Health and Wellness, Injuries and Illness

What to Do if Your Chair Hurts Your Back

It’s one of the most common ergonomic injuries—back pain. A lot of the blame is falling on how chair design has evolved over the years. Even if you can’t do anything about the chair you sit in at work, here are a few tips and tricks for minimizing the risk of discomfort and possible injury.

Back pain ergonomics

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Early in the history of the chair, chairs were made exclusively of wood and tended to be very firm, flat, and better at promoting proper posture. However, as the chair evolved and available materials and technology became more diverse, the furniture became bigger, softer—and much worse for our spines. Slouching is almost inevitable in modern chairs, and as Jean Couch (who we can’t help but notice has the perfect name for an expert on proper sitting) points out, “Now we need to use props and techniques to sit in chairs in a way that’s good for our backs.”

Here are three tips for increasing your comfort (and straightening your spine) while sitting.

  1. Sit on the edge of the chair. The most straightforward approach, sitting on the edge of a chair (especially one with a hard frame) rather than in the center of the cushion can prevent your spine from taking on the C shape so common in slouching.
  2. Build a perch on the chair. There are a variety of items that can be improvised into a wedge-shaped perch that can help angle the pelvis forward and promote proper posture. A folded or rolled up a jacket, blanket, or towel; a shoe; or a firm pillow will all do the trick.
  3. Build out the back of the chair. This technique is especially useful when driving your car, where sitting on the edge or building a perch on the seat would be unsafe. The same item that you use for a perch can be repurposed as a backrest, but be sure that your upper body is not pushed entirely away from the back of the seat or the headrest, which may cause whiplash in the event of an accident.

Learn more in this article, which includes additional details and some video demonstrations of the techniques described above.