Q: I have problems with my back and sit a lot for work. What is the best chair for my back?
A: This is a question I get often. When we are sitting, especially when we sit for long periods of time, such as when we are working at a desk, the increased pressure on our back can negatively affect our comfort and back health. While there are many different remedies, such as standing up more or getting a standing desk, these solutions don’t address one of the trouble spots in our ergonomics – the type of chair we sit in.
A standard chair is designed primarily with one thing in mind, which is to provide a flat surface for us to sit on. They can be various sizes, but stay about the same in regards to the seat height and they can have various traits that add or subtract to their attractiveness. What is lacking in most chairs is any thought to what is necessary for the comfort, and more importantly for the health of the humans that sit in them.
This leads to a much needed niche market for ergonomically correct chairs – or in other words, chairs designed to aid in the comfort and health of sitting humans. There are many different styles of these types of chairs, with each one having its benefits. I have used or have seen used several that are effective in reducing back strain.
Ergonomic Kneeling Stool
This stool, like the Boss Ergonomic Kneeling Stool, was the first type of ergonomic chair I ever used. The basic design allows the person to sit with their knees supported by a lower rest. This design transfers some of the weight away from the spine and onto the knees, thus reducing back discomfort. Its style also improves seated back posture by encouraging the user to position their lower back curving toward the navel, which is the ideal neutral back posture. The only drawback of these types of chairs is that a person who has knee problems may find them uncomfortable.
This type of chair, like the BetterPosture Saddle Chair, has a seat shaped like a saddle. The design of this seat takes pressure away from the hips and influences the user to adopt a better posture. This one works great for those who may have discomfort in the seat muscle area. No telling whether it gives you a better chance at riding a horse though…
In this instance the Wobble Stool by Uncaged Ergonomics combines the design of a a stool with an unstable bottom. This is sort of like the child Weeble toys that wobble but don’t fall down. It is promoted for increasing ‘active sitting’ and sports a saddle seat. You can see in their helpful picture the way this stool can be used by a person sitting. Although the design is a good one in one regard – that it does make you actively sit, because it would be difficult to sit still – in another regard this type of stool might not be stable enough for some jobs that require a steady hand.
I have touted the wobble cushion before as a balance trainer, but these cushions are excellent in promoting ergonomically correct sitting. Similar to the wobble stool, these cushions placed in your chair will respond to your movements and promote greater engagement of core muscles. However, since the cushion is in an otherwise stable chair, the effect is not as pronounces as with the unstable stool. Better yet, the wobble cushion can turn any chair into an ergonomically correct chair. The other bonus is the much lower cost as compared to the other alternatives. Plus, whenever you want you can take it out of your chair and use it for balance training. A nice bonus.
Whatever chair you might choose to sit with, remember that the best ergonomics is to sit very little. Take frequent breaks from sitting and walk around or do some light yoga. Your back will appreciate your thoughtfulness.