Rocking chair therapy for low back pain has existed for at least 50 years. The most famous user of the rocking chair for chronic lower back pain was President Kennedy. Repetitive rocking in a rocking chair increases proprioception, which is the body's awareness of the location of its various parts, such as the spine and lower extremities, in relation to each other. Although not officially a rocking chair, the zero gravity recliner is beneficial for back pain sufferers, due to its positioning of the spine, hips and legs.
World renowned soft-tissue specialist and author Dr. Janet Travell recommended that President Kennedy use a rocking chair after he found the rocking chair in her office very comfortable. It is reported that he used one every place he went, including on board Air Force One, to lessen his back pain from injuries suffered during World War II.
Dr. Barry L. Marks, a chiropractor from California, suggests the following exercises while sitting in a rocking chair. Gently rock with both feet flat on the floor pushing with only your legs for 5 minutes. Next, raise your heels and have only your tip-toes contacting the floor and push with your legs for 5 minutes. Perform the third phase by gently rocking for 5 minutes with only your heels contacting the floor. These exercises can be repeated throughout the day to increase blood flow to the legs and increase proprioception in the spine.
Rocking chair therapy is not for all back pain sufferers. You may find it difficult because of the hard sitting surface and lack of lumbar support. If that is the case you may try the use of a memory foam seat cushion or tailbone pillow to cushion the seat. You can use a lumbar support to provide a greater contact area for the lower back to distribute the forces more evenly.
Zero Gravity Chair
Another type of chair many low back pain and sciatica sufferers find helpful is the zero gravity recliner. It is not a rocking chair, but its therapeutic effects for the body are extremely effective. Dr. Stewart Eidelson, an orthopedic surgeon in Boca Raton, Florida, states, "The zero gravity position reduces the amount of force exerted on the spine." The zero gravity concept was first developed by NASA research scientists when they were looking for the best positions for the astronauts during launch.
Zero Gravity Benefits
The ergonomically designed zero gravity chair positions the body so the legs are higher than the heart and the spine is in a neutral position. The therapeutic benefits of the zero gravity position include: spinal decompression, decreased hip flexor muscle tension on the spine and improved circulation and blood oxygen levels.