An Example of Bad Sitting Ergonomics
An Example of Bad Sitting Ergonomics

I think we like to have internal civil wars between our brains and our bodies. Even though they are intimately connected, I think the brain has a superiority complex. I see this battle when it comes to the desk jockey. This is the person who sits all day, every day, and that is how they make their money, by sitting and doing computer-desk work. I realize that this is unavoidable and can be very taxing on the body, but if I had a choice, I think I would rather be a stunt man and take my injuries one by one vs. slowly becoming a mongoloid like cave dweller chained to one position. Heck, even prisoners have more freedom than desk jockeys.


This internal war starts with the body revolting, sending messages to the brain to move, squirm, readjust, get up, take a break, stretch, and so on. The mind recognizes the bodies check engine signals, but overcomes them with rationalization. The mind tells the body to take it, and keep on sitting. The mind realizes the importance of surviving, but also keeps in minds that whole must keep working to earn that oh so precious dollar.

At one point the mind might give a little and do more exercise outside of the working hours, but sometimes this is not enough. With some minds, there is recognition of the importance of the work space ergonomics. The chair is always recognized as very important. Here comes the problem. Some minds will start to think that sitting on a huge ball will help keep them upright for endless hours that their job demands. They think that the ball will magically strengthen their core to a point that they can sit forever without fatigue, like some sort of superhero. Short periods of large ball sitting are okay, but endless sitting will short circuit the system. This is when they find me, a Denver chiropractor, and the one they seek for help. Their brain has recognized its own inability to protect itself, its civil war has lost, and the body is battered and can no longer cooperate.

Well, I want to help all of the professional sitters sit better, to be able to sit longer, and sit without fatigue. I recently have had more than a normal amount of people come to the clinic and tell me they have neck and back pain, and they want me to fix them. When there are no obvious injuries, I have to play a bit of Sherlock Holmes. I usually suspect with a high degree, the job category, especially if they sit all day. When it comes out that they are using a large ball to sit on, I have to pull my teacher hat out.

Most people like to think they have good ergonomics. This of course is natural for the professional sitter. Let me tell you why sitting on a ball all day is wreaking havoc on your body.

Sitting requires using your muscles to some degree. It you are using the same set of muscles to sit for extended time, that is, more than 30 minutes, your muscles will fatigue. Think of holding a bowling ball like a waiter holds a tray. With the weight directly over the hand and weight, it is not so bad, because it requires a high degree of balancing versus strength. This is the concept that the ball sitters are using, but it is flawed. For a short time this version of sitting will work, but certain muscle groups will fatigue at one point.

The goal of sitting well is to shift the strain on muscles, and not have one group of muscle bearing the burden. This is what happens with ball sitting, one group of muscles are doing all the work while the rest are sitting back and taking a nice vacation.

Shifting the load on muscle groups to different muscle groups is the key to prevent one set muscles from fatiguing, and using a ball to do this is impossible. With a ball, you cannot rest your arms; your arms are endlessly hovering to type and mouse. The muscles that do this are what many people call their shoulders. This is the Upper Trapezious, Levator scapulae, Rhomboids, Splenius Capitus, and many others that share connections with the neck and back. The muscles in your low back share the same burden, they never get to rest, because they are always engaged.

By using these muscles continuously, you will put a tremendous amount of strain on the upper back, low back, and the neck. Using a ball also prevents you from resting your neck. Having a chair where you can tilt back and rest your noggin, and rest your arms while you take or make a call is just what the body wants, a shift in muscle group use.

Prolonged use of any muscle will put the check engine light on. Using over the counter non steroidal, like Ibuneverworkuprofin, or Tyandnotfixanol will never cure your problem. You are just putting tape over the check engine light. After a while of body revolt, your joints will be out of alignment, trigger points and muscle adhesions will develop. This will show as low back pain, upper back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, and headaches.

If you keep repeating the pattern of using your ball to sit on while you are developing neck and back pain, your problem will become much harder, longer, and much costlier to fix than buying a good ergonomic chair. Do your body a favor and get rid of that six dollar Walmart ball that you are using.

Next time you sit on your ball, become aware of what muscles you are actively using. Next, think of how long those same muscles can keep contracted without fatigue. Listen to your body, it will tell you what it needs, as long your mind and body are working for the good of each other.

Sit In Peace,

Dr. Trent Artichoker MS, DC

Denver Chiropractic, LLC
3890 Federal Blvd Unit 1
Denver, CO 80211