Get on the ball to beat back problems

Time to trade in the office chair for an exercise ball?
By
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 05/20/2004

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esk jockeys suffering from chronic back problems need to get on the ball if they want to beat the pain.

By no means is it time to get rid of those standard office chairs, but by sitting on the ball for 15 minutes an hour, people stimulate muscles and improve posture, changes which should go along way to alleviating chronic back problems, says Joe Pelino, a chiropractor with the Toronto-based Fitness Institute.

There are no clinical studies to support the theory, he admits, but too often people get treatment for repetitive strain injuries or back problems and then go back to the same behaviours and seating positions that caused the problem in the first place.

Even the best office chairs put the human body into a static position, and despite the countless studies on ergonomics, almost all workstations are badly designed, says Pelino. Computers screens are badly positioned so people have to slouch down and lean in to see them.

The number one benefit of sitting on the ball for about one-quarter of the workday is that people will sit better. “Your head is over your shoulders and there is good alignment,” he says.

“If your feet are planted on the floor, you cannot help but sit up tall.”

There are also a half dozen simple exercises that people can do while they are doing their work, he adds. People will be much better off if their muscles are being stimulated regularly. Aside from the exercises, people will be working their muscles more just by reaching around their workstation because they won’t be able to swivel the way they do on their chairs.

It is possible to sit properly in a good chair but only if the person sits with his back jammed up hard against the backrest. Most people end up slouching over. But when someone is sitting on the ball, however, they are never static because the ball is constantly moving, he says.

There is inevitably some bouncing which causes more water to be sucked into discs in the back, which makes them more absorbent and helps improve the distribution of pressure acting on the back, he says.

“By sitting on the ball your pelvis has some movement and that is considered ideal. It is stimulating and it is dynamic.”

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