It's no secret that sitting in a standard chair for long periods of time can (will?) ruin your back. But, some of us have to learn it the hard way.
An old back injury (that never really bothered me in my teens and 20s) came back to haunt me in my 30s after I took a job sitting at a computer for 8 hours a day.
My brother suggested that I seek out ergonomic kneeling chairs for back pain. After a couple days of trying one, I can truly say that this style of kneeling chair (or ergonomic kneeling “stool”) saved both my life and my job.
You might find relief from symptoms like these with an ergonomic kneeling chair:
- Back pain and discomfort
- Poor posture
- Numbness in your legs and feet
- Tension in your neck and shoulders
Other benefits include improved blood circulation, energy, and focus.
In this article I'd like to share with you what I've learned about using ergonomic kneeling chairs for back pain, and offer three recommendations to get you started on your own search.
At the end of the article, I also suggest a few more affordable “starter chairs” for those of you who'd like to try this style of kneeling/sitting, but are on a budget. I also add a few good places online to continue your search.
*(You can click those links above to jump ahead to my suggestions. Or, read on to learn more about how ergonomic kneeling chairs work and what to look for.)
Why Kneeling Chairs For Back Pain
What's wrong with sitting in a regular office chair? They're comfy and supportive, right?
Well, the problem with all standard western chairs is that they put our thighs at a right angle (90º) with our back and torso. This not only takes our lower back (lumbar spine) out of its natural curve, but it slightly strains our lower back muscles to maintain that position. This encourages us to hunch and constrict our muscles and body into an unnatural position.
Over time, that “slight strain” can take a serious toll.
While some people might find relief and support from a lumbar support or pillow of some kind, many of us who already have some back issues or pain need something else to relieve that stress.
The key is better posture.
Kneeling chairs work by opening up that angle between our legs and back. This allows the lumbar spine to ease into its more naturally supportive shape, and the muscles to relax back into a more supportive level of tension.
We can even strengthen our supporting “core” muscles in this kneeling posture.
Office chairs with and without lumbar supports remove the need to use those muscles, making them weaker for lack of use, or forcing us to use other muscles to compensate, and leading to other problems.
I think this young woman explains it pretty well, with a little “how to” — kneeling chairs require a little attention to how you sit in them:
I'll reiterate some of her points below.
How to Select the Best Kneeling Chair — Use & Designs
There are a few things you should know about kneeling chair use and designs before selecting the best kneeling chair for you.
First of all, remember that human bodies are designed for motion, not for sitting still all day. The best ergonomic kneeling chairs are designed to accommodate some motion, but even then you'll want to get up and move around every few hours.
You might want to choose a kneeling chair on a swivel, or with wheels to allow for more movement.
Sit On Your Butt
Even when sitting in a kneeling posture chair, your weight should be carried mostly on your butt — not your knees, as if you were kneeling on the ground. This can lead to discomfort in your knees.
So, seat adjustment is important. You should be able to angle the seat such that you feel more like you're sitting than kneeling. It takes a little practice and getting used to how to position oneself properly in a kneeling chair.
Some of the cheaper “starter” chairs adjust both the height and seat angle at the same time. The higher you make the seat, the more likely you'll slide forward such that most of your weight is on your knees. Taller and heavier users will want to insure they can both the height and seat angle for the best support, posture, and comfort.
If you find yourself sliding forward and putting your weight on your knees, be aware that cheap padding can flatten out to nothing, or “bottom out” after several months of sitting in your kneeling chair. Memory foam in the seat and knee pads will last longer and prevent knee discomfort.
Theres one thing you'll usually see missing from the average kneeling chair: back supports. These are not completely necessary for proper posture and support. It's healthier to be able to maintain your posture with muscles and positioning alone.
However, kneeling chair back supports can serve as both a gentle reminder to people who “slouch” badly to pull that back in and straighten up, or as a nice rest for people who will be sitting in the chair for extended periods.
Kneeling Chairs Reviews
One great advantage to shopping online for kneeling chairs: reviews.
Be sure to read what specific customers say about each kneeling chair. Reviews on shopping sites will reveal the subtleties about how the above factors in each chair might affect you. A customer with the same height and weight as you can warn you away from a chair that might better suit a larger or smaller person.
After you've had your kneeling chair a while, pay it forward. Be sure to leave helpful reviews of your own kneeling chairs. Back pain sufferers do each other a favor as a community by doling out a little experienced advice. (Like I'm doing here.) 😉
Here's another good article on how to size a kneeling chair that fits well, and how to sit in an ergonomic kneeling chair.
3 Good Ergonomic Kneeling Chairs
Now that you have a sense of what to look for, here are my three suggestions for good ergonomic kneeling chairs for back pain.
I've selected these based on their superior reputations and combinations of features, and I list them in order of price (most expensive first).
I've also added a category of “starter kneeling chairs” for those of you who are on a tighter budget, or who want to try the designs out before making a bigger financial investment in an ergonomic kneeling chair.
There are several retail shops and stores online where you can buy kneeling chair. Amazon has a very wide selection, so I've linked these recommendations to their product pages for your shopping convenience, and to see specific customer reviews.*
(If you'd prefer stores other than Amazon, I link to a few other reputable online shops to buy kneeling chairs below.)
