As I think I have mentioned before, I spend a lot of hours sitting at my desk in front of the computer every day. We all know that this is not the healthiest thing we should be doing...but it is what it is, and most of us simply have no choice in the matter. But where I screwed up was, being a cheapskate and thinking that I could get away with sitting in any old office chair while toiling away at the office for hours. For some people, this might not be a problem. But for me, I do not exactly have the best posture naturally, so using a chair which provided no real lower back support ended up proving disastrous.
About two years ago, I suffered the worst lower back pain I have ever experienced in my life. It came on suddenly while I was playing a show at a local coffee shop with some friends. There was really no immediate reason for it. I just suddenly felt the worst pain jolt straight through the lower right side of my back, all the way down into my right leg. I would later find out that this pain is known as "sciatica," which is caused by the sciatic nerve that runs all the way from your lower back into the back of both legs. It was pretty embarrassing having this happen in the middle of a show, as I could barely stand it, and had to stop playing right then and there in front of everybody.
My doctor wanted to do an MRI...and let me tell you that that is no fun at all if you happen to be even slightly claustrophobic! They put me deep into the MRI machine, where I completely inside of a tunnel with no hope of getting out easily. The tech working there even provided me with a little panic button that I could press if I wanted them to end the procedure and get me the heck out of there. Once inside, I did indeed start to panic a little bit, but how embarrassing would it be to hit that panic button and admit defeat? Instead, I just thought of all the other thousands of people who have gone through this procedure before (people much weaker and older than me) and were perfectly fine. 'If they can do it, then I can do it,' I thought, and that thought really helped me to relax.
Anyway, the doctor said he saw what appeared to be some inflammation which was likely pressing on the sciatic nerve and causing my pain. After talking with him about the amount of hours I spend sitting in a desk chair all day, he suggested that I might want to invest in a more ergonomic chair that provides better lower back support. I really had no idea what to buy, as there are so many choices out there and it was pretty overwhelming. There are some great sites with ergonomic office chair reviews like Ergonomicallycorrect.net which really lay it all out for you on which products are the best. Of course, each chair may be better suited to each person, and you have to decide what features you are looking for.
I read of some people who swear by the basic kneeling chairs for example, which are quite a simple design. I am sure they are nice, but for me, I figure if I'm going to be dropping money on a fancy desk chair, then I might as well get one that has all the bells and whistles to it. Though I was originally thinking of going with a mesh chair design, I ended up deciding on the Embody chair which is made by Herman Miller instead.
Sitting in this chair, compared to the hunk of junk I was previously using, was like going from riding in a Pinto, to cruising in a Ferrari. It just felt amazing, and while my sciatica did not vanish completely overnight, it slowly faded away over the months, and has not troubled me since (knock on wood). The whole scenario really opened my eyes up to the importance of ergonomics not only in the work place, but in your hobbies as well. As I mentioned in a previous post, there are even ergonomic guitars being made that can not only improve your comfort while playing, but also lower the risk of possible injuries. I have yet to buy one, but have my eyes on a couple of different models which I may talk about on this blog at a later time.
You could say that I have become a bit of an ergo fanatic, but once you sit at my office desk space, and lay your hands on that nice smooth ergonomic keyboard and trackball mouse, while relaxing in my comfy chair, you will never want to get up! ;)