I have a co-worker/buddy with digenerative disc disease in L1-L2 and L4-L5. He complains of leg numbness when he sits for more than about 15 minutes in a" typical" office chair, He has a job that does require him to use a computer much of the day.
Are there any recommendations for alternatives he can try? Standing? Kneeling chairs? Balls? Perching stools?
I haven't found any studies that seem to suggest any solutions, but maybe I'm not looking in the right spots.
He has had a cervical spine fusion and would like to do what he can to avoid the need for more surgery as long as possible. So, anything any one can suggest is welcomed.
The potential solutions you've already thought of all accomplish pretty much the same things: increasing the hip (trunk-to-thigh) angle, which many (but not all) back pain sufferers find to be helpful. Standing provides the widest hip angle, but he should be sure that his particular pain/injury isn't aggravated by standing before going that route. If standing is comfortable, I'd suggest he use an anti-fatigue mat while he stands. But he probably can't or wouldn't like to stand all the time, so a chair will likely still be a part of his workstation options. Chairs that support an open-hip posture are likely to be more comfortable for him, but again, all back injuries/pain are different, so he would want to test such a posture before committing to it. He should also test his interactions with backrests to determine whether they help or hinder his condition.
The kneeling style chairs seem to be a matter of personal choice: some love them; some hate them. In my experience, the pressure on the shins is problematic for many users, as is ingress/egress, especially after extended periods of sitting. Finding a model that fits, or has adjustments to help create a good fit, can also be a challenge.
Using a ball as a chair is generally frowned upon in the workplace unless it's done so under guidance of a health care professional, or as part of an overall strengthening/conditioning process. The reasons for this include safety and potential liability from sitting on an unstable device, significant debate surrounding their effectivenenss as a replacement for an office chair, and the fact that they don't provide adequate adjustability when integrated with the rest of the workstation. If you search for "ball" on this site (ergoweb.com) you will find a great deal of info and discussion regarding the use of balls as chairs.
To summarize, if standing is comfortable for him, I'd suggest an easily adjustable sit-stand workstation arrangement with an anti-fatigue mat for his standing time, and a chair he finds comfortable for his sitting time. If standing is not an option for him, the chair becomes the primary issue, and he'll have to see if the open-hip designs are right for him, as well as whether a backrest is appropriate, and if so, what kind (e.g., his cervical spine history may play into the height and shape of a backrest).
Hope this is helpful,
Peter Budnick, PhD, CPE
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