eliminated. You end up questioning if ergonomic chairs are comfortable or why people say ergonomic chairs are good.

Additionally, any prolonged sitting is detrimental to health irrespective of the chair used and must be avoided where possible. There are no 24 hour office chairs yet; you need those breaks. Frequent stretching breaks and regular chair settings adjustments are recommended. Why use ergonomic chairs if one can not configure the settings to suit one's posture or medical condition. If you are not willing to learn how ergonomic chairs work to improve your well-being then it is not worth spending money on. l am hopeful that this article will also assist those who want to learn how to design ergonomic chairs. Its time ergonomic chair designers add real value to their chairs buy providing easy to use manuals with reasons why users must make each adjustment


Ergonomic Chair Research References.

Kleeman and Prunier (1980), “Evaluation of chairs used by air traffic controllers of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration,” NATOSymposium on Anthropometry and Biomechanics: Theory and Application.

Stewart (1980), “Practical experiences in solving VDU ergonomics problems,” Ergonomic Aspects of Visual Display Terminals.

Zacharkow (1988), Sitting, Standing, Chair Design, and Exercise.

l would love to hear your experience with ergonomic chairs in the commentary box below.

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