Unusual Office Chair Solutions

Many people feel very uncomfortable in their office chair. Office chair reviews will help if you are looking for a new option, but what if the problem is not your specific office chair but the fact that you're sitting on one at all? If this is true for you, then here are some office chair alternatives to consider.

Lower back strain
What is sitting all day at the office doing to your back muscles? Watch: Lower Back Strain Video

Stand-up desk

You may be surprised by how easy it is to stand at your desk all day—especially if you are in pain from sitting too much. Make sure to get a desk that is a comfortable height for you to work at while standing.

Other guidelines:

  • Put your foot up on a foot rail or some type of foot rest so you can rest one foot higher than the other and easily shift your body weight from one leg to the other.
  • Use some type of seat as well. Using a stool affords you the most options, as you can sit fully or just sit partially by leaning forward while sitting with your weight distributed between your seat and your foot on the floor.

A side benefit that some people find from working standing up is that they feel more energized and are more productive working while standing up.

Recent studies have demonstrated that standing more at the office can have a positive effect on our health.

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Add a podium

If working full time at a stand-up desk isn't for you, consider adding a podium, lectern, or stand-up desk in your work area and just do certain tasks while standing, like reading or talking on the phone. This way you can move between your regular desk and your stand-up area and get some variety in your positions during the workday.

Walking desk

We've talked about walking desks/treadmill desks before. The idea is that you walk very slowly on a treadmill while working standing up. Personally I'm not a big fan of this idea—I like to keep the workout and the work separate. But I can see how this idea would make sense in certain situations, and some people say it works for them.

Exercise ball

The main benefit here is that sitting on an exercise ball is active—your body is constantly making minor adjustments to remain balanced on the ball—and this requires your core body muscles, your abs, and large lower back muscles, to work to hold the body upright and balanced on the ball. Because there is no back as on an office chair, it's hard to slump or slouch, which encourages good posture.

Until your core muscles get strong enough to support you and sitting on the exercise ball feels comfortable, it is often a good idea to not have the ball fully inflated so that it is more stable, and start out by sitting on it for only a little while at a time (e.g. 10 to 20 minutes) and gradually work up to several hours at a time. You can buy a ball with sand at the bottom of it if you're concerned about it rolling away every time you stand up (a good idea for people who get up a lot at work).

Other factors to note: This is one of the least expensive office chair options, usually around $15 to $30. However, many people find that they also sit in a regular office chair for at least part of the day.

Balance stool

A balance stool the same general idea as an exercise ball—forcing you to sit with good posture (as you're not able to slump or slouch) and many versions, such as the Swopper, encourage active sitting as they bounce up and down and side to side, making your core muscles work in order to stay balanced on it. Compared to the exercise ball, a balance stool looks slightly less unconventional and stays in one place.

Most balance stools are in the price range of $200 to $700.

Kneeling chair

A kneeling chair is actually a bit of a misnomer, because you're not really kneeling while on the chair, just sitting while angled forward with some of your bodyweight supported by your shins. Your shins provide stability, but the body is still sitting, not kneeling. The design of the chair is intended to:

  • Reduce some of the strain placed on the lower back when sitting in conventional, right-angle office chairs—the idea is that sitting while tilted forward slightly places the spine in a more neutral position.
  • Encourage good posture by sliding the hips forward so that your weight is distributed between your pelvis and knees/shins, which reduces spinal compression, and therefore reduces the stress and tension in the lower back and leg muscles.

The result is an office chair that makes sitting in the proper position feel comfortable and effortless. As with all chairs, be sure to get one that allows you to adjust the height and angle. Some versions are on casters, if you need to move around, and some have a bit of lumbar back support for when you want to lean back a little.

Recliner

Many people with back pain feel much more comfortable sitting in a reclining position than sitting upright. In a survey on HealthRcovered.com, we found that 72% of people with back pain felt less pain when lying down or reclining. If you are one of these people and have the option, then working while sitting in a recliner, with feet propped up on an ottoman or attached footrest, then using some type of laptop stand with your recliner may be a good option.

For the inexpensive route, you can use a lap desk—a wood or other type of solid top and beanbag cushion on the bottom - and work on it with your laptop and a wireless mouse.

If you're working for longer periods, then I would recommend using a laptop stand that lets you use a separate keyboard and ergonomically positioned wireless mouse. There is a huge variety of recliners and laptop stands—some very elaborate ones, and there's bound to be a setup that will suit your needs.

Personally, I think sitting in a recliner would be way too comfortable and relaxing—I'm pretty sure I'd be dozing within minutes. Standing or active sitting are definitely better options for me.

Final thoughts

No matter what you choose, there is nothing better than getting up regularly during the day to stretch and walk around. If price is an issue, remember that all the above options are available for much less via Craigslist and ebay, as a lot of people seem to buy these new but end up reselling them without using them much.

Of course, this is not a comprehensive list—just a few ideas to get you thinking about alternatives. Have you found something that works well for you? Please let us know.

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