I often feel like Goldilocks when I sit down. I so rarely find a comfortable chair! The seat of this one is too deep and sinks too far back where the chair back meets the seat. That one’s too high and has no support for my back. And that other one’s too low and the headrest forces my head forward.
Where’s my ‘just right’ chair?
When I gave up my dance life and chose a sit-and-write life, I tried any number of chairs to use at my laptop. I’d get one thing right (for example, position of the keyboard) and everything else would be wrong (my feet didn’t touch the floor; I had to look down at the screen).
“Get a desk chair,” my husband said.
Nah! They were too expensive and so very ugly.
But I needed to find something I could sit on that would be at least not too uncomfortable for fairly long stretches of time.
Exercise balls? No. Kneeling stool? Nope. Australian saddle seat? My dentist swore by it. Maybe I would have too, if I were pulling teeth.
Eventually I chose a lovely wooden chair that had belonged to my husband’s mother. I had make adjustments – blocks and footstools, a variety of not-quite-right cushions, rolled up towels and volumes of our 1946 Encyclopedia Britannica, a magic keyboard and mouse, and an M-Rain Stand.
On days when I remembered, I’d alternate sitting to work with standing.
But neck pain was getting the better of me – again. So I booked an ergonomic consultation with a physiotherapist. I described the way I started work (straight, everything in alignment, head over shoulders) and the way I’d finish up (hunched over with chin inches from the screen)
I thought she’d blast me out for the way I was set up. She didn’t. She calmly worked through a list of factors:
Were my eyes 18″ to 24″ from the screen? No, I was too far away.
Were my wrists flat when keyboarding? Not too bad. I use an Apple keyboard and had slipped a little address book under the front to flatten out the slope so my wrists wouldn’t crick down when keyboarding.
The back of the chair: because it is straight, she recommended a lumbar roll to keep me in good alignment and stop my chin inching forward to the screen.
One thing I hadn’t thought of – rollers on the chair legs. At the moment every time I move or get up or sit down I have to lift and shuffle the chair up to and away from the desk. That creates a lot of pull on my neck. Hm, could I put casters on the legs of my wooden chair?
Another thing – arm rests.
“Oh I hate arm rests,” I told her. “They’re always in the way.”
She told me I should be using them when not typing and that they should be at a height where, when my forearms were resting on them, they could take the full weight of my arms.
She explained that this “passive rest” was important to help release muscles in the shoulders and neck.
The upshot was that I got a typing chair as an early birthday present. What a treat when I walked into the store and found out it was chair sale weekend!
Here was the payoff from my ergonomic consultation – I knew what to look for: a full back (not just at sacrum but shoulder height) that was adjustable, adjustable arm rests, a seat that pivoted and was height adjustable…and – importantly – the right depth so I could sit right back without having my legs stick out like a doll’s! This last requirement instantly ruled out at least 75% of the chairs.
So now I have a proper computer chair. What a difference! Why didn’t I get one years ago?
For one thing, the soft seat! It reminded me of the first time I sat on a heated toilet seat in Japan. First the surprise, and then the deliciousness! I hadn’t realized how very hard that wooden chair had been for hours of sitting – even with a cushion!
Then the arm rests. I actually noticed the difference when walking after sitting for the morning. I was no longer ‘holding’ my shoulders; they were loose and much more relaxed.
The rollers? Bliss. No effort required. Just swing round, push off with one foot…
And what about the lumbar roll? More bliss. A nice detail is that it has a strap that goes over the back of the chair to hold it in place. No more slipping towels. Now I don’t go anywhere without it, a bit like my daughter and her blankie when she was small.
How about ‘ugly’? Actually not too bad at all. Mainly because it’s not one of those huge imposing chairs designed to dominate a room.
The only snag: despite it being chair sale weekend, this particular chair wasn’t on sale!
Hopefully, this will be the last you’ll hear of my neck pain!
Want to do your own Computer Workstation Ergonomic Evaluation?