Lower back pain has become a serious problem in the lives of many people today. The majority of back pain sufferers are office workers who tend to spend most of their waking hours seated in a chair in their offices. There is now some consensus among researchers that adopting a poor seating position is likely to lead to the development of lower back pain.
Due to the fact that traditional office chairs are the norm in every office or home, it is easy to see the correlation between this type of seating and lower back pain. There are a number of alternative types of chairs that can be used to maintain appropriate posture, create good support, and keep the body’s natural lumbar curve. One of these ergonomically designed styles is the kneeling chair.
The Knee Chair
Invented in the 1970s by Norwegian Hans Christian Mengshoel, a kneeling chair is simply an office chair without a back rest, with the user sitting in a modified kneeling position. The user supports their body by primarily using the seat of the chair, with their shins also providing added balance. A person’s weight is then distributed between the pelvic area and the knees, which naturally minimizes compression of the spinal column, thus reducing the tension and stress that tends to affect the lower back and leg muscles. The design of the chair actually encourages the user to adopt a position where their hips slide forward and their neck, back, and shoulders align. The forward slanting seat helps the user to adopt a position that is more natural for the spine.
According to a recent study, using a kneeling chair instead of a regular computer chair in the office helps you to significantly maintain greater lumbar curvature. Though you may need some time to get accustomed to the new seating position of the kneeling chair, it usually becomes quite comfortable and effortless with time.
For people who are suffering from constant back pain or have undergone some sort of spinal surgery, the kneeling chair provides numerous benefits. These include:
Spinal Alignment and Pain Relief
A kneeling chair encourages you to adopt a seating position that is quite different from that of an ordinary seat. The spine is supposed to be vertically aligned, and by tilting the pelvis forward and lowering the knees, the kneeling chair causes the spine and hip muscles to expand instead of tightening. With the kneeling chair ensuring that the body adapts to its correct alignment position, the upper body weight is distributed through the seat and legs, thus making it unnecessary for the muscles to strain to maintain an upright posture. Almost 35% of the compressive forces on the discs of the lumbar spine are eliminated when seated on a kneeling chair. This enhances flow of blood to the discs, thus slowing the process of disc degeneration and minimizing back pain.
Most people develop poor posture due to working in an environment that does not suit a person’s natural spinal alignment. The resulting back pain then makes it harder to maintain a good posture. The mere thought of standing or sitting up straight then seems impossible for many. The kneeling chair solves this problem by incorporating a forward sloping seat which increases the angle between the upper body and thighs. This position helps to minimize back pain, while also enabling correct spinal alignment with reduced disc pressure. You will soon find it easier to walk, run and stand tall, something other people will instantly notice.
Comfort and Ease
Though the position adopted when sitting on a kneeling chair seems a bit uncomfortable, nothing could be further from the truth. The way the chair is designed prevents you from hunching over your desk, something that is very uncomfortable for the back yet also quite common in office workers. You can easily move about due to the ergonomic design of the knee pad and its positioning.
The knees are also not forced to bear any excess weight because the shins provide a secondary point of contact with the ground. Therefore, there will be no excess pressure on the spine or knees. Such a situation provides comfort for people suffering from back pain as well as expectant women in their latter phases of pregnancy.
Kneeling chairs also enable variation in body posture. You can choose to support both legs on the knee cushion or support one leg and stretch out the other. By simply adjusting your position on the seat either upwards or downwards, you are also able to control how much pressure is placed on your shins.
Improved Performance and Productability
Work performance and productivity can be adversely affected if you have a poor work posture. Sitting inappropriately at a desk in front of a computer for the whole day can lead to pain, fatigue, headaches, and aggravation of old back injuries. Kneeling chairs are able to enhance work performance and concentration by improving your posture and spinal alignment, thus eliminating unnecessary back pain and mental fatigue. The sitting position adopted also provides greater mobility and extended reach, not to mention considerable improvement in the visual distance to the workstation.
Development of Core Muscles
A standard 90⁰ seat comes with a back rest that supports your upper body. The core muscles are not used when sitting in this position and thus become lax, which is why you begin to hunch over the office desk. The kneeling chair’s ergonomic design means that it does not have a back rest. This ensures that your core muscles are put to work to maintain an upright posture. If you are suffering from back pain, then you need to sit in a way that will develop the strength of your core muscles.A proper posture and spinal alignment enables your body weight to be evenly distributed between different sections of the musculo-skeletal system. This means that no single point in your body will experience excessive compressive force. Since a kneeling chair aids in good posture, muscle strain will be reduced and the risk of a disc prolapse is minimized to great effect.
Enhanced Internal Organ Activity
Tilting your pelvis forward on a kneeling chair does more than just align your spine correctly; it also boosts digestion, blood circulation and breathing capacity. When the chest and shoulders are pulled up and out, the lung capacity is enhanced and blood pressure to the heart reduces, boosting circulation. An elongated spine also results in less pressure being placed on internal abdominal organs, which is good for digestion.
Simplicity of Use
Though the kneeling chair comes across as an awkward contraption, it is not as complicated as it seems. Compared to conventional chairs, they offer a greater degree of freedom and some are even set on wheels to enable maneuverability to any position. Kneeling chairs come with the optimal seating position already fixed, thus making it unnecessary to fiddle with knobs or levers whenever adjustments are to be made. Unlike a traditional chair where you strain your spine whenever you stand and sit down, kneeling chairs enable you to simply walk out of the chair.
It is important to note that kneeling chairs can be comfortably used in a range of settings. Kneeling chairs are appropriate for use in an office environment. They have adjustable heights and swivel bases that make them ideal for most workstations. It is also possible to roll them under a table when you are done using them.
Though it may be true that kneeling chairs were initially the preserve of people suffering from back problems, they are nowadays used by all kinds of people in diverse job environments. Adults and children can use them, whether at home or in the office. If you are suffering from lower back discomforts, hip problems, or even prostrate issues, then getting a kneeling chair is the ideal thing to do. There are some cases where the use of a kneeling chair would not be advisable. People who suffer from poor blood circulation in the legs are advised not to use kneeling chairs. Those who experience problems with mobility may also find it a bit difficult when slipping onto or out of the chair. There is a perception that kneeling chairs place too much stress on the knees thus negatively affecting people with knee problems. This is not true, as the body is still in a sitting position and the shins help to carry some of the weight.
It is recommended that the time spent sitting on the kneeling chair be gradually built up over time so that the muscles in the back slowly become used to sitting without any kind of back support. The majority of people who use the chair for the first time tend to experience some form of stiffness. This is due to the body beginning to use muscles that have been inactive for a long while. Generally, a period of one to two weeks is necessary for the body to adapt to the new muscle movements. Some back specialists also recommend that users should not spend more than one hour at a time sitting on the chair because of the inability to vary your position while sitting. However, this advice is not restricted to just the kneeling chair but to any kind of chair used.