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Kneeling chairs are thought to be good for some back problems:

The kneeling chair is meant to reduce lower back strain by dividing the burden of the weight between the knees and the buttocks. People with coccyx or tailbone pain resulting from significant numbers of hours in a sitting position (e.g., office desk jobs) are common candidates for such chairs.

Can a kneeling chair prevent or treat damage due to a prolong sitting?

  • I added a link to Wikipedia. In doing so, I cherry-picked a quote that didn't contain an answer. – Oddthinking Jun 12 '14 at 10:56
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No, it doesn't. It maintains a better lumbar curvature, but that couldn't be correlated with back pain.

The Balans chair has been introduced with claims that, because of its semi-kneeling position, individuals will experience decreased low-back pain (LBP) as well as improvement in circulation. ... Increased cervical (P = .004) and lumbar muscle EMG measurements were noted after sitting in the Balans chair. Pedal cutaneous blood flow was increased by 15% in the Balans chair (P = .001). The data do not support the manufacturer's claim that the Balans chair is likely to decrease complaints of LBP (low-back pain) [1].

A newer study couldn't find any evidence on low-back pain reduction although kneeling chairs maintain a better lumbar curvature:

This study suggests that ergonomically designed kneeling chairs set at +20 degrees inclination do maintain standing lumbar curvature to a greater extent than sitting on a standard computer chair with an overall mean difference of 7.633 degrees. Further research with a greater number of subjects and on different chair designs is warranted [2].

But is the opposite (a reduced lumbar curvature) associated with low-back pain? Well, it isn't:

Our study aimed to investigate whether lordosis changes with age and is reduced in those with low back pain. ... We were unable to demonstrate any difference in the degree of lordosis among women with or without back pain. Men with low back pain tended to have a less prominent lordosis, but this difference did not reach statistical significance. Therefore, a 'reduced lumbar lordosis' should be regarded as a very weak clinical sign [3].

Prolonged standing is a risk factor for back pain, no matter the type of chair:

Highly demanding jobs, prolonged standing and awkward lifting appear as the most consistent and important predictors of LBP [4].


References:

  1. Lander C, Korbon GA, DeGood DE, Rowlingson JC. The Balans chair and its semi-kneeling position: an ergonomic comparison with the conventional sitting position. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1987 Apr;12(3):269-72.
  2. Bettany-Saltikov J, Warren J, Jobson M. Ergonomically designed kneeling chairs are they worth it? : Comparison of sagittal lumbar curvature in two different seating postures. Stud Health Technol Inform. 2008;140:103-6.
  3. Murrie VL, Dixon AK, Hollingworth W, Wilson H, Doyle TA. Lumbar lordosis: study of patients with and without low back pain. Clin Anat. 2003 Mar;16(2):144-7.
  4. Sterud T, Tynes T. Work-related psychosocial and mechanical risk factors for low back pain: a 3-year follow-up study of the general working population in Norway. Occup Environ Med. 2013 May;70(5):296-302. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2012-101116. Epub 2013 Jan 15.
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    Interesting. I heard an unsubstantiated rumour that kneeling chairs promoted knee problems, but unfortunately none of your cited studies looked at that. – Oddthinking Jun 12 '14 at 16:00
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    @Oddthinking this question is about back problems. Why don't you ask one about the possibility of knee problems? – Cornelius Jun 12 '14 at 17:54

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