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Sitting for long periods of time at a desk can be uncomfortable and detrimental to one's health, so choosing supportive office chairs is one step in avoiding neck, back, hip, and leg pain. The best way to choose the most supportive office chairs starts with analyzing one's work station: the chair should work in conjunction with the person's desk, and if the person uses a computer, the chair should be adjusted to accommodate optimal viewing of the screen and access to the keyboard while still maintaining a neutral body position.
Many ergonomic chairs feature lumbar spine support; this means the lower back is supported and prevented from slouching backward. A good portion of low back pain is the result of poor or inadequate support while sitting, so the most supportive office chairs will feature lumbar spine support. This support may even be adjustable to accommodate different body types. The seat back should feature a design that not only supports the lower back, but also positions the upper back so it is in a neutral position; this means no muscles surrounding or supporting the spine will be straining while the person is sitting.
Other features of the most supportive office chairs include adjustable arm rests, seat height, and neck support. Adjustability is important because everyone's body is different. The adjustments allow each person to find a neutral position, thereby alleviating unnecessary and potentially damaging strain on the muscles of the back and neck. Head or neck rests keep the neck in neutral position as well, which can reduce the likelihood of stiff necks and headaches. Some supportive office chairs are made of a mesh material to enhance breathability; this is important for comfort, of course, but more importantly, it may prevent a user from shifting around regularly in the chair due to sweat or discomfort, thereby placing that person in a straining position.
The supportive office chairs you choose will do no good if they are not used in conjunction with other measures that prevent strain on the body. The computer keyboard, for example, will need to be positioned so the arms are not reaching or pressing into the body to type naturally. Computer screens will need to be positioned so the head is not looking up or down, but instead straight ahead in a neutral position. The chair can certainly support the body once it is in proper position, but if one's desk is set up to promote improper positioning and strain, the chair will do little good.
If you can afford it, buy your own office chair. Don't depend on the company to get one that will be comfortable for you. Like Pippinwhite said, go to the office furniture store and try out chairs.
I would make sure I had a firm budget in mind, though. Chairs can be a lot more expensive than you realize! The "executive" models are nice, but unless you can find something like a display model that's on sale, you will pay for the privilege of the word "executive."
Chairs can surprise you, so try out a variety of models before you make a final decision.
The best way to choose a supportive office chair is to go to an office supply store and start sitting in chairs! That's the best way to find one that fits your particular frame.
A one-size-fits all approach doesn't really work. Several years ago, our boss decided we needed new chairs and "picked" one for us all (mostly based on cost). I hated it and kept my old chair, which irked my boss, but there wasn't much he could do about it. The new chair didn't support my back, so it was very uncomfortable. Now, those chairs are falling apart and the one I've had for 15 years is still going strong!
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