You’ve probably come across kneeling chairs while browsing online, visiting shops, or even in South African offices. Perhaps your friends have raved about them, extolling their virtues for relieving lower back pain. Now, you’re contemplating whether a kneeling chair is the right choice for you. The answer is a resounding “yes,” provided you understand the ergonomic principles behind these chairs and know how to use them correctly.

To help you make an informed decision, this article will explore:

    1. What Happens to Your Body When You Sit?
    2. The Principle of a Kneeling Chair
    3. Benefits of a Kneeling Office Chair
    4. Limitations of a Kneeling Office Chair
    5. The Best Way to Sit on a Kneeling Chair

1. What Happens to Your Body When You Sit?

Let’s start by understanding what happens to your body when you sit with your thighs forming a 90-degree angle to your back.

As you settle into a chair, your thigh bones (femurs) undergo a rotational movement in their pelvic sockets, covering about 60 degrees. However, our anatomical limitations prevent them from achieving the full 90-degree rotation required for sitting. The remaining 30 degrees of rotation have to come from somewhere.

As you sit completely, the ligaments connecting your femurs to your pelvis pull the pelvis backward, accounting for the remaining 30 degrees of rotation. This action flattens the natural lumbar curve, leading to an outward curvature in the lower back.

This action flattens the natural lumbar curve, leading to an outward curvature in the lower back. This shift primarily affects the first few lumbar vertebrae, squeezing the front edges of the vertebrae closer together while widening the back edges. Consequently, this increases pressure on the front parts of the intervertebral discs.

2. The Principle of a Kneeling Chair

The term “kneeling chair” can be somewhat misleading, suggesting that your knees bear most of your weight, replacing the role of your buttocks. However, this isn’t the case. Your buttocks still support about 80% of your body weight, while the knee pad bears the remaining 20% and prevents you from slipping off the inclined seat.

The fundamental principle behind a kneeling chair is maintaining an “open” pelvis while sitting. This minimises the strain on your lower back, a common occurrence with conventional chairs. An “open” pelvis implies an angle of at least 110 degrees between your spine and thighs.

By creating this 110-degree back-thigh angle and lowering the knees relative to the hips, you can reduce disc pressure in the lumbar spine by up to 65%, compared to the traditional 90-degree back-thigh angle position.

3. Benefits of a Kneeling Office Chair

The natural curvature of the spine is maintained when sitting on a kneeling chair

Kneeling chairs offer numerous advantages. Here are the key benefits:

  • Improved Spinal Curvature: Kneeling chairs promote a more natural spinal curve by creating a 110-degree back-thigh angle, significantly reducing pressure on the lumbar discs.
  • Lower Back Pain Relief: These chairs are effective at reducing lower back pain.
  • Enhanced Circulation: An open pelvis reduces compression on internal organs and abdominal muscles, leading to improved breathing and digestion.
  • Engaged Core and Back Muscles: With no backrest to rely on, your core and back muscles become more active, strengthening your core.
  • Better Blood Circulation: Active core muscles improve blood flow, delivering more nutrients and oxygen to your brain and body, leaving you feeling more energised.
  • Enhanced Concentration: Improved blood flow to the brain results in better concentration.
  • Comfort and Productivity: By maintaining proper spinal alignment, kneeling chairs combat fatigue, discomfort, and loss of productivity that often accompany poor posture.

4. Limitations of a Kneeling Office Chair

 While there are many advantages, it’s essential to be aware of the potential drawbacks of certain kneeling chairs available in South Africa:

  • Focused on Lower Back: Kneeling chairs primarily address lower back posture issues. Seek professional advice if you have upper back problems or uncertainty about the suitability of a kneeling chair for you.
  • Initial Discomfort: Adapting to a kneeling chair’s inclined sitting position may feel uncomfortable initially, as it differs significantly from sitting in a traditional office chair.
  • Altered Sitting Height: Kneeling chairs typically position you higher than traditional chairs, potentially necessitating an adjustment to your work surface height to maintain ergonomic alignment.
  • Pressure on Shins: The kneepad may initially cause discomfort and pressure on your shins during use.
  • Circulation Concerns: Some users may experience restricted leg circulation. Consult a professional if you have circulation issues and consider limiting initial kneeling chair use or alternating between chairs.
  • Chair Design Matters: Select a kneeling chair with user-friendly construction, as some, e.g. those with a scissor-type geometry construction, may be challenging to use. Select a kneeling chair that allows for easy sitting down and getting up.

5. The Best Way to Sit on a Kneeling Chair

Adapting to a kneeling chair may take time, and some discomfort is normal as your body adjusts to this new seating experience. Here are some tips for a smoother transition:

  • Vary Your Position:

Sitting in the same static position for a long period of time is bad for your body. With a posture chair, there is no one particular correct position that you are required to sit. Rather, change your sitting position frequently on the kneeling chair to improve blood circulation and alleviate pressure points on your knees and shins.

Karo’s Wellback Kneeling Chair

  • Check Your Work Surface Height:

The height of your chair with respect to your working surface is the foundation of your posture. Ensure your work surface is at the correct height, where your elbows form approximately 90-degree angles, with forearms parallel to the table and palms resting flat.

  • Adjust the Chair Height:

To establish the optimal height alignment between you and your workspace, the initial step involves adjusting the kneeler’s seat height. It’s essential to choose a kneeling chair equipped with separate seat and kneepad adjustments, as not all chairs offer this feature. Once you’ve set the correct seat height, fine-tune the kneepad to your preferred comfort level.

Karo’s Wellback Kneeling Chair

In certain situations, you may encounter difficulties achieving the desired kneeler height to match your work surface, often resulting in a too-low work surface. In such cases, consider altering the work surface or desk height. There are straightforward methods to address this issue, such as using books to elevate the work surface, as detailed in “The Perfect Office Setup“. Alternatively, a more refined solution lies in opting for a height-adjustable desk. These desks offer the flexibility to adapt to your preferred height, regardless of the type of chair you’re using. Height-adjustable desks boast numerous advantages with minimal drawbacks and can be seamlessly integrated with either kneeling or traditional office chairs. Remarkably, some companies, like Uber South Africa, have fully embraced the ergonomic benefits of these desks by outfitting their entire offices with adjustable workstations. For a comprehensive guide on ergonomic workplace practices, consult “Best Practices for Ergonomics in the Workplace“.


With various kneeling chair options available in South Africa, it’s crucial to research and test different models to find the one that suits you best. Remember to sit correctly and adjust the chair’s height to match your work surface. It’s also a good idea to keep your existing office chair initially to alternate between the two until you get accustomed to your new kneeling chair. In fact, some users find that using both chairs is an ideal solution.

To speak to an Office Ergonomics Risk Facilitator contact us on 011 392 6803 or email [email protected]

Article first seen on Karo’s Knowledge Centreclick for the full article.