Which Chair is best for Back Pain? Ergonomic or Active Sitting?

Which Chair for Back Pain? Ergonomic or Active Sitting?

When it comes to sitting, we all think we’re experts because we all do so much of it. In fact, across most industrialized societies people spend, on average, nearly 11 hours each day just sitting. Unfortunately, the human body wasn't meant to be so immobile for such long periods of time. The static posture that sitting forces on us can breed misery with a variety of health related symptoms, tight muscles, and just plain, old, chronic back pain.

Enter the hope of ergonomic chairs. 

With a promise to resolve our discomfort by providing us with the perfect static posture, so-called “ergonomic chairs" purport to relieve back problems with an expensive, and yet static, single posture solution. The fact is, no matter how expensive or or how upscale an ergonomic chair manufacturer’s brand might be, most people soon find themselves switching to a new position or, frankly, squirming. That’s a good sign for you and your body, but a bad sign for the ergonomic chair in which you might have just invested.
    The discomfort and impetus to squirm that we feel with static sitting is an alarm bell, telling us that staying in one position, any position, for protracted periods is simply hard on our anatomy. Children get this intuitively, squirming whenever they can get away with it.

Get up, stretch, and sit back down on an Active Sitting chair

Active sitting means that your spine, muscles, and vertebrae are free to make tiny, almost imperceptible adjustments while sitting. It's exactly 180 degrees from the fixed-position of a static ergonomic chair. Active sitting is what happened when your forefathers took a break from the hunt, rested their spears against a tree, and took a seat on a round rock. Although relaxed and perhaps enjoying the scenery, their back, vertebrae, muscles, and tendons, all remained in an active state — continually self-adjusting, re-balancing, and strengthening. Active sitting, unlike static sitting, is naturally therapeutic, strengthens your core musculature and encourages a more consistent circulation of the joint fluid that nourishes the delicate cartilage in all of your joints.
     So, when it comes to choosing which chair is best for back pain, we’re not dismissing the possibility that a static, ergonomic chair might work for you. But once you begin to see the difference between static sitting and the therapeutic advantages of Active Sitting, the price of that slick, ergonomic office chair (not to mention the chair itself), might just make you squirm a little more.

Some added easy reading- that might just pull you from your easy-chair.

For starters, in a New York Times article titled Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?, Mayo Clinic researcher James Levine offers a revealing look into current research around the problems imposed by inactivity and static sitting. As Mr. Levine says, “For most of us, when we’re awake and not moving, we’re sitting. This is your body on chairs: electrical activity in the muscles drops — the muscles go as silent as those of a dead horse... leading to a cascade of harmful metabolic effects.” 

   Yikes, but furthering Mr. Levine’s insights, Marc T. Hamilton declares in an academic, but easy-to-read article published by the National Institute of Health, “It is time to consider excessive sitting a serious health hazard...” The article is a good look on inactivity imposed by sitting.

   By now, you might just be starting to see static sitting as a metabolic catastrophe for your health. Take a look at how social architect Galen Cranz views the issue and imagines solutions. She says quite simply that “Changing your posture means changing your lifestyle.” She asks you to “Take another look at your space. Where can you incorporate a choreography of different postures into your life?”

 Want more? Just send me an email at tosler@uvm.edu. I’ll be more than happy to add your name and email to our reading list.

Customer Stories: Sean in Briarcliff Manor, NY

Hi Turner,

Just wanted to let you know that the chair arrived, and it's been great from the start!  I'd say my initial impression upon unboxing it is that the woodworking and general quality were even more impressive than I expected.  It's hard to impress that upon people over the internet, but I'm glad I made the decision to try it out in person.  There truly is no substitute for quality Vermont-made wood furniture, and the seat is especially striking.

The packaging/boxing was also a job well done, which I appreciate you taking the care with. 

I've enjoyed sitting on it, both in the stationary (i.e. with chair locks inserted) and active modes.  I found it pretty natural to pick up the active sitting posture, and it's actually way easier to maintain my balance than I expected.  I would also say that the stationary mode itself is a bonus that I wasn't expecting.  Sometimes it feels good to be able to roll around my positioning and stretch out my core muscles using the seat as resistance (which isn't possible in the same way while it moves with you in the active mode).  The chair feels sturdy at all times!

Vermont startup, QOR360 launches ergonomic office chairs for back pain.

News Release 

Innovative technology offers therapeutic benefits for better spinal health

Burlington, VT. – November 1 2016 QOR360 has announced the launch of its new line of ergonomic office chairs created to address back pain brought on by long periods of sitting. The Burlington, Vermont-based startup's new line of ergonomic office chairs utilize the company's proprietary rocker technology, the Eccentric Bi-cylinder. Developed by Dr. Turner Osler, a University of Vermont trauma surgeon turned research epidemiologist, QOR360's patented Eccentric Bi-cylinder creates a subtle, omnidirectional, rocking motion that allows the spine and hips to continuously readjust to gravity, creating a fluid movement that promotes strength and flexibility and improves overall back health.

As Dr. Osler notes, “It's a really helpful chair for back pain, because the the 'Eccentric Bi-cylinder naturally encourages a much more balanced, dynamic posture than the static slumped position of sitting enforced by traditional, fixed-back chairs. Used in all of our ergonomic office chairs, QOR360's rocker allows the surface of the seat to gently tip in all directions, setting the back and hips free to move, and in the process engaging spinal reflexes that continuously align the back in a more graceful, healthier posture."

Inspired by traditions of Yoga, Akido, and Feldenkrais, QOR360's development team includes doctors, furniture designers and body-work experts, who have combined their expertise to create the contemporary and innovative line of QOR360 products. The company's focus is on developing ergonomic products that transform the sitting experience from static sitting which is restrictive and unhealthy for the spine, to Active Sitting, which is more dynamic, natural, and therapeutic for the back and spine. Beyond its use as an ergonomic office chair for task sitting or simply as a chair for back pain, QOR360's ergonomic seating is elegantly designed and fits beautifully in the home, office, studio and more. The current line of QOR360 seating includes five models: The Uma, Hadley, Juno, and Lex.

About QOR360

The QOR360 company is based in Burlington, Vermont and ships its products worldwide. To learn more, please visit: www.qor360.com