Monday, September 7, 2009

Are your armrests too high?

Many of us have our chair arms set high up into our armpits. Having your arm rests set too high can lead to stiff shoulders and long-term repetitive stress injuries. They can also get in the way of typing and mousing. Fortunately, it’s literally an easy push button adjustment to correctly set arm rest height on most modern office chairs.
I recommend setting your arm rests using the following steps:
  1. Lower one armrest all of the way to the bottom.
  2. From your normal (hopefully good posture) seated position, hold your arm on that side so that your elbow is at your side and your forearm is parallel to the ground.
  3. Raise the armrest with your free hand until your adjusting hand comes in contact with your outstretched forearm.
  4. Repeat on the other side.
If done correctly, you have about a hand-width of space between your forearms and your chair arms. You want the arm rest just below your forearm, but not touching it. This will allow you to type, mouse, and perform any other tasks at your desk space without the arm rests getting in the way. Typing or mousing with your arms on the armrests may seem like a good idea, but long term it opens you up to shoulder, wrist, and elbow problems.
It may feel unnatural at first if you have become used to typing with elbows splayed out on arm rests, but if you just stick with the new, lower armrest position for a day or two it will start to feel more natural than your old, high one. You may even notice an immediate improvement in stiff shoulders.
For more information on sitting dynamics and chair setup that maximizes your health and comfort throughout the day, check out our Ergonomic Chair Buyer’s Guide.

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