Chris Pirillo has an $800 office chair.  Yes, I said $800.  At one time I thought that was just extravagance, I mean come on, $800 for a chair is just ridiculous right?  Recently I developed some rather severe back pain and went to the doctor.  He sent me to the hospital, put me in that tiny tunnel of an MRI machine and the results were not good.  I have a slipped disk at T-5/S1 (Lower back) and Degenerative Disk Desiese at T-12 (Mid Back).

How did that happen though?  I’ve not injured myself that I remember.  After speaking with the doctor, he suggested that it could have been my posture.  I work at a computer for work and I spend a great deal of time at home in a computer chair as well.  While the chair at work is a good one, I tend to sit low and slouched.  This aparently has caused, or at least contributed greatly to my injury.  The pressure I excerted on my spine from improper sitting caused the disk to rupture, which causes pressure on my nerve, which causes my pain.

I have a new respect for posture and sitting correctly and now make a consious effort to sit straight with my feet flat on the floor.  That $800 chair doesn’t seem so rediculous to me anymore.  While I can’t afford a chair that expensive, I did go out and buy a high back chair with lumbar support and adjustments for $150.

So, what do you need to look for in a chair?  I did a little research and came up with the following.  I suggest you take this to heart and make an effort now to sit correctly.  After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure right?  If you’ve never experienced pain from pressure on your nerves, trust me, you don’t want to. I hope the below suggestions help others prevent the pain I am experiencing.

Seat height. Office chair seat height should be easily adjustable. A pneumatic adjustment lever is the easiest way to do this. A seat height that ranges from about 16 to 21 inches off the floor should work for most people. This allows the user to have his or her feet flat on the floor, with thighs horizontal and arms even with the height of the desk.

Seat width and depth. The seat should have enough width and depth to support any user comfortably. Usually 17-20 inches wide is the standard. The depth (from front to back of the seat) needs to be enough so that the user can sit with his or her back against the backrest of the chair while leaving approximately 2 to 4 inches between the back of the knees and the seat of the chair. The forward or backward tilt of the seat should be adjustable.

Lumbar support. Lower back support in a chair is very important. The lumbar spine has an inward curve, and sitting for long periods without support for this curve tends to lead to slouching (which flattens the natural curve) and strains the structures in the lower spine. A chair should have a lumbar adjustment (both height and depth) so each user can get the proper fit to support the inward curve of the lower back.

Backrest. The backrest of a chair should be 12 to 19 inches wide. If the backrest is separate from the seat, it should be adjustable in height and angle. It should be able to support the natural curve of the spine, again with special attention paid to proper support of the lumbar region. If the chair has the seat and backrest together as one piece, the backrest should be adjustable in forward and back angles, with a locking mechanism to secure it from going too far backward once the user has determined the appropriate angle.

Seat material. The material on the chair seat and back should have enough padding to be comfortable to sit on for extended periods of time. Having a cloth fabric that breathes is preferable to a harder surface.

Armrests. Chair armrests should be adjustable. They should allow the user’s arms to rest comfortably and shoulders to be relaxed. The elbows and lower arms should rest lightly, and the forearm should not be on the armrest while typing.

Swivel. Any conventional style or ergonomic chair should easily rotate so the user can reach different areas of his or her desk without straining.