As an Ergonomic Strategist it is important for me to help people that want to reduce physical stressors at their computer workstation.
A tool that can reduce the most physical stressors is the indispensable chair. There are countless chairs on the market; here is an email from a reader who asks about a very intriguing chair.
"Dave, I just received the 2002 Catalog from Power Systems, and they have a ball chair. It is the huge stability ball on a rolling base (adjustable in height) and includes a backrest. I am so tempted to get it for myself …what do you think?" -CK
Sitting on a ball could be fun and affordable. What a fashion statement! Think of the different colors that could be used. I would want mine to have a globe-like image.
The ball chair would be useful to activate and tone postural muscles as well as stabilize the pelvis in an upright posture. Intuitively the thought of two risks come to mind. First, someone falling off the ball and secondly, the risk of the ball hitting something sharp and suddenly deflating -ouch.
However, there is a time and place for using a ball chair. Just sitting on the ball chair is of no real benefit, dynamic exercise is required. At home a ball chair could be valuable when you are able to focus on postural training or low back/abdominal strengthening.
At the office they could be disrupting and reduce productivity. An office chair serves two purposes: to distribute your body weight and to balance and align the body. If the ball chair is able to distribute your body weight onto many different postural muscles then your halfway home.
Clearly, the best posture is the one that generates the least amount of stress. It appears to me that a ball chair would not easily allow you to distribute your weight as much as an office chair.
We balance our body on two bones called the sit bones (ischeal tuberosities). If the chair does not allow us to be balanced we begin to lean. The "lean factor" can cause fatigue, discomfort or pain, especially in the lower back, neck, and shoulders.
Also, the ball chair does not swivel causing your lower back to twist in a high-risk move. Lack of swivel makes it difficult to move around the work area. When we are unable to place feet under the body's center of mass, it makes it awkward to get up and down from the ball chair.
Of course the principles of height adjustment and angles of the body is critical in good posture, but lacking with a ball chair.
If you are using the ball chair at home for a short period of time and it's comfortable -use it! When the ball chair is used for exercising and not as ergonomic office furniture for several hours a day it should be okay. Don't be tempted by it CK -have fun with it!
I commend the reader for their open-mindedness to improve their health. Dave can be contacted at Ergocorrect@aol.com
Dave Pfeil "ErgoMan" - Copyright 2002 by Ergonomically Correct LLC
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