Chair design considers intended usage, ergonomics as well as non-ergonomic functional requirements. Intended usage determines the desired seating position. “Task chairs” or any chair intended for people to work at a desk or table, including dining chairs, can only recline very slightly; otherwise the occupant is too far away from the desk or table. Easy chairs for watching television or movies are somewhere in between depending on the height of the screen.
Ergonomic design distributes the weight of the occupant to various parts of the body. A seat that is higher results in dangling feet and increased pressure on the underside of the knees (“popliteal fold”). It may also result in no weight on the feet which means more weight elsewhere. A lower seat may shift too much weight to the “seat bones”.
A reclining seat and back will shift weight to the occupant’s back. This may be more comfortable for some in reducing weight on the seat area, but may be problematic for others who have bad backs. In general, if the occupant is supposed to sit for a long time, weight needs to be taken off the seat area and thus “easy” chairs intended for long periods of sitting are generally at least slightly reclined. However, reclining may not be suitable for chairs intended for work or eating at table.
The back of the chair will support some of the weight of the occupant, reducing the weight on other parts of the body. In general, backrests come in three heights: Lower back backrests support only the lumbar region. Shoulder height backrests support the entire back and shoulders. Headrests support the head as well and are important in vehicles for preventing “whiplash” neck injuries in rear-end collisions where the head is jerked back suddenly. Reclining chairs typically have at least shoulder height backrests to shift weight to the shoulders instead of just the lower back.
Some chairs have foot rests. A stool or other simple chair may have a simple straight or curved bar near the bottom for the sitter to place his or her feet on.
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