Are Armrests Good For Ergonomics? Includes Facts and Studies

Imagine you are shopping for a high-quality ergonomics office chair. While shopping, I am sure you have come across this never-ending debate about office chairs armrests and ergonomics? 

Often, the effect of armrests on productivity is the topic of discussion in the ergonomics world. Certain manufacturers claim that adjustable armrests yield several benefits, while others claim that armrests usually interfere with the user’s ability to reach the desk. 

Now, some people might be new to the concept of ergonomics. For those people to explain briefly, ergonomics is a mechanism for crafting or arranging workspaces, workspace products, and systems or the study of people in their work environment. The ergonomics design is such that they are as comfortable and productive as possible for the people using it.

One of the essentials in workspaces is a good-quality office chair on which the employees are comfortable and increase their productivity. An ergonomic office chair offers a range of features that improve your posture and provide the correct level of support.

We all know what to look for while buying an ergonomic chairadjustability, seat height, width, depth, lumbar support, and backrest. But, the question then comes up is –are armrests good for ergonomics? Let us, in this article, explore this question in detail, but before let us get some basics cleared. 

What Are Office Chair Armrests?

Office chair armrests provide a place to rest your forearms by providing padded or upholstered arms on the side of the chair. A wrist rest or armrest relieves pressure on your wrists and shoulders when using a computer. 

Besides providing a place to rest your forearm, armrests also give your arm a breather. Plus, they do not let your shoulders and neck strain too much during long working hours. There are many types of office chairs. Some office chairs do not have armrests, while some have static armrests or adjustable armrests.

Among the most common armrests are the following:

T-Shaped Armrests -As the name suggests, this type of armrest comes like the letter T, which attaches to the chair mechanism. T-shaped armrests often have the feature of adjustable height. 

Looped Armrests -The armrests of this type form an entire circle, as the name implies, and can be either fixed or adjustable. Looped armrests may be available on some options that offer reclining features.

Fixed armrests -Fixed armrest restricts the adjustability and flexibility of the office chairs. We get to see the fixed armrests on budget and executive office chairs. 

Now that you know about office chair armrests, you might wonder what it means to have armrests on your office chairs. 

Why Do Most Office Chairs Come With Armrests?

The armrests on chairs were simple accessories to support workers before personal computers were introduced into offices in the 1980s. Office furniture continues to evolve as time passes. As a result, office chair designs now support long periods of sitting.

The nature of desk work and the side effects on the body of prolonged sitting led to the development of ergonomic research in the 1990s. As a result, there were now adjustable office chair armrests, which offer extra support to the upper abdominal body and forearms of people working for long durations.

Office Chair Armrests Position

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Also, when it comes to the correct position of the armrest, they should attach at the natural elbow position of a person. For instance, if you are sitting in front of your desktop or laptop, the perfect armrest position will create a 90-degree angle of your elbows. The 90-degree angle of the elbow protects people from overexerting their wrists, necessarily during typing

Interesting Fact

Scientific American says, based on research, that your arm span to height ratio comes out to be around 1:1

Since we have covered the background of ergonomic chairs armrest, let us dive into the primary question of this article. 

Are Armrests Good For Ergonomics?

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First of all, understand that if armrests on ergonomics office chairs encourage a neutral, correct sitting posture for the body, then armrests are good for ergonomics. 

What conditions can make armrests unsuitable for ergonomics?

When the chair armrest restricts our hand movements. For instance, when we face difficulty in reaching the desk comfortably. It is only then that armrests become ergonomically unsuitable.

In the last 25 years, recent research validates the use and significance of using armrests in a computerized workspace. According to existing research, armrests are valuable, and in clinical ergonomics, they play a critical role in preventing musculoskeletal disorders in the upper extremities. 

Remember -Armrests are only beneficial if they fit!

However, choosing the best and right office chair based on your body type and place of work will solve all your body problems. 

Let us further understand the significance of how armrests are good for ergonomic office chairs. 

facts and studies

The following points are gathered from facts and studies which depict the necessity of chair armrests in ergonomics.

