The Time Has Come for Women to Just Say No to Backless Chairs

With every passing year, your head may ache more after a single glass of wine, your desired bedtime may inch its way down, and your back may make you feel another year older—but definitely not wiser. One place to channel your anger regarding that last notch on the blah belt of aging? The stupid barstools you often have to sit on in order to be an active, social member of society. So, feel free to join my in on my New Year's resolution to say “no” to backless chairs in 2019.

Maybe you're thinking "sure, whatever, sounds great," while quietly noting its status as low-priority among heavy hitters on your list of health-related goals—like doing Whole30, attending SoulCycle often, and swapping craft beer for kombucha. Well to that point, consider this: Barstools wouldn't survive decor evolution if women built the world, according to a Refinery29 piece analyzing how ladies would optimize common designs. That’s because backless chairs are one of the many things in this world that don’t give women support—in many ways, but particularly, lumbar support. And by the way, the body, like, needs lumbar support.

“When you sit for prolonged periods of time without having proper lumbar support, many things can happen, such as increased muscle tightness, leading to aches, pains, and general muscle fatigue,” says Lynn Bauchiero, a chiropractor at Thompson Healthcare & Sports Medicine. She adds that these fatigued muscles in question are attached to the naturally curved lumbar spine, and when they get too tight, the lumbar straightens—which isn't great news. “This puts abnormal pressure on the discs. The discs are the shock absorbers of the spine. When abnormal stressors are placed on them, they are more likely to injure.”

Oof. This explains a lot. Toward the end of 2018, I started feeling serious back pain. At first, I assumed it was just a biology curse I had been dealt, but eventually my boyfriend expressed he was experiencing similar issues and suggested it might be a freelancing by-product. Oh right, six hours a day, I’m slouched over my laptop, Igor-style. And the other four hours, I’m uncomfortably balanced on a backless chair at Starbucks.

“If you frequent workstations that are not ergonomic, you should spend more time focusing on improving mobility, strengthening core muscles and taking frequent standing breaks.” —Ciara Cappo, chiropractor

I love complaining, but I know I'm not alone in my literal pain. Freelancers currently make up more than one in three of the workforce, and while I don't know for certain the proportion of backless chairs compared to the whole landscape of seating options, I can say with confidence that it's far too many. Chiropractor Ciara Cappo of Cappo Chiropractic & Sports Therapy has some solid advice to make sure barstools don't seal your fate as a Quasimodo doppelgänger. “If you frequent workstations that are not ergonomic, you should spend more time focusing on improving mobility, strengthening core muscles and taking frequent standing breaks,” she says. “Stools are great for bar tops because you generally don’t spend much time sitting in them. If you plan to work at a barstool, consider standing if the countertop is high enough.”

Now, you could argue that this is not a gender issue, and that everyone—not just women—could use lumbar support too. Fair, but that's only the case because just the health risks have been laid out. I haven’t even mentioned the issue of stools clashing with your Going Out Top.

Per the Refinery29 piece, Kristen Lien of Frank Architecture linked open-back chairs to the all-too-female feeling of being exposed. "When we design, we're really conscious of the condition of someone sitting in a chair in a nice dress or in a shirt that may have their back exposed,” she said. “We find women also feel a lot more comfortable in chairs that don't have open backs on them."

If I’m wearing low-rise bottoms on a stool, I’ll adjust them every three seconds, and when I try to hop off while wearing my heeled booties, there's a good chance I could topple over while trying to stick the dismount.

Well, yeah! If I’m wearing something a little dippy in the back, there's no barrier between me and some drunk bro rubbing against me (no, not even Starbucks is safe!). If I’m wearing bottoms that skew low-rise, I’ll feel the need to adjust them every three seconds for fear of putting on a crack-laden show. And when I try to get off the stool wearing my heeled booties because, IDK, I want to feel alive, there's a good chance I could topple over while trying to stick the dismount.

Effing stools. Like I need more reasons to feel vulnerable on a Friday night.

By embracing a No Stools Future, we can together make little changes to eradicate those rickety little three- or four-legged bastards from our lives, or at least work around them. We could take a stand while getting some work done, or skip certain bars or cafés for each and every Bumble date. Maybe we should start seeing movies again. After all, have you seen the chairs they’re putting in theaters? Now there's some luxe, adjustable seating I can behind and upon.

Have back pain despite having a seemingly ergonomic desk chair? Try desk yoga. Plus, here are 15 easy tweaks you can make to improve your posture.

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