Saddle stools can be good for your back. They are an excellent option for people who work seated over long periods, or who experience back pain when sitting in standard chairs.
The active-sitting and core muscle-strengthening properties of saddle stools make them a great choice for building good posture in order to help avoid developing back or other sitting-related musculoskeletal issues in future.
If you’re aiming to improve your posture, strengthen your core muscles and reduce back pain, saddle stools could be the seat you’re looking for. Our article below tells you more about the benefits and use of saddle stools.
What are saddle stools?
Saddle stools, as their name suggests, are stools with seats resembling equestrian saddles.
As well as standard saddle stools, you can also buy split seat saddle stools or saddle stools with a back support panel or panels.
Sitting on a saddle stool puts your body into the same sitting position you would use if riding a horse.
This is a highly ergonomic posture which allows your spine to retain its neutral ’S’ curve, distributing weight proportionately to your lower body and helping to avoid lower back strain or injury.
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Saddle stools have been used for many years by dentists, beauticians, nurses and other professionals who may spend long periods working actively from a seated position.
Research indicates that use of saddle stools in certain professions can reduce musculoskeletal discomfort during sitting, as well as reducing risk of injuries linked to sitting in comparison to other ergonomic chairs.
What are the benefits of using a saddle stool?
There are a number of possible advantages to using saddle stools compared to standard seating.
The use of saddle stools tends to promote better posture compared to other chair styles.
Saddle sitting encourages legs, pelvis, neck, upper and lumbar back into more optimal positions, creating the best overall posture for the sitter.
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Spine and back issues
Are saddle stools good for your back? Yes, in general, although not everyone will find them comfortable.
Saddle stools and chairs are reported to reduce spinal pressure and therefore reduce the risk of spinal injuries from sitting. Saddle sitting can also relieve back and neck pain.
Saddle stools maintain the lumbar curve of the lower back while sitting, which makes them ideal for professions including dentistry, beauticians etc..
If you have a bulging disc, you should seek advice from your doctor or physiotherapist on the best type of seating for your condition.
If they recommend a saddle stool, make sure that it is correctly adjusted for your height, size and activity, and do not spend long periods of time sitting down.
Legs and hips
When sitting in traditional office chairs, your legs are held at a 90 degree angle, shortening thigh muscles, tightening hip flexors, and potentially reducing blood flow through the legs.
The saddle stool posture avoids all of these issues.
While sitting on a saddle stool the core muscles around your spine and abdomen are engaged and working harder.
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This makes them stronger and better able to support your body in the longer term, even if the posture might be tiring at first.
If the activation of core muscles in a saddle stool is too strong for you, there are also saddle stools available with back panels.
With a backrest, your core muscles will not need to work as hard.
One of the greatest advantages of saddle stools is that they enable movement, making it easier to shift from sitting to standing.
This benefits those who need to change position frequently while working as well as supporting the general need to regularly stand and stretch after long periods of sitting. Regular movement is important for physical and mental health.
Sitting in a saddle position also gives improved hip and core stability, enabling safe movement from the hips rather than waist. This stability benefits those who need to work with their upper body while sitting (e.g. dentists, hairdressers) giving them a more secure and balanced reach.
Are there disadvantages to using a saddle stool?
There are a few potential disadvantages to using saddle stools. These may be important to some individuals but irrelevant to others.
- Desk height: You are seated higher up on a saddle stool and therefore likely to need a higher or adjustable desk for office work rather than a standard chair.
- Effort: Saddle sitting can be tiring for core / spinal muscles, especially if you’re unaccustomed to this type of seating, and using a stool without any backrest panel.
- Clothing choice: Saddle stools will be most comfortable to use when wearing trousers or shorts and may not be practical at all if wearing a tightly fitted skirt or dress.
Are saddle stools expensive?
As with other types of stool or chair, there are saddle stool options available across all budget ranges from the most basic saddle stool to advanced ergonomic designs or saddle stools made from luxury materials.
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There are many simple saddle stool models available online for less than $100, while ergonomically adjustable saddle stools with arms and backs, targeted at dentists and similar professionals, can cost well over $1000.
How do I sit on a saddle stool?
In general, you sit on a saddle stool as you would sit on a horse. Your buttocks should be at he back edge of the saddle seat and your legs on either side of the stool rather than in front. There should be an angle of approximately 135 degrees at the knee and between the thigh and abdomen.
If you are using your saddle stool in a working space you may need to adjust the height of your stool to a suitable level to maintain good overall posture while typing at a desk, leaning towards a patient or performing some other action.
As well as a height adjuster, some saddle chairs have a width adjuster or tilt mechanism incorporated in their structure to enable changes to the seat width or angle.
People who need to move frequently between sitting and standing may benefit from having a slight forward tilt to the seat.
Who can use saddle stools?
Saddle stools come in a range of sizes and shapes. Most are adjustable to accommodate different heights and some are more suitable for higher weights or breadths.
Men and women may both find saddle stools a comfortable sitting choice.
For longer periods of sitting some men prefer a broader or split-seat style of saddle stool which puts less pressure on the genital or perineal area.
If you’re new to using a saddle stool, you can build up the time you spend using the stool gradually until you become comfortable with the new style of sitting.
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Saddle stools do require greater effort from core muscles to hold the body upright and it may take time to develop this strength if you do not already have a strong core.
A final word…
Saddle stools can be a good choice for back pain issues and can help many people develop healthier, more ergonomic sitting postures.
But there is no universally perfect chair, or single posture which is best for everyone at all times.
To find out whether saddle stools are the right seat for you, you will need to try them in real life and see how they feel for your body.
Always remember that sitting still for long periods of time is not good for your back, or your physical and mental health in general.
No matter what type of seat you choose, you should get up, stretch and move around at regular intervals.
The design of saddle stools encourages this more active sitting and regular movement.