Mobile sitting while maintaining a good posture is a major challenge in many sitting occupations with higher and flexible working positions. Numerous types of seating make it virtually impossible to maintain the natural S-shaped curvature of the spine over an extended period of time. Not so with an ergonomic saddle seat. It differs from its fellows in numerous details and, with a corresponding design, ensures a more upright, healthier posture.
When dentistry students are asked about their greatest challenge, the answer is likely to surprise many of us. Rather than the extensive medical subject matter being the biggest problem for most, it is the posture during treatment that puts extensive strain on the back. In a US study(2), 70 per cent of dentistry students at the University of San Francisco said they suffer from shoulder and back pain. This is caused by the monotonous posture that is typical for dentists, combined with often unsuitable seating. With an ergonomically designed saddle seat on the other hand, the strain on the back and its structures can be considerably reduced.
This phenomenon exists not only in the profession of dentistry but also in many other occupations where sitting in higher and flexible working positions is required for long periods of time. Good pelvic balance through rhythmic loading and unloading cycles of the spine is important. Here the saddle seat provides excellent relief, promoting good health.
The saddle seat is not only found in dental practices but also in various therapy practices and clinics as well as industrial applications (for flexible working positions, e.g. in assembly tasks) and in architectural offices. It is suitable wherever flexible, mobile, healthy sitting over the long term is required.
Among other things, we owe the evolution of back-friendly saddle seats to the Australian’s occupational therapist Mary Gale’s powers of observation 30 years ago. She investigated the phenomenon of a child with a disability being unable to maintain their posture sitting on a normal chair, while managing this sitting in saddle on a horse. The result of her investigations: The special shape of the saddle permits a natural, back-friendly posture that does not disrupt blood circulation, unlike most conventional types of seating.
Modern saddle seats and their continuous further development are based on these findings. Sitting on them slightly tilts the pelvis and puts the hip joints in a 45 degree tilted resting position. This is ideal to maintain the spine’s natural shape and reduce pressure on the intervertebral discs. A balanced, comfortable posture is the result, simultaneously enabling rhythmic loading and unloading of the spine.
To ensure this ideal posture for the back, a saddle-shaped seat also has to be available in various sizes. This is the only way to ensure optimal sitting for anyone from younger school children to larger people. Whether the seat is small, medium or large, continuously variable height adjustment by means of an easy to operate pneumatic lift should be provided. Variable adjustment of the seat bottom inclination angle is also important. This allows users to continuously adjust their working position to their needs.
All adjustment possibilities should also be easy accessible, functional, ergonomically designed and easy to operate. For hygienic reasons, height adjustment without using the hands is an added requirement for saddle seats used in an operating room or laboratory. Therefore, it should be possible to make this adjustment, for example, with the feet.
(2) Rising DW, Bennett BC, Hursh K, Plesh O. Reports of body pain in a dental student population. J Am Dent Assoc. 2005 Jan; 136(1):81-6.
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