Arm Rest Height for Comfortable Neck and Shoulders at the Office

A comfortable office chair has armrests you can adjust to the height that helps you avoid tension in your shoulders, neck or arms. When the armrests 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.

Six co-workers on a sunny workday

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

It's challenging, for sure. Not only that, but different manufacturers put different types (shapes) of armrest 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 armrests with a button- or trigger-type mechanism, push the button on the side of the chair and then pull the armrests 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 armrests at the same height. You may be able to count the intervals as you ratchet the armrests up or down; this will help you keep them at equal height.

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

Dial or Twist-Knob Control Armrests

To adjust armrests with a dial or twist-knob mechanism, turn the knob in one direction to raise the armrest 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 armrest, you may be able to do so by attaching some foam or other padding.

If the armrests on your office chair are too high, you have fewer options. On many chairs (but not all) you can completely remove the armrests. 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.

1 Source
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  1. Koskelo R, Vuorikari K, Hänninen O. Sitting and standing postures are corrected by adjustable furniture with lowered muscle tension in high-school studentsErgonomics. 2007;50(10):1643–1656. doi:10.1080/00140130701587236

By Anne Asher, CPT
Anne Asher, ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, and orthopedic exercise specialist, is a back and neck pain expert.