Armrest Height - Key to Comfortable Neck and Shoulders at the Office

The Right Setting Can Help You Avoid Neck Pain

Office chair with arm rests.
Office chair with arm rests. Peter Anderson/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

A comfortable office chair has arm rests you can adjust to the height that helps you avoid tension in your shoulders, neck or arms. When the arm rests on your office chair are properly adjusted, your arms will be close to your side, your shoulders will likely relax more, and each of your forearms will be supported equally.

All well and good, you say. But there are so many gizmos on that chair! How do I know which one is for arm rest adjusting?

It's challenging, for sure.  Not only that, but different manufacturers put different types (shapes) of arm rest adjustment controls on their chairs.  A chair could have the button control type, or a dial, a knob or it may not have the option for adjustment at all.  This short article is designed to help you navigate through all the possibilities and get your arms and shoulders in a relaxed working position.

Let's take them one at a time.

Button Control Arm Rests

To raise or lower arm rests with a button- or trigger-type mechanism, push the button on the side of the chair and then pull the arm rests either up or down, according to your preference. (Just remember to put them at a height that doesn't cause your shoulder to ride up by your ears - sitting all day like that will likely put a lot of extra tension in your upper trapezius muscles.)

Make sure both arm rests at the same height. You may be able to count the intervals as you ratchet the arm rests up or down; this will help you keep them at equal height.

If the arm rest moves up and down with a sliding action, you’ll need to adjust them more carefully. Be sure to visually check the arm rests; tight muscles, or any neck or shoulder problems, for that matter, may prevent you from accurately sensing the location of your arm rests.

Dial or Twist-Knob Control Armrests

To adjust arm rests with a dial or twist-knob mechanism, turn the knob in one direction to raise the arm rest and the other direction to lower it.

Non-Adjustable Armrests

Let's face it. Some chairs (that have armrests) simply don't come with the ability to adjust these. If you need to raise a fixed-type arm rest, you may be able do so by attaching some foam or other padding.

If the arm rests on your office chair are too high, you have fewer options. On many chairs (but not all) you can completely remove the arm rests. Although going armless may be one alternative, if you do, chances are unfortunately excellent that your neck, shoulders and arms will fatigue and become painful.

Related: Should you use an Exercise Ball as an Office Chair? and Adjust your Monitor Position

Continue Reading