It is vital to focus on the health of your spine if you work a desk job that involves hours of sitting in a day. Adequately supporting your spine and its surrounding tissues while you sit, can take a great deal of load off your neck, back, and other joints.

With recent advances in design and technology, it is easy to make new adjustments to your work station. While you’re seated, make sure you are doing all you can to ensure the health of your spine by following these 9 tips:

1. Place your upper arms parallel to your spine

When you sit at your desk, your upper arms must be comfortably placed parallel to your spine and your forearms and hands rested on the work surface. At this point, your elbows should be bent at a 90° angle. If they are not, adjust your office chair higher or lower, as necessary.

Placing your arms unusually high or low can place stresses on your shoulder joints and the upper back, causing pain.

See Posture to Straighten Your Back

2. Raise your chair to support your sit-to-stand movement

If your seat is positioned too low, you will end up bending your upper body more while attempting to get up, which in turn causes increased stress on your hips, knees, and ankle joints. 1 Nakamura K, Nagasawa Y, Sawaki S, Yokokawa Y, Ohira M. Effect of Different Seat Heights during an Incremental Sit-To-Stand Exercise Test on Peak Oxygen Uptake in Young, Healthy Women. J Sports Sci Med. 2016;15(3):410–416. Published 2016 Aug 5. Available from: With prolonged use, a lower-level seat will cause recurrent stresses and possible pain in these joints.

Adequate seat height is a level at which you can easily place both feet on the ground and bend your knees and hips at a 90° angle.


3. Boost your feet for support

Sometimes, your chair or desk may be too high without an adjustable option. In such cases, consider using a footstool to prop and rest your feet as opposed to leaving them hanging all day long.

Using a footstool will reduce pressure on your legs and feet, which may decrease foot pain at the end of the day.

4. Adjust your work surface to match your height

If you are tall and have to constantly bend forward to type on your keyboard or read printed material, consider raising the height of your work station or desk.

Raising your desk will then allow you to raise your chair to a more suitable height, which will reduce strain on your back.

See 5 Unusual Office Chair Solutions to Help Your Back

5. Measure the depth of your seat

The depth of your seat may not be something you think about, but having the correct seat depth can make a difference in your back pain. Seat depth refers to the length between the back edge and the front edge of your seat.

To check for proper seat depth, first, sit all the way back in your chair. Then, check the room between the front edge of your chair and your calves by making a fist and bringing it to the edge of the chair and pushing it on the calf. If you can fit your full fist between the front edge of the chair and your calf, you likely have enough space for blood circulation. If not, your chair is likely too deep.

Moving the chair’s backrest forward, inserting a cushion, pillow, or rolled-up towel to support your lower back, or changing your office chair are some possible solutions to this problem.

6. Adjust your chair’s swivel and back support

Your work chair should provide back support by angling up to or just past 90°. Some chairs may have excessive swivel and recline options, which can be locked to prevent the chair from tipping back.

Some chairs also offer lower back support with an adjustable band that can be moved up or down to fit in the small of your back for extra support.

See Types of Lumbar Support and Ergonomic Office Chairs

7. Re-evaluate your sitting posture

Make a conscious effort to press your bottom against the back of the chair, and avoid slumping or slouching, which can place extra stress on your lumbar discs and other structures of the lower back. Maintaining an ergonomically supported posture is critical to good spine health.

To ensure that your posture is well supported while you sit, aim to take a break and move around or walk a short distance every 30 minutes to an hour.

See Identifying Incorrect Posture

8. Watch the height of your screen

Once your chair has been adjusted to the height of the table, your legs have gotten comfortable and your back is supported, close your eyes and take a deep breath.

Casually face forward with your eyes closed, and then open your eyes, which should be aimed at the center of your computer screen. Adjust the screen so it is level with your gaze. If you need to raise your laptop, consider using a stack of books or a small box, such as a shoebox.


9. Adjust your armrest to support your shoulders

Armrests play an important role in reducing neck and shoulder strain and diminishing the likelihood of slouching forward in your chair.

Adjust your chair’s armrest to the point where your arms are slightly lifted at the shoulders. Doing so will allow the armrest to support just the elbow and take the weight off the shoulders.

See Office Chair: How to Reduce Back Pain?

Make these ergonomic adjustments today to synchronize your work station, office chair, and your posture to help relieve unwanted stresses on your spine and other joints. If you find yourself in the market to buy a new chair, consider the above tips and carefully study the seat’s height, width, depth, armrests, backrest, lumbar support, and swivel.

Learn more:

Choosing the Right Ergonomic Office Chair

Ten Tips for Improving Posture and Ergonomics

  • 1 Nakamura K, Nagasawa Y, Sawaki S, Yokokawa Y, Ohira M. Effect of Different Seat Heights during an Incremental Sit-To-Stand Exercise Test on Peak Oxygen Uptake in Young, Healthy Women. J Sports Sci Med. 2016;15(3):410–416. Published 2016 Aug 5. Available from:

Darren Riccio is a licensed physical therapist who has been working in the fields of physical therapy and rehabilitation and fitness since 1995. He is also certified in Maitland orthopedic manual therapy techniques, Olympic weight lifting, sports performance coaching, as a running coach, and fitness training.