Is my office chair causing me pain?

Whilst there is no magic bullet to solving all work-related injuries for office workers, certainly having the right furniture can help mitigate some of the risk. With studies showing Australian office workers spending approximately 75% of the work day sitting, it would be reasonable to suggest that having the right set up is crucial in ensuring worker comfort. Various studies have found links between occupational sitting exposure and associated musculoskeletal disorders including back pain, neck pain and upper limb discomfort. Something as simple as changing a chair can potentially make a world of difference.

Choosing the right chair can be difficult, especially if you don’t know what to look for. Often offices will choose aesthetics over function, choose anything with ‘ergonomic’ in the title, or go for the latest piece of fad equipment. In the long run, the wrong choice will be detrimental to the employees’ health.

When looking for a suitable chair, a good starting point is to consider the guidance of the Australian Standard for Screen-based workstations (AS 3590.2-1990). The standard suggests a suitable chair should have the following:

  • Adjustability in seat height
  • A supportive back rest that is adjustable in height and angle
  • 5-star support base
  • Waterfall-style front edge to reduce pressure on the thighs
  • The seat pan and back rest should be covered in a breathable cloth material 50mm in depth

Another good thing to look for when purchasing a new chair, is to see if it has an AFRDI (Australasian Furnishing Research and Development Institute) certification. The certification ensures that the chair meets the required strength, durability and stability requirements of regular use. Nobody wants a chair that is going to break after 3 months of use.

Most of all, when looking for the right chair, it needs to be suited to the user’s body composition. Everyone is completely different, with different requirements, so a blanket approach should not be taken when fitting out an office with new chairs.

If you think your chair is the root of your pain problem, or you need some help deciding on new chairs for your office, get in touch with Absolute Balance who are specialists in Injury Prevention. If you would like some more information on how we can help you, please contact us via info@absolutebalance.com.au

Aaron McErlaine (BSc – ExHealth, BSc – ExRehab, Dip WHS, Cert IV TAE)
Senior Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) (ESSAM)

 

References

Straker, L., Coenen, P., Dunstan, D., Gilson,N., Healy, G. (2016), Sedentary Work – Evidence on an Emergent Work Health and Safety Issue – Final Report, Canberra: Safe Work Australia

AS 3590.2, Australian Standard Screen-based workstations, Part 2: Workstation furniture (1990)