Are We Hypocrites?: An Ergonomic Investigation.
Our mission is to solve the problems caused by sitting using several ergonomic guidelines.
We’ve covered all the millions of things that sitting improperly can do to your body. We’ve covered all the millions of reasons why you should improve your work set up to be more ergonomically friendly.
It turns out that there are several ergonomic guidelines that have created their own problems.
For example: most researchers recommend a very wide angle between the seat and the back of the chair (around 110 degrees). They say this because the wide angle is supposed to reduce intra-discal pressure and decrease lumbar muscle activity. BUT it is not entirely clear that reducing disc pressure or muscle activity is necessarily beneficial.
But say for the sake of argument that we did accept this theory- it would still have consequences. Sitting like this would put a lot of stress on the neck because it would be thrust backwards without any support. It’s very natural for people to bring their necks forward instead of over their centre of gravity. Meanwhile the spine would still have to travel back while the head is being brought forward. If you continue to hold this posture over and over for years and years it will end up exaggerating the thoracic curve… AKA a hump.
A lot of people attribute this deformation to old age but it’s been proven by ergonomists that the problem comes from misuse which this ergonomic guideline inflicts.
Ergonomically designed furniture can not resolve all the problems of sitting because the ergonomic furniture itself contributes to postural fixity. Some ergonomic furniture have created back problems because it succeeds TOO well in supporting the body in one position. But perhaps the biggest reason ergo furniture has yet to solve most of the problems caused by sitting is because they are intrinsic to the right-angle seated posture. Being in this classic seated angle has special stresses which no amount of ergonomic tinkering can eliminate.
Here’s a fun quote:
“The entire scientific specialty of ergonomics has remained naive in assuming that a problem free chair is just a matter of time and effort. The cultural assumption that chair sitting is natural, civilized or somehow beyond question has kept ergnomiscists’ efforts confined to a narrow circle.”
Obviously we cannot conduct life without tables and chairs, so we have to work within that box. We’ve got to work on becoming comfortable within the constraints of the classical right-angled seat which makes it difficult to resolve irresolvable tensions which is why we stick with kneeling chairs. Kneeling chairs directly challenges the habits that have been in our culture for millennia. It places the sitter somewhere between sitting and standing and does not have a back to lean against. It’s not a stool, but it doesn’t look like a chair.
Where it excels is in having solved the problem of stressing the lower back, which is associated with right angle sitting, by dropping the legs. When our thighs are at an oblique angle in relation to our spines (between 120 and 135 degrees), the muscular work of sitting upright is balanced between the front and back of the spine. This is what makes sitting upright feel almost effortless.
So, although ergonomic guidelines can often be hypocritical, we have reason to believe of all the sitting options and alternatives available to us, the kneeling chair is the best option. It provides itself to a healthy lower back position and most importantly to movement which in the end is what matters most.