How to Select the Right Office Chair

Matthew Silvaggio, MSPT

Matthew Silvaggio, MSPT

Matt Silvaggio, MSPT, CFMT / Director of Physical Therapy and Sports Performance / Elite Health Services Westport

Which office chair should I get and how do I set it up?  We get this question all the time from our physical therapy clients.  Below I am going to explain some of the key things we look for when recommending a chair as well as how to set it up and sit on it.

When purchasing a chair, one has to decide whether form or function is more important. It may look good in your room or office but if you are not comfortable in it then the pain it will contribute to will trump its good looks.  First thing to consider is the height of the person or persons using the seat.  Seat height of a chair is the height of the seat from the ground.  These can come in a wide range including 16” – 20” or 19” – 22.5 for example.  If someone is 6 feet or taller, a 20 inch seat height will be much too short if set up properly and if someone is 5 foot 3”, then a 19 inch minimum will likely be too tall and their feet may not touch fully.

Next thing to consider is the functionality of the chair.  The greater number of options on the most expensive chair is not necessary nor valuable.  Take two different chairs for example.  The first can be purchased at Staples online and it is called the Tempur-pedic TP-4000 Ergonomic Task Chair.  It’s seat height range is 19” – 22.5” (which is the good for someone who is 6 feet tall) and it includes adjustments like seat angle, back height, back angle, and arm height.   The second chair sold through National Business Furniture is a High Back Leather Chair.  This chair’s seat height range is 18” – 22” (with 18” being reasonable for a shorter individual) but its functionality only includes seat height adjustment and knee tilt and lock (which gives the entire chair the ability to tilt backward).  This chair cannot set up the way that is articulated in the attached photo.

Now let’s look at how to set up the set up and sit on the chair.  This seat height is chosen to get the hips just above their knees.  Then the seat was adjusted with a 10 degree forward tilt of the seat base so that you can hinge at your hips and get weight into your feet.   Notice how her feet are planted on the ground with one in front of the other.  In this case the far leg is bearing most of the weight from hinging forward as well as the elbows, which are nicely supported by the adjustable arm rests.  Fortunately for her, the desk height matches with her chair as well so that her wrists/forearms are supported as well.  Finally, she is sitting with a straight back, not too elevated at the breast bone nor slouched in her low back.  This is the position that, if your chair allows, is recommended to assume for two thirds of a given hour of sitting.  The other 1/3 of the hour you can flatten the seat tilt (if you want to) and allow your back to settle into the back rest.

The take home points here include recognizing that your chair selection matters in regards to the individuals that will be using it.  Finding a seated position where weight is loaded into your legs as well as forearms (to take pressure off of your back and neck respectively) is critical to prolonged time in the sitting position.  And lastly, just because you have set your chair for one situation does not mean that it has to stay that way.  Two thirds of an hour set your seat up like our picture but if someone comes in and you want to sit back in your chair, adjust it accordingly.  Please let your physical therapist at Elite Health Services know if you have any further questions.


Elite Health Services, located in Old Greenwich, (and now Westport!) CT is a world-class provider of certified functional manual physical therapy, personal fitness, golf & triathlon performance training, massage therapy and wellness related services. Our team of highly skilled and dedicated professionals take a no-excuses approach to providing exceptional care and delivering exceptional results. To learn more visit www.EliteHealthServices.

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