Beam me out of here!
April 16, 2012 10:39 AM   Subscribe

ErgonomicsFilter: Why do i want to lean back in my office chair so much? Is there a way to get my chair to stay tilted back so i'm not pushing with feet all day? plus bonus question!

I have never found working at desks to be comfortable. I would rather sit on the couch or at a bar. I can sit at either for hours and not have the kind of pain I do sitting a stupid office cubicle desk for an hour.

For some reason when I sit at a cube desk, I just want to lean back in the chair, like i'm on the Enterprise bridge. But I just keep pushing with my feet and back all day and that doesn't help the pain I keep getting.

I can do all the neck stretches and exercise I want all day but it just doesn't alleviate any of this. I've got the monitor where it should be. I can't have a keyboard tray because that's just not an option (my company rents space and we can't modify the furniture). There's no HR...this is a startup. I bought my own expensive chair to replace the broken task chair i did have.

I almost feel sick from the tension in my neck and shoulders. I had to go home Friday and just lie on the floor. I got a great massage Saturday and I can feel all the tension just coming right back. I don't understand what I'm doing wrong in terms of desk ergonomics. This has been every job with a cube desk.

So, is there a way to modify my chair to make it stay tilted back?
And why on earth do I want to lean back so much?

(and bonus...why does it make me feel queasy? that's just weird.)
posted by sio42 to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I couldn't figure out how to get a keyboard tray either, so instead I raised up my chair and monitor so the desk surface is the right height for a keyboard tray-- and I used a thinnish-box for under my feet so the "floor" is higher up and thus everything is the right arrangement.

That and taking breaks helped tremendously.
posted by nat at 11:17 AM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Swivel chairs (castors or no castors) annoy the hell out of me, and I always find myself in a similar state of tension just trying to sit still in one. I use good old-fashioned chairs with legs! You can lean in them any which way you please. Bliss.
posted by lokta at 11:23 AM on April 16, 2012

i had a regular chair for a bit and that didn't help anything. all the ones here are too short and then i end up leaning back anyways which just exacerbates the whole tension on the neck thing. i don't have a problem staying still in my chair.
posted by sio42 at 11:36 AM on April 16, 2012

I do what nat does for my desk at home, which is not keyboard-tray-able. At work, when I'm getting fidgety and uncomfortable, even though my desk is ergonomically perfect, I sit on an exercise ball. It works as a change of pace.

Can you or the company afford to hire an ergonomist? In my experience, their solutions are often things like "a phone book under this, a rolled up face cloth under that". Modifying desks, etc. aren't always necessary. They're very McGuyver-y.

As for the queasiness, if your neck is getting cricked slightly lopsidedly--which if you use a mouse a lot is likely--then your head won't be perfectly horizontal. It's a form of vertigo because the slight tilt messes with your inner ear and affects your proprioception. I can't remember all the details of how the mechanics work, but it's quite common with neck pain.

If you are having severe neck pain with nausea, though, you should consider getting checked out because that could be something more serious than just a bad office set up.
posted by looli at 11:38 AM on April 16, 2012

the nausea thing only happens at work, only when i'm sitting at this stupid desk.

we're not paying for ergonomist, unfortunately. altho i guess if i have to, i'll save up and hire one. (altho if i start crying and/or lying on the floor at the work to ease my neck pain, maybe they'll pony up. or let me work from home. ha.)

i see what you mean about the slight vertigo. that would make sense since i only use a mouse when i'm at the office, not when i'm at home or at the bar...there i use the trackpad.
posted by sio42 at 11:44 AM on April 16, 2012

The 90 degree position that chairs try to enforce on our bodies is naturally uncomfortable. A 135 degree angle is much more comfortable, which is why lounge chairs feel so good, but it's a little tricky to achieve that angle while keeping your upper body vertical.

If leaning back isn't working for you (and no surprise it isn't) another way to achieve the same angle is to lower your thighs. Most decent ergonomic chairs let you decline the seat angle, so that's probably a good first step. You basically just want your knees below your thighs.

Kneeling chairs are designed to give you that angle, although they may cause other problems. Some people sit on exercise balls. A stool or chair that lets you "perch" can also help.

Galen Cranz goes into a ton of detail about this issue in her book The Chair: Rethinking Culture, Body, and Design. It is focused more on the history of the chair and sitting than on practical ergonomic advice, although she covers that too.
posted by callmejay at 11:45 AM on April 16, 2012

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