Saddle seat that beats backache
An innovative new chair that looks just like a horse's saddle is being used to cure back pain. The seat is a remarkably simple invention that positions the spine and pelvis correctly.
Tests show that it reduces pain and boosts accuracy in tasks performed sitting down. It could have implications for thousands of employees who spend time seated at a desk.
The chair is shaped so that the pelvis, which supports the upper body - is tilted forward. Most chairs allow the pelvis to tilt backwards, causing the body to slump, increasing long-term back problems.
Natural 'S' shape
But the Bambach Saddle Seat, which costs £399, has been developed to keep the spine in its natural 'S' shape.
The seat was invented by an Australian therapist and keen horsewoman called Mary Gale, who helped seriously disabled patients ride horses.
"At the hospital where I worked, we noticed people who were unable to sit in a chair without support were able to sit upright and independently on horseback," says Mary.
"The ideal sitting position for everyone is with thighs at around 45 degrees to the top half of the body.
"This means the muscles at the front and back of the body are in balance and the body's centre of gravity is over the supporting base, rather than behind it. This preserves the natural S curve of the spine."
Up to 80 per cent of people in Britain suffer back pain at some point. Some cases are caused by falls or accidents, but poor posture and bad seating is recognised as a major factor.
For millions of people it can be difficult to remain upright and keep the perfect posture when working at a screen, doing paperwork or making frequent phone calls.
Put to the test
A team of physiotherapists at the University of Birmingham used the seat in an experiment with 15 men and women aged between 18 and 30.
Each one was seated in an ordinary chair that made their pelvis tilt backwards slightly and given a task to perform.
This was based on the popular game where a metal ring is passed over a twisted wire without touching it.
All the volunteers then repeated the experiment sitting in a Bambach Saddle Seat.
The results, published in the International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation, showed volunteers made fewer errors when using the seat.
At the same time, researchers detected increased electrical activity in a key group of muscles in the back.
Jill Ramsay, a lecturer in physiotherapy, who led the study, said: "Our aim was to identify what effect the position of the pelvis had on upper limb function, and we found it has a significant effect."
Hannah Riveira, 31, from West London, bought a Saddle Seat after badly injuring her back by falling on a polished floor.
The public relations executive took many painkillers, but with little benefit. An osteopath diagnosed a crooked pelvis and six bouts of treatment. But recovery was slow and painful.
She says: "My osteopath mentioned the Saddle Seat. I bought one six months ago and started using it at work.
"I noticed an improvement fairly soon. A few years ago, I had a skiing accident, which left me suffering terrible headaches.
"After my fall, the headaches returned. But as soon as I started using the Saddle Seat, they went." Hannah is now back to running three times a week.
For more information, call 0800 581 108, or visit http://www.bambach.co.uk
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