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

By Philippa Ellis Editor

Originally when building Clinic HQ i was a working natural therapist which meant i spent exactly 2 minutes out of 20 perched on a chair or stool scribbling patient notes. The other 18 minutes of treatment would be a medley of dynamic standing and kneeling postures finished off by flitting back and forth from reception, often down a set of stairs to say farewell to my patient and greet the next. This on top of teaching pilates on a regular basis was amazing for my body but it turned out not so amazing for Clinic HQ. I had set out with the best intentions to provide this brilliant service for patients, answering all of the questions i would so often be asked and more but i ended up building it from the point of view of a therapist and what i thought patients wanted and needed… not what they actually wanted or needed. So i made the brave decision to step back from my role as a natural therapist and get an office job. This sounded completely insane to my colleagues but my passion for Clinic HQ was so intense i just had to give it a chance. Stepping away from self employment to having a steady salary meant i could keep Clinic HQ afloat myself, keeping it the independent and unbiased site you see before you. So i have been on the patient side of the fence for 3 years now and although that has been brilliant for Clinic HQ its been terrible for my body, my poor unused to being stationary body! 

So now I'm that patient who used to say to me that ‘it’s not as easy as just get up and move more’. I deal with deadlines and sometimes emergency situations that dictate that i sit there until the situation has been resolved, which can sometimes be hours. I acknowledge that it is so easy to simply tell your patient to move more because it is the easy and most cost effective answer to the solution. But perhaps therapists should reflect on the type of role and environment that your patient works in before questioning why they cant apply this simple change. This is where my golden rule of ‘be a fidget’ use to come in, if you cant get up and move away from your desk regularly then become a fidget. The worst posture is a set posture and the best posture is your next posture - the golden rule is keep fidgeting, that means sit back in your chair, sit forward, cross your legs, uncross your legs turn to the side and turn to the other side just constantly move into positions that don't cause you pain or discomfort. The last thing you want to do is find one comfortable position and stay there for hours because you will know all about it when you do come to move!

Back in my final year of university i embarked on the study regarding the effects that sitting for long periods of time has on your posture. The results of this research lead me to question the conventional research being used at that time to design ergonomic chairs, which was based on an individuals sitting posture for 10 minutes, yip a mere measly ten minutes! Ever since then I've been somewhat of an ergonomic chair fanatic… if your geek radar just went off then that’s OK, i fully embrace it! Im the one in the office who will walk past and say ‘oh that’s a nice chair, can i sit on it? what model is this?, i’m also the person people ask to check if their chair is set up right for them. Now i know that sitting in a chair is just crap for your body overall 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 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 and the wrong chair has the potential to delay the recovery of acute or chronic back injuries and undo any of the goodness you receive from treatments.

So to recap you might need to sit but you also need to move more, but 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? Over the years I have discovered a couple of chairs and products that do just that, each with unique elements that leant themselves to the patient i was recommending them to and most importantly their condition or pain. So i decided that it was high time that I put some of those products to the test from my now enlightened patient point of view and see if one chair really could make that much of a difference.




I reached out to my local back in action store with an explanation about Clinic HQ and what we are trying to achieve and asked if they might let us road test some of their products well not any products the following three to be precise. I have been in and out of the Bristol shop a couple of times in the past checking out chairs to recommend to patients and have been impressed that the sales team are the least pushy I've experience. Whether talking about a £30 seat cushion or £1000 chair there seemed to be no difference in their enthusiasm. I expected an outright no due to that fact we are a small minnow in this business but instead an email swiftly came back saying that they loved what Clinic HQ was trying to do and that they would be happy to loan out those products to us.