Kneeling chairs have been around since the late 1970’s and they can be beneficial for your posture and reduce lower back pain while sitting. Have you ever asked yourself….“Is a kneeling chair right for me?”
To help you decide if a kneeling chair is right for you, in this article we will discuss:
- 1. What happens to your lower back when you sit.
- 2. Pros and cons of kneeling chairs.
1. What happens to the body when we sit?
To determine if a kneeling chair will work for you, we first need to look what happens to our body when we sit and our thighs are at a 90 degree angle to our back.
- a) As we begin to sit, the long thigh bones (femurs) rotate in their pelvic sockets through approximately 60 degrees. The physical limitations of our body prevents the femurs from rotating the full 90 degrees required to sit, so the remaining 30 degrees must come from “somewhere”.
- b) As we sit down completely, the ligaments attaching the femurs to the pelvis pull on the back of the pelvis, rotating it backwards through the remaining 30 degrees and this causes a flattening of the lumbar curve.
Due to the rotation of the pelvis, the natural inward curve in the lower back changes to a outward curve. Most of the change to an outward curve occurs in the first three or four lumbar vertebrae. During this process, the front edges of the vertebrae squeeze closer together while the back edges spread further apart. This increases the pressure on the front portions of the intervertebral discs.
For many years, medical and ergonomics experts have understood the importance of seating that controls the rotation of the pelvis. Research has found that sitting on a kneeling chair reduces the rotation of the pelvis and prevents the outward curving or flattening of the lumbar spine.
By opening the pelvis and lowering the knees in relation to the hips to create a 110 degree back-thigh angle, the disc pressure in the lumbar region of the spine is reduced by up to 65% when compared to sitting in the traditional 90 degree back-thigh angle position.
2. The key benefits of a Kneeling Chair – the Pros
- a) Kneelers reduce lower back pain.
- b) Kneeling chairs create a 110 degree back/thigh angle as compared to the 90 degree back/thigh angle with a traditional chair. This creates a more natural spinal curve which dramatically reduces the pressure in the lumbar discs of your spine when you sit.
- c) Opening the pelvis reduces the compression of the internal organs and abdominal muscles. This allows for easier breathing and digestion.
- d) With no backrest to support you, your core and back muscles will be more engaged which strengthens your core.
- e) Because your core muscles are more engaged, your blood circulates better, carrying nutrients and oxygen to the brain and the body so that you feel more energised.
- f) Poor posture eventually leads to fatigue, discomfort and loss of productivity. By keeping the spine properly aligned, comfort and concentration are greatly increased.
3. The limitations of a Kneeling Chair – the Cons
Although there some great benefits you can derive by using a kneeling chair, there are some limitations you need to be aware of before you decide to purchase a kneeling chair.
- a) Kneeling chairs address posture issues only for the lower part of the back. Get professional advice if you are unsure if a kneeling chair is the correct solution for you.
- b) Kneeling chairs require that your inclined sitting position is maintained by supporting your knees and/or shins on the knee pad. This will inherently restrict your leg movement and takes getting used to. After a few days of use you should start to feel more comfortable.
- c) The geometry of a kneeling chair will cause your sitting position to be higher than when sitting on a conventional chair. This might require that your working surface height needs to be increased. Failing to do this may result in you leaning forwards when you work, negating the posture benefits a kneeling chair offers.
- d) The pressure on shins supported on the kneepad can cause some discomfort during the initial use of a keeling chair.
- e) Until your core muscles strengthen, the initial use of a kneeling chair may result in a tired core.
- f) A kneeler may restrict circulation to your legs. If you suffer from circulation problems, get professional advice before purchasing a kneeling chair.
- g) To prevent circulation restriction in your legs, you should initially limit the time you spend on the kneeling chair. Alternate between chairs.
- h) Many kneeling chairs are of a scissor-type geometry construction. This makes using the chairs very difficult. Select a kneeling chair that allows for easy sitting down and getting up.
Best practice is to alternate between sitting on the kneeling chair and a conventional chair. Start with 20 minutes intervals, gradually increasing the time spent on a kneeler to 60 minutes.
REMEMBER: A kneeling chair is complementary to a conventional chair! Alternating between chairs when sitting is good for you and your back.
Author: Joachim Roetger
Director at Karo Manufacturing (Pty) Ltd