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What should I look for when buying a chair?

How high should my chair be?

Many people think they can only be comfortable in a low chair, but this isn’t always true. A high chair can be just as comfortable – and probably more so if you suffer from back pain. A higher chair makes getting up much easier, as you’re almost half-way up already.

Choose the highest chair you can that allows you to place your bare feet flat on the floor while sitting in it. This will stop your legs from dangling uncomfortably and causing pins and needles.

If you do find a chair you like but it’s the wrong height, you may be able to have it altered. Ask the shop assistant about this.

Are armrests important?

Painful joints can make it difficult to use the armrests on a chair. However, using the armrests can be as effective in helping you get up as having a higher chair. Look for:

  • a good handgrip – armrests are easier to grip if they’re made of wood and stick out a few inches, as this will allow you to wrap your fingers around the end
  • padding for comfort and warmth
  • the right height – if you have to hunch your shoulders when you rest your arms on the armrests, they're too high, but if your elbows don’t reach then they’re too low.
  • the right length – if the armrests stick out too far beyond the front legs it can sometimes tip the chair up when you put your weight on it.

Getting up from a chair

The way you get up out of a chair makes a big difference. It’s easier if you tuck your feet back underneath you than if you place them out in front. This is because you can bring your weight over your feet more quickly. If you choose a chair that allows you to bring your feet back to get a better position you’ll be surprised how much easier it is to get up. When you’re looking for a new chair, check that it has space at the front beneath the seat.

Special chairs to help you stand up

Some people have great difficulty rising from even the perfect easy chair. Anyone who experiences this may find motorised chairs or spring-assisted seats useful:

  • Motorised chairs use an electric mechanism to lift the seat and bring you to a standing position. Make sure the chair still follows the other guidelines in this section and also complies with the British Standards Electrical Safety Standards.
  • Spring-assisted seats can be useful but often prove to be uncomfortable. They have to be adjusted to your weight, which is fine if you're the only person to use the chair. Be careful if other people will also use it because it may cause someone to get seriously hurt if they happen to be much lighter than you.

Assisted chairs


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