With so many people working from home nowadays, office chairs have become a common piece of furniture.
Whether you are working from home or spend a lot of time on the computer for other reasons, your office chair is important to your work as well as your health and comfort.
There are many office chair features, but one of the main questions is whether an office chair should have arms.
Although the answer may vary depending on your body size and work area, it is typically better for your office chair to have arms. But in general, armrests can reduce the load on your spine and force on your hips, making them an essential asset for everyone.
The decision to have arms on your office chair ultimately depends on you. Some people find it more comfortable to rest their arms on the desk where they are working.
Also, those who use the standing desks will not benefit from armrests at all. Let us look at this decision more carefully.
The History of the Armchair
Armrests are certainly not a new idea. In fact, they have been around for hundreds of years. The chair itself was invented over 5,000 years ago in Egypt in about 3,100 BC.
The armchair was invented later, in 2528 BC, when King Tutankhamen and Queen Hetepheres used an ornate chair with high backs and arms.
Interestingly, the office chair was accidentally invented by Charles Darwin. Interestingly, when working in his lab, Darwin got tired of getting up to check on his experiments, so he put his captain’s chair on rolling casters.
Just think. You have the master of the Theory of Evolution to thank for that chair you are probably sitting in now.
Why You Need Arms on Your Office Chair
But why are arms so important on an office chair? Typically, the office chair is where you spend about eight hours of your day, so you want it to be as comfortable as possible.
Since the computer became popular, people have developed new ailments like backaches and neck pain. Can armrests help these?
While the arms on your office chair may not be able to help with eye strain or headaches, they can help reduce backaches and neck pain.
They may even be able to help with carpal tunnel syndrome, which is another ailment thought to be caused by too much time at your computer.
The most common reason people want arms on their office chairs is to rest their arms while working. Actually, in a study published by the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, they found that having forearm support reduces the strain on shoulders and forearms.
Be Sure to Get the Proper Arms
You have to make sure to get the right kind of arms set at the right position on your chair, or it could make things even worse.
For example, with arms that are too low, you will have to scrunch down in your chair to use them. Also, having the arms too low can strain your wrists and hands as you have to reach to get to your keyboard.
The ideal position for sitting is to sit with your back completely straight, keeping your head and spine aligned. Your arms should be able to rest close to your body in a relaxed position.
You should not have to stretch or scrunch to reach the armrests. Your shoulders should be relaxed, and your screen should be at eye level.
Adjustable Office Chair Arms Are Best
In many situations, you can adjust your keyboard and chair to get into a comfortable position. However, if your office chair arms are too short or too far apart, you will not get the ergonomic benefit you want to have. Having the arms too far from your body means you have to use certain muscles to keep them there, causing strain eventually.
There are several things to consider when getting an office chair. If you are getting one with arms, they should be adjustable because it is rare that the chair you get will be just right for your body type. Everyone is different, and there is no way for chairs to fit perfectly to everyone. So, adjustable arms can help you get them in the perfect place for you. Here are some tips:
- Armrests that are too high will cause shoulder and neck strain.
- Having armrests too far apart means that your shoulders have to stay tensed to use them.
- If your armrests are too long, you will have to reach to get to your keyboard and mouse.
- The ideal position for your elbow is at a 90- to 100-degree angle.
- Those arms that are too low will cause you to lean or slouch, which is bad for your back.
- Your arms take up about 12% of your body’s mass.
- Your elbows should be directly under your shoulders.
The Three Types of Arms on Office Chairs
There are three common types of arms for office chairs. These include:
- Fixed arms are not adjustable in any way. These are typically found on the low-budget type of office chair.
- Looped arms are those that form a circle. They may be fixed or adjustable.
- T-shaped arms are shaped like a “T” and are typically adjustable.
Adjusting the Arms of Your Office Chair
Being able to adjust the height is almost always beneficial to your comfort. You cannot get an office chair with fixed arms and realistically expect just to sit down and be comfortable.
Adjusting the width is also essential. Having to hold your arms out even an inch for the whole day can cause extreme arm and shoulder fatigue.
Adjustable length arms on office chairs are not as common. But you may be able to adjust them yourself.
Even if you do not see anything in the instructions that say “adjustable,” you can usually adjust them by loosening the screws and moving them to the proper position for you.
What About Pivoting Arms?
Not as common as the other styles of adjustable office chair arms, the pivoting arms are great for those who have to use their phone or tablet at the desk or office. Rather than slouching or looking down, pivoting arms let you pull them inward so you can rest your arms while holding your electronic device.
The Disadvantages of Office Chair Arms
There are many advantages to having an office chair with arms, especially if they are adjustable. But there are some cases in which you may not want to have arms on your chair. Some of these may include:
- Having a short desk will make armrests a problem. If you need to get closer to your computer screen, but the armrests will not let you, an armless chair may be better for you.
- For those with limited space, a small armless office chair may work better than a big comfortable office chair with arms.
- If you are often performing tasks where armrests can get in the way, an armless chair may be better.
- If you are tall, having armrests may be too high for you no matter the adjustment, causing you to shrug your shoulders all day. Eventually, that will cause neck and shoulder pain.
- The price of an armless office chair is another benefit. You can get an inexpensive office chair without arms for less than $20 at a department store.
One Final Note
When it comes down to it, though, it is best to get an office chair with arms anyway. If you have any of the above situations besides cost, getting an office chair with flip-up arms will work. Then you at least have the option to use the arms if you need to.
Hamid Tahir is a Mechatronics Engineer and founder of WFH Overload. He is currently working from home and is dedicated to the continuous improvement of his home office setup. Hamid has extensive experience setting up workspaces and dealing with the related tech. He hopes to share his knowledge to help you create the most productive and comfortable work from home setup. Read More