Price: $399~$649 Online
Company: Varier Furniture
Pros: Adapts to subtle shifts in position; Separate knee supports provide ideal positioning and range of motion, and easy access
Cons: Somewhat pricey; no rollers on base
The Varier Variable Balans Kneeling Chair is often called “the Original Kneeling chair”. Designed 30 years ago by Peter Opsvik, and distributed by Stokke, it is also commonly known as the “Swedish kneeling chair” and the “Stokke kneeling chair”.
The combination of the rocking base and the open split-legged front allows for the greatest possible movement while working.
While reaching forward or leaning back, the base rocks to align with your new position. This insures you are still balancing your weight on your seat. It also brings your supporting core muscles into play, promoting circulation and strength.
The separate knee supports mean your legs are held in the ideal, slightly “opened” position. This also allows you to easily stretch a leg forward for better support while reaching, and provides an easier way to get in and out of the chair.
The Varier Variable Balans Kneeling Chair comes in a variety of colors to suit various work and living environments. The kneeling chair back support option is available in the more expensive models.
Price: $399~$411 Online
Pros: Back support; Memory Foam; height adjusts independent of seat angle; Wheels like a traditional office chair
Cons: Somewhat pricey; Cannot adjust seat angle or leg rests
My favorite advantage of the Jobri Jazzy Kneeling Chair is that adjusting the height doesn't affect the seat angle.
The seat angle and knee rests have been optimized for “average leg lengths” and are not adjustable. While this can be a drawback for some taller and shorter users, the so-called “average” user can adapt by adjusting their position on the seat.
Caster wheels on the aluminum base, and gas lift height adjustment controlled by levers under the seat, make this truly an office kneeling chair — more like the standard chairs you'd find in an office.
The Jobri kneeling chair, however, ups the game on this sturdy construction. This kneeling chair add a standard back support for those days you'll sit for long hours. Memory foam in the seat and knee rests rounds out the design for long-lasting customized comfort.
Jobri kneeling chairs come in black, blue, grey, red, & lime green.
Price: $96~$119 Online
Pros: Extra thick padding; Seat angle keeps weight off knees; affordable
Cons: No color options; Might not accommodate very short or very tall people
The extra padding and affordable price make the SLEEKFORM Ergonomic Kneeling Chair an extremely popular option on Amazon, with plenty of reviews to confirm whether or not it's the ergonomic kneeling stool for you.
The extra thick padding in both the chair and the knee pads not only provide more comfort, but extend the life of the chair by reducing the chances of the padding “bottoming out”, or wearing down to the hard supports.
However, some users suggest that the extra padding also makes it a less than ideal shape and fit for people shorter than 5'5″ and taller than 6'0″.
The seat is angled such that there is less of a “sliding” effect when opening the chair and adjusting the height for taller people. (A common problem with many of the “starter kneeling chairs” that I mention below.) It starts at a shallow angle a little more parallel to the floor, which insures you're carrying your weight more on your bottom than your knees.
Unfortunately, just like Ford's Model T, “you can get it in any color you want, as long as that's black.” From the satisfaction rating online, however, I guess a lot of people like black. Comfort and affordability know no colors.
“Starter” Kneeling Chairs
I'm adding this section because I realize that the two main suggestions above might be out of many people's price range. Price shouldn't be a limiting factor when you're trying to find relief from back pain.
These options provide many of the relieving benefits of other ergonomic kneeling chairs—for back pain, posture correction, comfort, etc—but, may have limitations in adjustability, life span, and quality.
MallBoo Wooden Ergonomic Kneeling Chair
I recently found this cheaper alternative of the Balans Kneeling Chair design by MallBoo. It has a similar rocker design for the base. The original design had a split knee rest like the Varier Variable Balans Kneeling Chair, but they have since changed it to the bench-style knee rest. The white color is classy, and the wood base comes in both pecan and white-oak colors. At about $110, this is a significant discount over the Varier brand design that it originally imitated.
Flash Furniture Wooden Ergonomic Kneeling Chair
This is the first kneeling chair that I bought which sold me on kneeling chairs. The vary basic design adjusts for height by opening up or closing. You might tend to slide more of your weight onto your knees at the highest setting. The knee rest pad may begin to wear down after several months of regular use. I've found it online for around $80.
Boss Office Products Ergonomic Kneeling Stool
For the super budget-conscious, you might try this cheaper model from Boss. Like a conventional office chair, it offers an easy gas-lift seat height adjustment at the touch of a lever, and rolls on coasters. Solid reviews on Amazon make it worth a serious look. Runs about $60.
3 Good Places to Buy Kneeling Chairs
Here are a few other shops online for those of you who might not like Amazon:
- AppliancesConnection.com: for kneeling desk chairs
- Hayneedle.com: for office kneeling chairs
- Wayfair.com: for kneeling ergonomic office chairs
I hope this article has shown you that you have many options for good ergonomic kneeling chairs for back pain. Kneeling chairs have significantly improved the quality of my work and life, and I hope they will do the same for you.
If you have any questions for me, or even suggestions for other people about good ergonomic kneeling chairs, please add them to the comments below. I look forward to hearing from you.