Are You Sitting Comfortably?

Posted on Wednesday 4th September, 2013

Geoff Adams-Spink - EDRIC Chairman

Let me start with a confession: I'm a sucker for any product that claims to be 'revolutionary', 'innovative' or 'therapeutic' when it comes to making my poor old back more comfortable. 

Like many of us with upper limb disabilities, I have acquired a secondary disability by over-using my back.  As a young, energetic journalist in my thirties, I would toil for 12 or 14 hours a day over computer terminals or tape editing machines (back then we cut audiotape physically with a razor blade), paying little heed to the needs of my spine. 

The inevitable happened: in 1995, aged just 33, I slipped a disc in my lower back, tried to live with it through a wall of excruciating pain for eleven months, and then had surgery to correct the problem.  It was made very clear to me that unless I changed my modus operandi, I would have a succession of slipped discs. 

Given that the recovery from the surgery was six months, this wasn't an option I was prepared to entertain.  Not only that, but the pain - both pre and post-operative - was off the scale.  The only remedy that got anywhere close to giving me some relief was a suppository usually given to women who had undergone hysterectomies. 

I became a convert - even an evangelist - for ergonomic workstation design: height-adjustable everything, use of alternative mice, lumber supporting seating and so on. 

When I left the BBC a couple of years ago, I treated myself to what I thought was the last word in ergonomic chairs for those with chronic back problems.  Let me tell you, once you've damaged your back it never really recovers fully. 

I spent more than €1,000 on the fanciest chair you could possibly imagine.  Nonetheless, by the end of the working day, my lower back was aching so much that I had my massage therapist on speed dial.  I even bought an electric massage attachment so that I could get some relief during the day. 

As part of our awareness raising for EDRIC, Björn Håkansson and I shared a stand with the Ex-Center at COTEC 2012 - an annual get-together for occupational therapists that took place in Stockholm.  Just opposite, a Finnish company was displaying what looked like some of the most uncomfortable seating I had ever cast eyes on. 

"You should try this Geoff," advised Björn.  "This is what you need to deal with your back problems at work."

Salli makes the unusual-looking 'Saddle Chair' - a device with no back rest that encourages the user to sit up straight.  So I wandered across to try one. 

Thighs slightly parted and feet planted on the floor, I was indeed forced to sit straight.  I wasn't sure whether this would be comfortable for the whole day, but it was certainly an improvement on the slouch and slump posture that was my default in the office. 

The company had also recently introduced a chair with a table - they call it the 'Elbow Table' - which looked like an ideal way to have a laptop or tablet device placed at exactly the right height.  Along with many upper limb-impaired thalidomide survivors, I don't have any elbows, but I could certainly make use of the table. 

I ordered one and had it dispatched to Poland, where I spend a few weeks every year relaxing and, occasionally, doing some writing.  This, I thought to myself, would be much more convenient and cost effective than having to buy a new height-adjustable desk. 

Driving the Ferrari

The seat was ordered in Ferrari-red leather, and the device acquired the nickname 'Geoff's Ferrari'.  I found that I could comfortably spend a few hours in front of my laptop, dictating text while referring to notes on my iPad. 

As part of our drive to encourage companies to advertise on DysNet, I had a Skype meeting with Salli's Vice CEO, Marie Jalkanen.  As well as being a physiotherapist, Marie is a formidable sales woman.  The Skype call was 'in vision', and Marie started by asking me what I was sitting on.  Before I had a chance to make my pitch about how DysNet was connecting people with congenital limb difference all over the world, I had agreed to buy a Saddle Chair for the office!

It's been in situ for more than six months now.  I wouldn't say that it's advisable to spend eight or nine hours a day sitting on it, but then, nor would Marie.  Her advice - advice that I have acted upon - is that you should do a mixture of sitting and standing.  I've had my height-adjustable desk mounted on large wooden blocks so that it now goes even higher.  I'd say an average working day in the office involves a 50-50 split between sitting and standing.  Crucially, I have very little back pain at the end of the day. 

The Saddle Chair does take a bit of getting used to: for about three to four weeks, Marie had warned me, there would be a certain amount of 'saddle soreness'.  However, the relief to my lower and middle back was well worth the temporary discomfort. 

During one of our follow-up meetings, I managed to convince Marie that the Saddle Chair would be a great product to suggest to the limb difference community.  Pretty soon, visitors to this website will notice a new banner appearing alongside those of our existing advertisers. 

I promised Marie that, in return for agreeing to advertise with us, I would write this blogpost about my experience of using the chair.  So, while this is a 'sponsored blogpost' my assessment of Salli's product is based solely upon my very positive experience of using it and the benefits that I have gained. 

Never one to rest on her laurels, Marie is now trying to persuade me to replace my kitchen stools with Saddle Chairs.  Some people just never give up!

Tags: Salli Ergonomics Seating Article


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