A lot of people these days are starting to replace their desk chairs with physio balls in hopes that it will improve their posture and possibly improve their level of fitness. It has been an interesting fad for a while that your back will actually get stronger and they will have fantastic posture just from sitting in the chair. But, did you know that you could be causing more harm than good to your body by doing so? There has been a ton of research (click here to read more) on this topic and there are a lot of mixed reviews. There is no doubt that sitting on a physio ball can help with core stability, but there are many factors in play here. The majority of people with lower back pain have overactive erector and paraspinal muscles, meaning they are constantly working. This could be because of a lower back injury or just bad posture in your everyday life. When we sit on a physio ball, you are essentially trying to maintain a tall posture while you are sitting. When this happens, we are over-activating our erector and paraspinal muscles because we are trying to stay upright, meaning they are not turning off, and if we already have hyperactive muscles, this is only going to add to the case.
Another issue that occurs with physio balls as desk chairs is the fact that individuals may not be maintaining great posture while sitting on it throughout the day. When people fatigue, form goes, and it’s the same on the ball. The next thing you know, you will be slouching forward at your desk, possibly putting yourself in a riskier position than slouching with your less bouncy old chair you had before.
Since muscles shorten during contractions, compressive loads take place on the intervertebral discs because the muscles are pulling the spaces closer together. While sitting on a physio ball, the hips are rotated forward, causing us to flatten our natural lumbar lordosis (curvature), adding further compression to the discs. Researchers have found more compressive loads take place while sitting on a physio ball in comparison to a chair.
A lot of individuals who are desk workers are consciously aware that their posture is bad, so they take the initiative to replace their chair with a physio ball to try and correct them, but this isn’t the answer. If you want to help your posture, keep a normal chair, and don’t allow yourself to sit for more than 20-30 minutes at a time. Get up, walk around, become mobile, and even try working standing up.
It’s an easy process that doesn’t require much work, just get up!
If standing up and moving around still isn’t cutting it, you can correct your posture by doing posterior chain work to help and strengthen up your back side at the gym. Consult with a certified trainer or coach who knows what’s up and get to work! Deadlifts, farmer carries, rowing, or anything that involves your posterior muscles will help you in the long run by making you a more muscularly balanced individual.
Abdominal engagement is also key in posture because a lot of times, our paraspinals are so activated that they are keep us upright while our abdominals are disengaged. We need to focus on engaging our abdominals to give our posterior chain a rest and balance everything out. Great abdominal exercises include planking, pallof press, and deadbugs as they train isometric strength of the trunk muscles. The biggest thing is to get up, move, and be proactive!