If you are struggling with annoying back pain and stiffness aggravated by life of sitting, this article is useful, but even better is The Trouble with Chairs. If you are have serious and/or particularly stubborn back pain, please go to this much more thorough tutorial: Save Yourself from Low Back Pain!
The Disc ‘O’ Sit, Sissel Balance Fit, and Sissel Sit are all wobble cushions or instability cushions — small inflatable cushions, strong enough to sit or stand on. I mainly prescribe their usage to create instability in a seated posture, which keeps back muscles frisky and postural reflexes stimulated. It can also be used as an core-strength building exercise tool. Exercise balls are used for similar purposes, but are not as small and convenient as the Disc ‘O’ Sit or Balance Fit. Wobble boards are great for core stability training, but aren’t useful on your chair.
The Disc ‘O’ Sit and Balance Fit products are superior to the more popular and widely known product, the Sissel Sit (note: which may have now been replaced by the Balance Fit). Sissel Sits are concave, and therefore more stable, undermining the key feature of the product. Disc ‘O’ Sits have a convex surface. Sitting on a Disc ‘O’ Sit is much more like sitting on a ball, providing the instability that is the point of the product.Exercise balls are not as small and convenient as wobble cushions.
In spite of my enthusiasm for Disc ‘O’ Sits and Balance Fits, some of my clients have been dissatisfied. The most common complaint is that they are uncomfortable to sit on. I can’t argue with that – it’s actually supposed to be uncomfortable! The purpose of the product is to make your sitting an active chore for your back muscles. A Disc ‘O’ Sit cannot compete with the comfort of slouching!
Choosing to use a wobble cushion requires some commitment to the idea of exercising while you sit. This article explains the proper use of a Disc ‘O’ Sit or Balance Fit for sitting and exercising.
We are flatlanders: we have grown up sitting and standing on flat, stable surfaces. The reflexes that keep us upright degenerate, and the core stability muscles atrophy while other muscle groups become relatively strong.
Over the years, minor challenges to these unprepared muscles cause pain and dysfunction in the hips, back and knees. Common conditions like chronic back pain, sciatica, and iliotibial band syndrome often result. Although the symptoms of these problems can be treated, the only long term “cure” is to restore core stability.
Can “core stability” really be a significant problem? You bet. When submarine sailors are released from duty after a long time at sea, they are not allowed to drive for several days: their long-distance vision has atrophied, because they haven’t looked at anything further away than a few meters for weeks. After a decades of living on flat surfaces, most people really do not have good balance or healthy postural muscles.
So “core stability” is a concept familiar to anyone who has some physical therapy in the last decade. The Pilates exercise method has become extremely popular because of this new “disease” of civilization. Destabilizing surfaces are now standard equipment in gyms and offices.
Most people want to sit on their new Disc ‘O’ Sit or Balance Fit all day long. This is too much enthusiasm even for me! The proper usage of this tool is intermittent: use it for about half an hour at a time, put it aside for a while, and then put it back on the chair. Take it on and off at regular intervals through the day.
Disc ‘O’ Sits and Balance Fits create variety in your sitting not only by providing an unstable surface to sit on, but by adding and removing them from your regular chair. It’s like having another chair! Or an additional feature on your skookum ergonomic chair.
The best kept secret of ergonomics is that there is no perfect position. A variety of positions is the only truly ergonomic occupational posture. Your back will not tolerate continuous balacing on your Disc ‘O’ Sit or Balance Fit any more than it will tolerate eight hours of slouch.
It is possible to slouch passively, even sitting on a wobble cushion. Bear in mind that your purchase has been in vain if you allow yourself to simply fall off the back edge of your Disc ‘O’ Sit and rest on the back of your chair!
There are many ways to use a wobble cushion as an aid to exercise. Imagine any exercise, and simply insert a Balance Fit under hands, feet or bum: the unstable surface will make it harder, and recruit musculature you didn’t know you had.
However, I generally recommend simply standing on it.
Most of my clients will never have truly good core stability, no matter how much they exercise. Trying to have good core stability while living and working in the city is virtually impossible. Loggers have good core stability. Elite athletes, training full-time, have good core stability.
Unfortunately, the rest of us will never, ever have good core stability, not even if you’re out on the slopes every weekend all winter, not even if you roller blade every day after work all summer: it just isn’t possible unless you actually live and work physically on uneven surfaces.
Standing on a wobble cushion for a few minutes a day is a good compromise. Not only is it impossible to recover full core stability, it also isn’t necessary. All you really need to do is take the edge of that postural weakness: just enough so that the muscles have a chance to recover, so that they aren’t hopelessly outclassed by, say, your quadriceps (which is often the case with runners, for instance).
So, stand on your Disc ‘O’ Sit! Stand on one leg. Wave your arms around. Talk on the phone. Whatever. Just stand on it for long enough that it gets a bit tiresome, and then get on with your life, secure in the knowledge that you’ve stimulated reflexes that have been lying nearly dormant for most of your life.Truly good core stability just isn’t possible unless you actually live and work physically on uneven surfaces.
Five minutes on a wobble cushion is approximately equal to a half hour of any other physical activity that involves instability. Walking or playing Frisbee on a beach is your next best bang for buck. Hiking and roller blading, skiing and snowboarding are pretty good. But walking and running are not very good for stimulating the core stability muscles. And you can cycle for hours and scarcely flinch your gluteus medius.
Another advantage to simply standing on a wobble cushion is that it’s a good way of challenging and stimulating your core stability without actually risking damage. Roller blading is a great example of an activity that is good for your postural muscles … until you almost fall, at which point all those unprepared muscles go into red alert. When you’re in a healing process, it’s much better to work on core stability more safely and consistently.
I have no idea. I prefer to think of it as a “Disco” Sit, though. 😃
I am a science writer, former massage therapist, and I was the assistant editor at ScienceBasedMedicine.org for several years. I have had my share of injuries and pain challenges as a runner and ultimate player. My wife and I live in downtown Vancouver, Canada. See my full bio and qualifications, or my blog, Writerly. You might run into me on Facebook or Twitter.