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Office Chairs Still Contributing to Low Back Pain

Despite increased awareness of workplace ergonomics, a recent poll shows that people with desk jobs still have more back pain after a day in their office chairs.

January 30, 2006

Deerfield, Illinois: Most office workers’ backs feel worse after their work day, despite the growing emphasis on workplace ergonomics and ergonomic office chairs, according to a new survey conducted by

Fully 70% of the poll respondents said that their backs felt significantly worse (52%) or somewhat worse (18%) at the end of their workday as compared to the start of their day. The poll of 1,137 people with desk jobs shows that 15% percent felt about the same after work, and only 15% felt better after work.

“It should come as no surprise that sitting for long periods in an office chair can cause low back pain. Sitting adds large amounts of pressure to the back muscles and spinal discs (even more than standing), and often people with desk jobs don’t move around much and/or they slouch, causing even more strain on spinal structures,” says John Triano, DC, PhD, a chiropractor in Plano, Texas, and author of several articles about workplace ergonomics. “However, the poll results do suggest that ‘ergonomics’ is not yet well understood or applied in the office environment. Just having an office chair labeled as ‘ergonomic’ isn’t enough by itself to prevent low back pain.”

According to, what matters most when selecting an office chair isn’t price or if the chair is labeled ‘ergonomic’ but rather whether the chair is adjustable – including chair height, seat depth, and armrests – and whether it helps the person’s lower back arch slightly forward. When setting up an office chair, the single most important first step is actually to set the desired height of the work surface, based on the type of work to be done and the individual’s height. Then, proven guidelines can be used to adjust the office chair according to the individual’s unique physical proportions, e.g., elbows should rest at a 90-degree angle when hands are on the keyboard.

Throughout each workday, people with desk jobs should avoid slouching or leaning forward. Utilize the office chair’s lumbar back support the way it was meant to be used by ensuring your low back is aligned against the back of the office chair.

Another important point: avoid static posture while sitting. “Even if you use your office chair properly, sitting for prolonged periods will usually cause fatigue and discomfort. Stand, stretch or walk for at least a few minutes every half hour,” adds Dr. Triano.

Further information on office chairs, ergonomics, and other low back pain treatment options can be viewed in the Spine-health Ergonomics Health Center.

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