Invest in health

Invest in health

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Don’t delay: buy that chair!

Four years ago, it’s no exaggeration to say that I could hardly walk. I was in a great deal of pain and, when I put weight on my legs, either they felt like someone was passing a strong electric current through them or they simply folded underneath me, as if they belonged to someone else. I went to the doctor, but I already knew what the problem was, as I’d suffered it before in a milder form: I had sciatica. For a while I was so desperate I even submitted to some appallingly painful acupuncture in an effort to get rid of it.

Eventually, the sciatica went away, more of its own accord, I’m convinced, than due to the torture disguised as alternative therapy that I suffereed for weeks. And before it had chance to come back again, I was much better equipped to fight it. I was sent on a course of physiotherapy by my doctor, where I learned a series of exercises to stretch my back and fight the compression of the sciatic nerve that causes the inflammation leading to so much pain and discomfort.

I later began going swimming regularly, which I’ve written about on the blog before. This helps to stretch my back, too, and help prevent an attack. I also began sitting on a semi-inflated cushion placed on top of my work chair, a strategy recommended by my physiotherapist which keeps the muscles in the back working even while sitting.


All these methods have helped me avoid another severe attack of sciatica, but that doesn’t mean it has gone away. Now and again, I’ve felt twinges, as if, given a chance, the horrible pain and immobility might return. I’ve made sure I’ve stamped on these potential outbreaks, redoubling my exercises and taking anti-inflammatories until all suggestions of an attack have completely vanished.

I knew, of course, that the root cause was spending so much time sitting down. This seems to me, though, fairly unavoidable given that I have to be in front of a computer screen in order to translate. I know there are those who swear by standing desks, but I can’t honestly imagine myself being any more comfortable standing up for lengthy period than I would sitting down. And that was without thinking about the rearrangement of office furniture which would be required.

I’d had my office chair for some years and was quite attached to it, although it had probably seen better days. Still, with my air cushion on the seat it seemed reasonably comfortable, even though it did have a tendency to slip away from the correct height when I moved around on it.

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My new chair – I just wish I’d bought it sooner

Then, coming towards the end of last year, I began to look around for things to spend money on. Any tax system requiring the payment of an annual lump sum creates a paradoxical imperative to spend hard on work-related items at the end of one year in order to reduce the tax bill the next. I’d recently replaced both PC and laptop and also bought various peripheral computer items. It was time to get a new chair.

As soon as I sat in it in the shop I knew my new chair was the one for me. More adjustable and more advanced than the one I had before, the chair is a tremendous improvement. The seat and back will tilt and move up and down in various directions, there is an adjustable back support and even the armrests have multiple positions and angles. Sitting in it for just a couple of days, I realised the damage my old chair had been doing. In trying to stop the seat sinking from the settings I wanted, I realised I’d been putting strain on my legs and back. No wonder the sciatica struck. And since I bought the new chair in December I haven’t had a single twinge at a time of year that is often the worst for the illness.

My chair wasn’t cheap, I have to say, but as an investment in health I’d recommend it to anyone. You’re likely to spend a good part of your life in your working chair, so buy the best you can afford and get a new one when it wears out. I wish I’d changed mine earlier a long time ago. I’m sure it would literally have spared me considerable pain and suffering.


  1. Wendy Baldwin

    You are absolutely right, having a really good ergonomic chair is well worth the expense. I’ve been using a chair very much like yours for about 9 years, and although I have occasional physical issues related to sitting too much, they haven’t been severe. I know that I would have been much worse for the wear had I not invested in my marvellous chair.

    • Simon Berrill

      Thanks for your comment, Wendy. It’s good to know they continue to work well for as long as 9 years.

  2. Jenny Zonneveld

    Instead of a new chair, last year invested and got myself a standing desk and a desk bike. I’m active while I’m working. This helps concentration and I vary my posture throughout the day.

    • Simon Berrill

      Thanks for your comment, Jenny. I know other people who also swear by a standing desk, and I’m sure it’s right for a lot of people. Personally, I don’t think I’d find it all that comfortable and it would involve too much upheaval in my office, but I’m glad you’re getting on well with it.


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