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Should You Use a Stability Ball as an Office Chair?

Sitting for prolonged periods of time can lead to plenty of health risks no matter who you are. That’s why plenty of ergonomic studies are aimed towards keeping desk workers in tip-top shape since they’re required to sit for at least 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. 

The CDC also released a survey that explains how 1 in 4 Americans sit for at least eight hours a day. That’s plenty of people already at risk for things like back pain, sciatic nerve pain, and even depression.

So where does the stability ball come into play? Most of the time, stability balls or yoga balls are used to improve balance and flexibility during workouts. They also help expand one’s range of motion to achieve different forms and poses. Recently, these devices have gained traction in the world of ergonomics as a form of “active sitting.”

However, the benefits of this type of working setup are still very much unclear. Let’s lay down what we know.

Benefits of Using a Stability Ball

Sitting on a giant ball might seem a bit odd as it offers virtually no back support. But according to experts, that’s pretty much the point. The stability ball is said to engage all of one’s postural muscles, also known as the really deep muscles in one’s pelvis, back, and abdomen. Engaging your core while sitting helps you maintain a straight spine.

However, there is not much research to back this claim, aside from these two case studies that show improvement in lower back pain among those who use a yoga ball.

Other wellness experts say that yoga balls are for short workouts, not day-in day-out chairs used while working. Another study even showed that people had worse posture and resorted to slumping after just an hour of sitting on the ball.

If you can’t picture it, just imagine a floppy banana sitting on a ball. That’s how holistic physiotherapist Caitlin Reid describes it. She says that this worsened posture is “because many people roll their tailbones underneath and arch their shoulder forward, poking their chin forwards to compensate for the weight shift.”

How to Properly Use a Stability Ball as a Chair

While it’s not recommended to sit for long on a yoga ball, using it for a short time can still help with lower back pain relief. If you want to try it out, here’s what you should do to avoid injury:

Keep It Short

If you’re planning on playing around with your stability ball, make sure not to sit for more than two hours. This will help you avoid spinal shrinkage, a.k.a. slumping over on your ball, which can cause more pain on your lower back instead of pain relief.

Inflate It Properly

Make sure your ball is fully pumped up before you start sitting on it. This way, you’ll be able to actually sit on top of it and not sink into the ball just a few minutes in. 

Check the Size

Ergonomics is all about maintaining the proper distance and posture between different parts of your body and different parts of your workstation. Your monitor should be at a height where you don’t strain nor slump your neck, your keyboard should allow your arms and wrist to settle on a neutral position, and so on and so forth. 

The same principle applies to your stability ball. If you plan to really use it during your office hours, make sure that you’re buying a size that still lets you maintain perfect ergonomic posture. Your feet should be able to touch the ground while you’re sitting on the ball and your knees should be bent at a 90-degree angle. Be prepared to invest in new equipment if needed.

So, Should You Switch Your Chair for a Stability Ball?

Based on the data, we wouldn’t recommend permanently swapping your ergonomic desk chair for a stability ball. There simply isn’t enough evidence to back up this practice, while having a proper chair has significant proven benefits to one’s back posture. So hold off on replacing your chair, at least for now.

We hope this guide answered your burning questions. If you’re dealing with chronic back pain, these desk exercises might help you out.

Tricia Montano

Tricia founded Pain Free Working in 2019 due to suffering from degenerative disc disease in her L5-S1 from working an office job for the past 18 years. She and her team strive on finding and reviewing the best office equipment to help fellow pain sufferers find relief and to enable people like her to do their jobs comfortably.