Can one chair really make a difference to your back pain?

By Philippa Ellis Founder of Clinic HQ

It’s the ultimate sales pitch, isn’t it? That one chair or piece of equipment could revolutionise your back pain. So, is this just a pie in the sky sales pitch pedalled to capture your coin or is it actually achievable with the right product?

Now had you asked me when I finished my degree I would have said you don’t really need any products, instead I would have emphatically told you that it’s all about getting your body strong, fit and healthy enough to cope with the stresses and strains of daily life. At the time working as a natural therapist I would spend roughly 5 minutes out of 30 perched on a stool scribbling patient notes.  Treatment would then be a medley of dynamic standing and kneeling postures finished off by flitting back and forth to reception. A walk to the train station and teaching Pilates meant that my body was not only fed but was well nourished by my work environment & life style. This may have been fantastic for my body but it meant I had absolutely no understanding about the impact the 9-5 or shift work desk jobs were having on my patients’ bodies. Simply put I had no concept on how difficult it is to get moving and strengthen your body whilst battling the everyday stresses and strains. Whether or not I had an ergonomic stool to perch on for 5% of my day had no real bearing on my body, nothing in comparison to the impact it could have on the desk worker who spends a 10 hour shift chained to their desk.

Fast forward to the beginnings of Clinic HQ which demanded that I spend my time in between patients and after work focused on my computer. Turns out Clinic HQ, designed to benefit patients, wasn’t quite so beneficial for my body. I suddenly grasped how important finding the right product or chair was, just as important as finding the right natural therapy and the right practitioner or therapist.

So, I decided to start with what I already knew, I compiled a list as long as my arm of all the products patients had bought and then relegated to their spare room or the car boot sale. What I had was a list of useless products, meanwhile I was still being asked by patients for recommendations, in particular for seating options. This along with my new-found need spurred me to dig out all of the research papers I could on ergonomic chairs and troll the internet in the hope of some remarkable seats. This search lead me to a couple of key products that on paper fit the bill perfectly for each patient and their role. I even found a shop nearby where I managed check the products out for myself.

3 years down the line and Clinic HQ has been through a few iterations the most important of which I instigated by making the decision to step back from being a practicing natural therapist. The most important part of Clinic HQ is that it is unbiased and for that I needed to be the neutral party. Stepping away from self-employment to having a steady salary also meant I could keep Clinic HQ afloat myself, keeping it the independent and unbiased site you see before you. Although the site has profited from my being on the patient side of the fence it’s been terrible for my body, my poor unused to being stationary body! I now have to pull in all of my training and resources to make sure I keep the effects of sedentary life at bay.

Now I know that sitting in a chair is just crap for your body and that some health officials are starting to liken it to the new smoking but to an extent it’s an unavoidable part of our lives, heck I’m sat at my desk right now typing this blog post! We do fortunately have access to the new sit to stand desks which are fantastic… as long as you use them properly which in my experience I’m yet to see one person do but that's a whole other blog post/rant in its self. The basic line is we end up sitting and for those of us that suffer with back pain this can be debilitating, the wrong chair has the potential to delay the recovery of back injuries or undo any of the goodness you receive from treatments. I try to live by the golden rule of being a fidget, the worst posture is a set posture and the best posture is your next posture! Constantly move into positions that don’t cause you pain and avoid finding that one comfortable positon and staying there for hours, as you will know all about it when you do come to move!

You need to sit but you also need to move more, so what if you could do both at the same time? What if you had a chair that allowed, no in fact encouraged you to abide by the golden rule of being a fidget? I had found three such key products and chairs for my patients, so I decided It was high time that I put them to the test from my newly enlightened patient point of view and see if one chair really could make that much of a difference. Oh, and I also roped in my entire office so that you don’t just get my opinion.


The Human Tool

The human Tool fondly became referred to as the saddle seat in our office. I originally recommended this product to a patient who worked as a civil servant, she spent her week between two offices and often worked from home. This portable and lightweight product, can be used on any type of existing chair making it perfect for those of us who hot seat or work between multiple sites. You can turn any chair into an ergonomic chair. It conveniently comes in a string bag making it pretty easy to carry between locations and its foam pad base means that it can even be used on the slippery surface of a wooden chair, meaning you can have the best of the ergonomics without impacting your chosen décor. Reading the material on this product it sounds like it’s going to feel like a Horse Saddle but to be honest it feels like it is somewhere in between a bicycle seat and a saddle. It is cushier on your bum than It looks and its effect on your posture is instant. The underneath of the saddle is rounded meaning that it tilts with your every movement. I found that it instinctively placed my pelvis in a neutral position meaning that my spine naturally lengthened. I found it incredibly hard to slouch when using this and also found it impossible to cross my legs, both major pluses if you suffer from bad posture and pelvis, back and neck issues. The Human Tool creates a radically different sitting experience as it makes your body work as you sit so I would say that this is a product you have to gradually introduce your body to and the guidelines recommend exactly that. It suggests that you start by using it for 10-15 minutes at a time but I think this will depend on what back issues you experience and how strong your core is but it’s definitely well worth persisting with. I found I could sit comfortably for 45 minutes the first time I used it and when I took it away, sat directly on my bog-standard chair, my body automatically wanted to stay in the right position. It’s a great teaching aid, reminding your body on how it is meant to work to hold a seated posture. I could see this being great for teenagers doing their homework and students studying for exams. You can read everyone’s individual reviews here but to summarise this was a big hit especially with the men in the office

A key point with the Human Tool is to remember to adjust the height of your chair whilst you are using it. The addition of the saddle seat means that you will be towering over your keyboard and tilting your head downwards to view your screen, which could potentially lead to flaring any back pain. Drop your chair down slightly and you will maintain the correct upper body to computer screen position and allow you to benefit from this brilliant product.

The Ballo Stool 


The HAG Capisco 8107

A while back I reached out to a local store that I have been in and out of many a time checking products out for patients but not actually purchasing anything myself. Time after time I’ve been so impressed with the knowledge of the staff and their enthusiasm, whether talking about a £30 seat cushion or £1,000 chair there seemed to be no difference. This blog post is not sponsored or an add as we like to maintain our independent stance on our product reviews however we would love to say a massive thank you to Back in Action Bristol for loaning us the products to test drive. Without them we wouldn’t have been able to deliver such comprehensive or variable reviews.