Office Chair Cutting off Circulation in Legs | Chiropractor Explains Desk Chairs & Circulation

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How Your Desk Chair Can Cause Leg Circulation Problems

Patients are always asking me if their office chair may be causing leg circulation problems. I will give you some fantastic suggestions down below to help you if your office chair is actually causing leg circulation problems.

As a general rule, your chair can cause circulation problems. Individuals who spend large amounts of time sitting may be in danger of circulatory issues. Prolonged sitting, primarily with incorrect posture or sitting on the wrong type of seat may compress blood vessels in your leg muscles. 

woman experiencing leg circulation problems

 But first, let’s look at the common symptoms of leg circulatory problems:

  • Swelling, particularly around your ankles
  • Dull or crampy pain in the leg(s)
  • Tingling or Numbness sensation in the leg(s)
  • Cramping in your leg muscles, particularly after activity
  • Varicosities or pigmentation in the leg(s)
  • Prone to in the feet
  • Coldness sensation, especially in the feet

When You Should See a Doctor If You Think You Have Leg Circulation Problems:

older woman sitting on a couch holding her knee

While it’s common to get leg circulation trouble from sitting wrong, or an improper chair for your body type, or even age, it is always a good idea to consult with a cardiac doctor if you observe any of the (above) symptoms. Remember, untreated circulation troubles could be a warning sign of an underlying serious condition and could potentially lead to greater complications.  

Four Simple Ways to Ensure Your Office Chair Isn’t Causing Leg Circulation Problems:

  1. Seat Pan.  My number one (and favourite tip!) to help you if your office chair is causing leg cramps (and increased comfort!) is to simply lengthen the depth of the seat pan. Ideally, when seated, you should be able to get 3 fingers, roughly 4-5cm, between the edge of your chair and the back of your knees. If this distance is too short, your circulation may be compromised, thus causing swelling, cramping, or numbness in the leg(s). If this distance is too large, you end up with surface area on this seat which may ultimately end with you suffering from low back pain.1
  2. Office Chair height and back tilt. Make sure that you have an office chair that enables you to readily adjust the seat height and backrest so that both feet are on the floor and the back easily reclines for comfort.
  3. Seat width. Your seat width must have adequate space for your legs to fit comfortably without any pressure points. 
  4. Forward tilt.  Ideally, your hips should be above your knees by a few centimetres to transfer your loading pressure into your core muscles, instead of your spine. Tilting your seat forward also helps your circulation as well. Most high-quality ergonomic office chairs have a forward tilt adjustment for you to access. If your chair doesn’t have a forward tilt option, simply sit on a seat wedge and make sure that the wider part of this wedge is at the back of your seat!

Five Easy Methods To Fix Your Posture Right Now So You May Prevent Getting Leg Circulation Problems.

  1. Sit with your body in a ‘neutral position. This means, when seated, your ears should line up with your shoulders and hips with both feet flat on the floor. When you lose your neutral posture (i.e. slouching forward), this behaviour shortens your spine and impedes circulation. In other words, there should be no space between your lower back and the chair.2 Always use your backrest for support.3
  2. Feet flat on the floor. If your legs are too short, use a footrest. It is a good idea to have your feet directly underneath or in front of your knees to avoid circulation problems around your knees. Also, please do not let your feet hang. Sitting with your legs crossed or with one foot tucked beneath your bum may interfere with your circulation.
  3. Sit on an angle.  Sitting on a 90 degree (or less) can cause your legs to interfere with circulation and may cause pressure points on your backside. Make sure that your hips are always higher than your knees.
  4. Move every 20 minutes.  Movement induces your heart to pump harder and harder and enhances circulation.  
  5. Use armrests. Armrests reduce stress in the blood vessels in and around your shoulders. Try to keep your arms moving throughout your day to promote better circulation. 
  6. Never cross your legs.  Crossing your legs may diminish circulation to your feet. 

Can You Reverse Bad Circulation?

Yes, bad circulation can be reversed and the easiest way to do this is by exercising. It doesn’t have to be three hours a day in the gym because as little as 30 minutes of walking can get the blood flowing again. A few common causes of bad circulation include sitting cross-legged and sitting or standing for too long at a time. The best thing to do is to keep your body moving all day long which in turn will keep your blood circulating.

How to Improve Leg Circulation

woman holding her calf in pain from poor blood circulation

There are a few things you can do to improve circulation while sitting. The top of the list though is to not cross your legs while sitting down. It is a common habit of many people and a common cause of poor circulation. The rest is largely to do with your office chair. So, be sure to use a chair with a comfortable seat that has an easily adjustable backrest. Sit upright with the backrest supporting your body, place your feet flat on the floor or use a footrest if you cannot comfortably reach the floor. Always make sure to take breaks and arise from your seat and take a short walk to stretch your legs. A good rule of thumb is to move every 20 minutes. It doesn’t take much. In fact, the mere act of just standing up every 20 may be enough to get your blood flowing.

Are Recliners Good for Circulation? 

recliner chair

Recliners, if designed well, are a comfortable way to help with poor circulation, especially for those that spend many hours a day standing up. By using a recliner, it helps your body to circulate your blood as gravity is doing a lot of the work for you while you sit back and relax. Using a recliner in this way will help your body naturally reduce any inflammation as blood is able to flow more through your body which also has an added bonus of reducing stress. These benefits also apply to people who sit down for prolonged periods of time as conventional sitting chairs often prevent sufficient blood flow through the vessels in the lower body, particularly the popliteal artery that is located behind the knee. If you are going to use a recliner, make sure that it has good lumbar support!

Final Thoughts

I’ve worked with countless numbers of people, all of whom spend large amounts of time sitting to avoid potential dangers of circulatory issues with this advice that I imparted with you today. By implementing these simple changes to your work environment you should enjoy long-lasting beneficial effects.  There are numerous factors that can cause circulatory problems from sitting at your desk. The main reason is when you work at a desk they conform to the station rather than make the workstation accommodate you. You may lean forward to see the screen better; you may reach for your mouse or keyboard; cross your legs; have the wrong seat pan; sit on a hard seat; your seat is too low; don’t have forward tilt control. Each of these actions can put your physical health at risk. Therefore, getting your pillow right will have the most benefit to you.  The main thing to remember is that unconscious and complacent movement patterns will ultimately cause you to break down. By staying active and conscious throughout your day, your neck pain may just fall by the waist side. 



  1. Musculoskeletal problems in VDT work: a review; J. B. CARTER &E. W. BANISTER;Pages 1623-1648 | Published online: 31 May 2007 
  2. Effects of dynamic office chairs on trunk kinematics, trunk extensor EMG and spinal shrinkage;JHL Van Dieën, MP De Looze, V Hermans; Ergonomics – 2001
  3. Design and disease; P Van Wely – Applied Ergonomics, 1970 – Elsevier


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Dr Lawrence Woods DC

Dr Lawrence Woods DC


My goal is to create the highest quality ergonomic office chairs and accessories for unmatched comfort.

With 30 years of spinal healthcare experience in Ireland as a chiropractor, I learned the value of high-quality sitting for living a happy and healthy life.

I have a Chiropractic Degree from Life Chiropractic College West and I am NBCE Physiotherapy certified.


Dr Lawrence Woods

My goal is to create the highest quality ergonomic office chairs and accessories for unmatched comfort. With 30 years of spinal healthcare experience as a chiropractor, I learned the value of high-quality sleep for living a happy and healthy life. I have a Chiropractic Degree from Life Chiropractic College West and am NBCE Physiotherapy certified.

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