Better Chairs Beat Bulging Discs
Don’t have a grand to shell out on a new chair to boost your back health? Don’t worry about it. The proper seat for you may be a rubber ball! A recent story on Huffingtonpost.com featured some fascinating facts on choosing ‘active’ chairs for people who want to prevent back pain from conditions like bulging discs or even muscle strain, and improve their postural health.
But be aware that if you are currently receiving treatment for back pain, or have been diagnosed with a spine condition, be sure to check with your physician before trying one of these seating alternatives.
According to an ergonomics expert interviewed for the news story, chairs are following the standing desk trend. The goal is to get you away from ‘sedentary’ sitting (if getting away from your desk altogether is not likely at work), and to shake up your seating position as well as increase your effort required to stay seated properly on the chair.
She said that exercise couldn’t undo all of the negative effects that come from slouchy sitting. So the pros are recommending chairs that have you working your muscles to stay balanced and upright. Some chairs allow you to teeter or even bounce. Others have you nearly standing. Traditional seating causes a pelvic tilt that exerts pressure on spinal discs, increasing your chance for developing bulging discs and other problems.
The key is to elevate your hips, which leads to a more natural spinal curve. We are familiar by now with the fact that back pain treatment should always include methods to improve posture, which enhance the healing process and prevent future back pain.
The Huffington Post team reviewed several ‘active’ chairs and this is what they had to report about some of their finds:
- Zenergy Ball Chair (by Safco Products) resembles a backless chair but has an inflatable and soft adjustable seat surface to create a little instability but not enough to send you rolling across the room and flying off your seat. The authors said it encourages your core stabilizers to work.
- Swopper stool (by Swopper.de) is a flexible low stool that adjusts for variable motion all around. They cautioned that setting it to allow for excessive bounciness could be distracting at work.
- Wobble Stool (by Uncaged Ergonomics) is a stool with a curved bottom that requires constant muscle engagement to keep you stable. The reviewers said it was fun if not super comfy and they were able to adjust it to suit a standing desk as well.
- Rockin’ Roller Desk Chair (by Pottery Barn Teen) is essentially an embellished stability ball perched on a stabilizing stand to prevent you from rolling off the chair. They come in a variety of colorful fuzzy textures. The reviewers said core muscles get to work on this one.
- Humanscale Freedom Saddle Seat (by Humanscale.com) resembles a large saddle style bicycle seat type stool on wheels. The reviewers liked the fact that that due to a lower thigh position, the hips open up to allow for better posture. The downside however, was that because the seat was quite stable, core muscles aren’t forced to engage and this led to slouching.
- Gaiam Classic Balance Ball Chair (by Gaiam.com) is best described by the name itself. Thanks to the ball holder, the user benefits from the lumbar support, but it did require some adjusting. They also liked the no-roll away factor and the fact that stabilizer muscles were encouraged to work.
The ergonomist cautioned that people with certain spine conditions like bulging discs might find sitting to be uncomfortable and that they should check first with their physician before choosing an appropriate chair. After all, if you have a spine condition, the last thing you would want to do is set your back pain treatment in reverse by getting hurt while sitting down.