  • Approximately 12% of the total body mass includes our arms and hands. And holding up that much weight for many hours independently without any support is tiring and not advisable. Therefore, office chairs having armrests reduce pressure on the neck and shoulders. 
  • The studies state that armrests with the correct configuration can reduce the force acting on the spine by about 10%. Furthermore, it also releases the force acting on the hips by about 50% while sitting. 
  • According to the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, forearm support relaxes the upper trapezius and deltoid muscles, which relieves pain in the neck and shoulders.
  • Humanics ErgoSystems state that the chair armrests noticeably delay the onset of lethargy. Eight inches of arm extension causes fatigue in ten minutes, but with armrest support, the time is significantly extended.

Apart from these, the most crucial factor to consider while maximizing the usage of armrests is adjustability. Because every human being is different, a standard chair cannot reasonably accommodate each user equally. In general, the more adjustable the armrests, the better the chance of promoting correct ergonomics.

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Important to Note:

Armrests should fit in such a way that they provide the stated benefits to the person sitting on that chair.  The key to ergonomic armrests is their ability to be adjusted since every user is different.

Adjustable armrests, such as height, width, and length, as well as pivots, are more likely to fit your body type and posture. Let us quickly go through all these adjustable aspects of office chair armrests to understand the working and importance of armrests.

What Should You Look For in an Office Chair Armrest?

The following will help you while you plan to buy an office chair and know what should you look for in an office chair armrest. 

Adjustable Height 

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For armrests, the best height range should be between those that are level with your desk and those that fit under it. The ideal height allows you to reach your desk easily and sit comfortably. When the armrests are too high or too low, they can tense your shoulders, resulting in unnecessary slouching.

Adjustable Width

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Besides height, width is also an essential factor in armrests. In fact, everyone has a different shoulder width, which makes it important to have armrests that can be moved toward or away from the upper body, especially if the chair is to be used by several people. The optimal sitting position is to have your elbows under your shoulder muscles. Select a chair that provides neck support.

Tip -Look out for armrests that are adjustable to four inches in width, which, according to research, suits 90% of people.

Adjustable length 

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Another thing you can look for in an office chair armrest is adjustable lengths since some ergonomics chairs do come with this feature. They work by sliding back and forth to improve and create a comfortable forearm position. The chair should be the right length, but not too short or too long, so you do not sit too close to the desk.

Pivoting armrests

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Imagine looking at your chair from the bird’s view. You will observe that the chair having pivoting armrests can shape like the letter V. Ergonomics chairs having pivoting armrests are useful for people who need to place their wrists close to one another while working and without the desk support. 

It can also prevent slouching. Therefore, this type of armrest is ideal for people constantly working on their phones and tablets. 

Flip-up armrests

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Not least of all are flip-up armrests. They stand different from the pivoting since they can be ‘flipped-up’ when no longer in use. This type comes in handy for people who do not prefer armrests every time they work or sit on their office chairs. 

In addition, flip-up armrests will also be appropriate for small workspaces or low desk spaces for armrests to fit. 

Unfortunately, just a few chairs with flip-up armrests enable any further modification beyond flipping upwards. It might be a disadvantage in terms of ergonomics. Take your time thinking about this decision. Depending on your workspace and body type, ensure the armrests are the right height and width.

What does BIFMA as to say about armrests?

According to the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer Association (or BIFMA) 2013 Ergonomics Guideline for Furniture Used in Office Work Spaces Designed for Computer Use book: 

“Armrests can provide support to the muscles in the neck and shoulders, and they can also assist in standing or seated. In the case of armrests with height and width adjustment, the range should cover the 5th percentile of females to the 95th percentile of males.”

Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer Association (BIFMA)

Therefore, armrests can be said to be ergonomically beneficial. In fact, they help enhance ergonomics, provided they do not hamper the natural body posture of the person sitting. You have the option of adjusting or removing armrests according to your requirement.

Takeaway

The bottom line is that armrests improve ergonomics and hence, are good for office chair ergonomics. An office chair with armrests is a way to alleviate your neck, arms, and shoulder pain. Armrests provide support and reduce pain in your upper body and relax it. 

When your upper body relaxes, it automatically increases productivity, and body posture, and prevents injuries. If you sit on your chair for too long, always choose a chair having armrests, it will give your arms support and in turn, make your workday productive and pleasant for working. 

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