I have a staff who recently joined our organisation. His physiotherpist is recommending a “ball seat” as he has been using this for stabilising exercise following back injury.
I have concerns about this as the job he did before he came to us was very different to what he does now. My feeling is that a good ergonomic office chair would be a better option.
Can, or does, anyone have any experience of this seat and would be will to share their views with me.
Thanks in anticipation
I’m sure the rehabilitation benefits of these balls are significant and one always has to be careful of questioning the advice of an individual’s treating professional; however, my non-clinical experience has been that the described benefits do not outweigh the potential causes of concern for the use of these products in the office environment, and that in general I agree with your view that a good office chair is likely be more appropriate. There are too many possible dangers for the user and for colleagues in normal office situations; it does not need an ergonomist to describe the effects of any loss of balance.
There are versions of these balls now available in frames so that they are more stable, but I would imagine that this negates much of the possible benefit; however, thought could be given perhaps to the use of these. Examples of these can be seen at http://www.backinaction.co.uk/palloneII (and I would guess they are available from many other suppliers).
You are correct to question the use of a ball as a seating device in an office environment. This subject has been discussed before in the Ergoweb Forum. You can read the comments of others by visiting http://forum.ergoweb.com, logging in with your Username and Password, then using the “SEARCH POSTS” link at the top of each page. I found applicable discussions by entering ball chair as keywords.
Here’s a brief summary of my opinion on this topic: The balls go by different names, including Swiss Balls, Ball Chairs, Physio Balls, Exercise Balls, etc. They are not ergonomic seating devices (e.g., they have no user operated adjustments). A ball is inherently unstable, and therefore introduces a safety hazard in the workplace. Using a ball to strengthen abdominal and other trunk muscles, often the reason for which they are touted, is best done under the guidance and direct supervision of a medical professional. As an employer and in my consulting activities, I would only allow one for workplace use with written directions or prescription from a qualified medical professional (even then I would remain concerned with liability). The people who seem most enthusiastic about their use and efficacy are often those that are selling or promoting them, not the users who end up sitting on one for 8 or more hours a day. There are other chair designs that may accomplish the same posture and trunk toning goals as the ball, but also provide adjustablility and stability (two important features for something to be deemed “ergonomic”).
While I agree with others who question safety & liability concerns, those woulddepend on the specific environment. I am an OT and when I worked in an office, i used a threrapy ball as a chair – no base. I needed it for sensory movement and to increase posture. Otherwise I would rather stand. I am now working in a school setting and have several classrooms who use balls as chairs for portions of their day. I do have a few students using them in regular education classrooms but here is where space and safety become more of a key issue. I just wanted to give you a different viewpoint. Other than ergonomics, they help sensory feedback, posture and in turn can enhance visual attention and there is one study that even goes as far as saying they also improve handwriting.
While the attached article refers to the classroom, it might be interesting to note the discussion as it pertains to this thread.
I have had many questions about Ball Seats or “FitBalls” over the years. I wrote an article about it. You can find it on my website and attached. In my opinion, they are good for short periods of time, while the person can maintain a neutral spine and strengthen his muscles while maintaining balance. However, many people fatigue quickly and then they slump or change their posture to one which is not as good for the spine. At this time, I believe they need to switch to a chair that offers them good back support until their muscles are no longer fatigued and then they can switch back to the ball.
Shona Anderson, CCPE
Anderson Ergonomics Consulting Inc.
As both a PT (as physio are referred to here) and ergonomist I’d have to recommend against the use of the ball excusively, primarily for safety reasons. First, the fitball is not primarily designed to be a sitting surface while chairs are. I’ve had one patient’s ball burst on her while performing exercises at home. Secondly, the balls have a tendency to roll even when placed in a ring, causing a potential for the employee or co-workers to trip and fall.
Without a specific reason beside the one given and research to back it up I would consider the recommendation as “armchair ergonomics” (no pun intended) given by a well intentioned healthcare practitioner. That being said, the ball may be an option for short-term use and a very inexpensive one at that (they can be purchased for as little as 10 euros).
I hope this helps,
Andrew L. Concors, PT, MBA, CIE
Physical Therapist/ Certified Industrial Ergonomist
Like most other responders I don’t think that the use of a ball would be appropriate for long term desk work. I would ask the user if his therapist is aware of the office environment in which it will be used, the nature of the job performed, and most importantly the length of time that is recommended for. I don’t think that most therapists recommend more than about a 15 minute session on these things and most desk jobs are going to last longer than that.
I have used a swissball as a seat at work for over three years. Before that I had chronic lower back pain for many years and on top of that I had a great deal of difficulty walking. After many attempts by my employers’ occupational health and safety people tying to find a suitable ergonomic chair for me without success and frequent visits to physios and Chyros, I was fortunately introduced to a personal trainer who suggested that I try a swissball. At first I was incredulous and very sceptical but I was also desparate so I tried it.
