Is a standard chair right for you?

January 15, 2016
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Standard Chair Alternatives

We see people on a daily basis who are searching for a chair which does not aggravate their pain and discomfort. One thing they often ask us is whether an ‘alternative’ type of chair will help them more than a ‘standard’ type of chair. From around the 1970’s with the invention of the kneeling chairs there have been many alternative types of chairs enter the market – fit balls, ball chairs, saddle seats, dynamic backrest chairs and perching stools.

Here is a brief guide standard chair alternatives:

No backrest seating

These require you to hold good posture (no backrest to lean against). The benefits; their design often helps you to sit with good, upright posture. A backrest lets your back relax, but possibly become slumped and lazy. Beware; your back may fatigue and if this happens your posture will deteriorate. You will need to have good core and trunk muscle strength and endurance.

Perching and saddle seating (seat or stool is higher than a usual chair)

The downward sloping thigh position that happens when sitting on these chairs tilts the pelvis into a better position and has a good effect on the back and posture. Beware; these chairs sit you higher than standard chairs, so your desk may be too low and you may stoop to work.

Kneeling chairs

Very popular in the 1980’s. These chairs improve back posture and for some people kneeling chairs marked the end of their back pain. Beware; some trunk weight is taken through knees or shins which will not suit everyone. The knees cannot stretch and move. They are difficult to get in and out of and shouldn’t be used by someone with leg weakness or balance problems. (See also ‘No backrest seating’).

Fit balls

Very popular a few years ago; cheap, the movement they encouraged helped some people’s back pain and they offered sitting while exercising the core muscles. The risks; most workplaces now do not allow them because of the problems with using them in an office and using them all day.

Dynamic/active movement chairs

The latest thing in seating is chairs which encourage movement rather than static sitting e.g. the backrest may spring back or the seat moves. Beware; though some movement is better than being completely static too much movement may aggravate some problems.

Using a mixture of ‘standard’ chair and ‘alternative’ chair. This can get around some of the problems described above.


Deciding if a standard type of chair or an alternative type of chair will be best for you can be a difficult decision as there are many factors which need to be taken into consideration.

If you have an injury or chronic musculoskeletal problem, get help from a health professional experienced in seating and workstation assessment. They will help you choose seating and make sure the chair not only suits your body but that it is correctly adjusted, that you are confident in adjusting it and that your workstation is also adjusted for best postures.

Before buying anything ‘alternative’ check with your employer whether they are OK about this in their workplace. Some may need a ‘risk assessment’ be done prior to any new type of chair /equipment being bought.

Always take advantage of the trial period to test out how well a chair suits your needs, how comfortable it is for you and if it helps your condition.

Once in your chair and adjusted, consider placing a sign on it requesting that others do not use your chair (it may not be good for them or they may change your settings).

Things to remember…

A chair which suits or helps one person will not necessarily suit or help you.

Any chair (even an expensive one) can be bad for you if it is not the right fit, not adjusted correctly, or if it is used with bad posture – whether this is due to work desk layout, work activities or simply bad habits.

For advice on what chair might be right for you and your work station, you can have one of our registered occupational therapists come to your workplace and do a workplace assessment. Get in contact with SAOT Consultants today to discuss further or get a quote.