Home Office: Ergotized! Part 4 “Ergo-Hot and Ergo Nots”

Office Ergonomics July 28, 2020

Home Office: Ergotized! Part 4 is the fourth installment of our series with Dr. Bob Niklewicz, PT, CEAS II, DHSC, CIE that will help you turn your home into a true home office!

In this article I will go over some of the more unusual office options people ask about regarding furniture and accessories for consumers. I will make this disclaimer up front:

You can do what you wish in your office.  After all, it is YOUR office. You can listen to anyone, buy or use anything you want to use. The comments below are based on my experiences and the anatomy/physiology of the working human body that I have observed as a Doctor of Physical Therapy.  If you have special needs and have seen and worked one on one with other health care professionals, I will defer to that personal interaction and problem solving done for you.” 

CHAIRS?  In the last article I went over the recommended features of a standard office chair. However, in the literature, television ads, magazine articles and health fairs other alternative options have been presented to the public. Some have been found to be very interesting.

#1 The Kneeling chair: In the 1970’s it was observed that sitting in a standard chair produced a slouching posture in the low back that flattened the low back curve (Lordosis). This posture produced strain on the low back muscles and could lead to discomfort and pain.  It was further noted that if the pelvis was tilted forwards the low back curve was returned and maintained better while sitting. That piece of knowledge led to the idea of developing a chair that produces and maintain the Lordosis for you.

The Light bulb goes on In order to produce this low back curve, you need to be able to sit with your pelvis tilted forwards. So, the Kneeling Chair (see below) was developed with a seat that tilted your pelvis forwards. Below on the left, is the physical result of this concept. This is an upgraded version that has wheels. Some had rocker rails on the bottom. The picture in the middle shows what happens when it is used with a desk. The person starts to lean/fall forwards and finds that they have to weight bear on their hands, as well as the seat and knees. This is not only bad for the hands/wrists but the person’s back will fatigue causing the slouch that was the trigger for the chair development in the first place. With this Slouch the low back was again losing the Lordosis.  To remedy that problem, a back rest/support was placed on some of the chairs pictured on the right.

Home Office: Ergotized! Part 4

It was found that indeed this chair could produce the lordosis and it was well received by some.

There have been many variations to the design and accessories but this is the common posture established by the user.

 The Light dimsIf you look at the picture on the right, you will notice that the weight bearing that is usually absorbed by the thighs and buttocks in a traditional chair has been angled down to the knees and also into the hip sockets. The compressive forces on those structures not only limited your tendency to get out of the chair and move but it also limited your endurance.

Furthermore, even when the user is sitting upright and has the neutral lordosis sought, they will still fatigue and resort to slouching and/or weight bearing on their arms. Now you have a new problem with stress on smaller and weaker structures.

Therefore, this type of seat should be used occasionally for short periods of time (20 minutes) or not at all for office work. It is considered an “ERGO-NOT”.

#2 The Swiss or Gym Ball Chair: This is an example of another piece of equipment that was developed in the 1960’s as a result of a little bit of scientific knowledge but not totally thought through for a piece of furniture. 

The gym ball was used very successfully in Physical Therapy clinics for balance and strengthening for stroke and other neurological disorders. Its’ job was to stimulate muscle activity through reflexive actions. e.g. if you are walking across a slope your body will lean into the slope to keep it balanced. As a Physical Therapist, I have used the gym ball and its’ little cousin, the Dyna Disc, for decades. I loved them for my patients and would recommend them for home exercise use.

The Light bulb goes -on: IF using the Ball can stimulate muscle coordination and reflexes, then if you sat on it all day, you could get 8 hours of exercise without even thinking about it. Thus, the Ball Chair was born. (LEFT below). However, the Ball was unstable so a platform with wheels was added. (LEFT Middle) Now, the low back would fatigue, so a backrest was added. (RIGHT Middle). Everyone should have one. (RIGHT)

Home Office: Ergotized! Part 4

The Light dims: With the changes that were made it was clear that it was becoming a chair. Some people liked them, while others did not. Furthermore, the scientific research did NOT support the advertised benefits from prolonged Gym Ball sitting.

Also, people started to fall off the chair and suffer injuries to the head and buttocks. The head from falling backwards onto a corner of the desk or cabinet. When the ball is punctured it did not just leak flat. It generally had a catastrophic failure with total deflation in a second. If the person went straight down, they would land HARD on their tailbone and damage that as well as their low back. The manufacturers tried adding an inner ball so if the outer skin was punctured, the inner ball would break the fall. 

Therefore, some of the magic started to fade. NOT to be deterred, armrests were added to the base and exercise booklets for activities that you could do at your desk. (See Below)

If a person absolutely wanted to so some balance/core exercise in their office, the Dyna Disc placed on the seat of the typical office chair, could be beneficial.   (Below RIGHT)

Home Office: Ergotized! Part 4

I will reiterate that I have used and liked the Gym (Swiss) Ball for decades as exercise equipment for the right patient at the right time.  With that being said, I NEVER recommend this product as office furniture.  Exercise YES!!!! Furniture NO!!  

This Chair idea is an ERGO NOT.

Have thoughts on other unique chair ideas? Let us know in the comments!


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