The results have been nothing less than spectacular. Within a week there was a noticeable reduction in pain levels. To cut a long story short, I am fully mobile, I have no backpain whatsoever and what is more, after my huge improvement in physical health I started to study Physical fitness and am now a fully qualified personal trainer and physical rehabilitation provider. My main full time work is in a large office where I now train people to use the swissball. After my rapid improvement, others have started to sit on a ball. Without exception, and I stress without exception there has been great improvemnts in those peoples back health, fitness with a consequential decrease in pain and improved mobility.
It is true that a cheap ball can burst, but so do car tyres. A good anti burst ball from a reputable manufacturer will be safe. Mine is three years old and still in great condition. It is true that one can slump on thre ball but doing so is quite uncumfortable and one soon straightens up so avoiding Kyphosis. Further, the constant small movements of the lower back while on the ball and even as low down as the ankles and feet produces continuous supply of oxynigated blood, which flows through faster than the immobile sitting position on a chair and can consequently lessen the chance of deep vein thrombosis developing.
It is true that at first the muscles feel some strain but as they get stronger they adapt to the movement and muscle strain disappears within weeks. This is true of all exercise, muscles adapt to resistance. It is silly to say that its useful to use the ball as an exercise apparatus in every way, just not sitting.
It is also untrue that a ball can run out from under a person.Being spherical the ball moves with the body and cannot run out from under a person. If someone loses balance it is far safer to roll off a ball than to come crashing down if a chair is unbalanced or breaks. It is also quite easy to swivel around on a ball and reach drawers etc.
Remember we once rode horses and some of us rode and still ride bikes for extensive distances and time. The movement is akin to sitting on the ball, we don
An an occupational Therapist I have encouraged the use of the ball as a chair for many students. I have one small classroom in my building where each student has a ball. they have a schedule or can access the balls when they feel they need it. the teachers & parents (who eventually also purchased for homework time) were impressed in posture, attention and performance changes. Fortunatley the teachers I work with are also very creative and we have made good use of the balls. Unfortunately i have been unable to get the district to support large purchases for regular classrooms. I do see the inherent safety risks but have asked that at least 2 different sized balls be available to rotate through the classrooms.
As a sufferer of RLS, I once worked a coordinator’s position/mostly desk job. I would stand to work most of my day which is definitely not ergonomically healthy until my employer purchased balls for our small office. It was easy for me to work then.
Note: to other post- I used two computers and it was easy to rotate to switch with the ball.
I too feel the more it is used (as long as desk height etc. matches) it will produce effective outcomes. Someday i hope to do a study in a classroom.
Hi Greyskies. I am attaching some work that was done in a school with Swissballs.
I find it quite strange that the ergoweb was quick to put out a article which included mainly negative articles about the swiss ball with the title stating that its a bad idea to use the ball as a chair. I asked them to now include positive artickles about the ball as a chair as well. The answer just redirected me to the forum. Not good enough. The link to the website: https://ergoweb.com/news/detail.cfm?id=1091
I agree with all of the posts noted about the problems associated with the exercise ball.
I have a bad back and have tried to sit on a ball to see how long I could last. I had to really concentrate to stay balanced and could not sustain this posture for more than 10 or 15 minutes without getting fatigued or slouching. I just can
From about 100 or so people who I know that sit on the ball, it always takes some timie to adapt to something totally new, 15 minutes is inadequate and of course their will be fatigue at first, because our back muscles have become so lazy being supported in a chair that it is difficult to start with, to sit on an unstable surface, but if chairs are so good why, during the last couple of decades where western humanity has sat more than other times in history, on chairs supporting our backs, looking at computer screens, has there been such a huge increase in back problem? All the people I have trained are not athletes , they are office workers and love sitting on the ball and all feel better for it including myself
It is interesting to view this discussion about Swiss ball seating. I will state up-front that I am not a fan of this item in a work environment. I do believe the ball has good application in a rehab environment, and by stating that I suppose that if a person is in an early return to work environment,i.e. a workers compensation environment, then ball seating MAY be helpful to train the body to improved seated posture.
Years ago, ergonomist Marv Dainoff produced a chair with a convex seat. The shape that is presented to the seat of the user is the same shape presented to a user with the Swiss ball. One aspect of the anatomical logic of the Dainoff seat was to postion the ischium on the downward side of the seat pan curve. As far as I know the chair didn’t last long, it wasn’t accepted as ‘comfortable.’ I thought it was wonderful.
Many chair designs are eliminated by the consumer because they are uncomfortable, even though a lot of design logic has been put into their manufacture. That being said, I believe a lot of the Swiss ball magic is related to its novelty. Novelty is good for stimulation, and it sounds like many of the Swiss ball users are getting stimulated to understand their bodies in a new and improved way. I think the best place for this is to get away from the desk entirely and to take some time in the day for yoga, tai chi, chi gong or meditation. The underlying problem to most ergonomic issues is fatigue. If we break up the unending physical requirement to produce, produce, produce then our health will improve and our injury rater will reduce. We will also put other deserving souls back to work.
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