The ability to adjust your chair in various ways allows you to customize your seating experience. Every body is different. Some bodies are tall; some are short. Some are well-padded; others are bony. Some bodies have short legs and tall torsos; some have short torsos and long legs. Some bodies have previous injuries which still cause pain.
Just as every body is different, every job is different. Some people need to move around a lot while they are working from their office chair; others remain mostly stationary throughout their day. Many people switch between different types of tasks throughout their day. They may spend an hour typing, a half of an hour speaking on the phone, an hour rolling back and forth throughout their space to file away paperwork. The ability to adjust your office chair into different positions helps you accommodate the dimensions of your body and alter your chair according to your current work task.
The Range of Adjustments
Most of us know that office chairs are usually adjustable in seat height. However, many people are unaware of the breadth of adjustments available. I believe it is important to learn about these adjustments before purchasing an office chair so that you can select one which is customizable to your needs. Did you know that some office chairs allow you to adjust their seats, arm rests, back rest, and lumbar support? On some chairs you can even adjust each of these parts in more than one way.
Seats can be adjusted in height, allowing you to move them up or down to match the height of your desk. They can also be adjusted in tilt. By adjusting the tilt of a chair’s seat, you can slope yourself forward or backward to reduce pressure on certain parts of your body. Sloping your chair slightly forward reduces pressure on the back of your legs, thereby increasing blood flow and reducing the likelihood of pinching nerves. Sloping your chair forward also promotes better posture by properly aligning your spine. Some chairs even allow you to slide the seat forward or backward to adjust its depth according to the length of your upper legs.
Adjustable Arm Rests
If you are planning to purchase a chair with arm rests, you may want to be sure that those arm rests are adjustable. Stationary arm rests pose multiple problems. First, they can prevent you from pulling your chair beneath your desk. If you are not able to pull your chair beneath your desk, you will likely find yourself hunching over your work and placing strain on your neck, shoulders and back. For this reason, it is best to find a chair which features arm rests adjustable in depth (by sliding forward and backward), height (sliding up and down), or capable of folding up beside the back rest.
Stationary arm rests also limit the width of the chair’s seat. If you have a smaller-than-average body frame, a larger-than-average body frame, or intend to allow many different people to use the chair you are purchasing, it may be a good idea to purchase one with arm rests which can be adjusted from side to side.
People with smaller-than-average frame sizes need a narrow space between their arm rests. Otherwise, these people may have to stretch their elbows outward to reach the arm rests, or may end up leaning to one side or another. Constantly stretching outward can lead to shoulder problems. Leaning for extended periods of time can cause unnatural curving in your spine and compress spinal discs. People with large body frames will likely feel squished between stationary arm rests constructed at distances suitable for average-sized people. As you adjust the arm rests from side to side you can either narrow or widen the amount of space between them, allowing the chair to accommodate people of different frame sizes and reduce the risk of injury or discomfort.
Adjustable Back Rests
Aside from seat height, I find this feature to be the most important way to customize your office chair. Many chairs feature built-in lumbar support. It is rare to find lumbar support which can be adjusted independent of the back rest. We will talk about those types of chairs in a moment. For now, let’s focus on the kinds of chairs which feature non-adjustable built-in lumbar support. In these chairs, the only way to adjust the lumbar support is usually to adjust the height of the back rest. By moving the back rest upward or downward, you can change the location of the lumbar support to match the curves of your own back.
I also like when back rests can be reclined. It is important to take breaks throughout your day. If you are looking into purchasing a high-back chair, the best way to take advantage of your chair’s head rest is to recline and relax. This can reduce tension in your neck muscles.
Adjustable Lumbar Support
Adjustable lumbar support is a very rare feature in office chairs and often comes with a hefty price tag. That being said, it can be extremely important for people with back problems. Fully adjustable lumbar supports can be moved upward or downward to match the location of the curve in your back.
Some lumbar supports can also be adjusted in depth. Lumbar supports which are too shallow for your back may as well not exist, as they are unlikely to offer you any support whatsoever. Lumbar supports which are too deep will push your spine out of alignment and lead to more pain.
Some lumbar supports can even be adjusted in terms of the amount of pressure being placed on either side of your spine. This adjustment can be beneficial for people with severe back problems, such as scoliosis.
The Price of Adjustments
As you can probably guess, more adjustable features usually equal higher prices. Sometimes, you will find a highly-adjustable chair at a low price, but it pays to be careful. In an effort to corner a market it is not uncommon for companies to add extra features to their products without raising the price. Unfortunately, the cost of extra features has to come from somewhere. If you, the consumer, are not paying for those additional features, many manufacturers resort to cutting corners and using inferior materials to create these products at low prices.
Several highly-adjustable, low-priced chairs have been reviewed on this website. Some of them are truly bargain finds; they are quality chairs with an impressive amount of adjustable features and are available for good prices. Some of them are not worth your money; they feature an impressive amount of adjustable features but have been constructed of poor materials and will not last very long.
Adjustable features also seem to work according to some sort of price hierarchy. It is very easy to find a chair with a seat adjustable in height for a low price. It is difficult (if not impossible) to find a chair with adjustable lumbar support for a low price. In fact, you can usually only find adjustable lumbar support in high-priced chairs. Interestingly, it is also easy to find a chair whose sole adjustable feature is its seat, but incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to find a chair whose sole adjustable features is its lumbar support.