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A Guide to the Best of Southern California : HIGH STYLE : Sitting Healthy

April 15, 1990|DAVID LASKER

IF YOU'VE NEVER ad back trouble, you probably haven't heard of Obus Forme. Obus is an acronym for orthopedic brace upright support--a lightweight portable brace that fits into a chair, auto seat or bed. Its patented shape provides rigid yet comfortable support to hold the back muscles and spine at rest, which regular chairs do not do; even chairs contoured to fit the spine permit sideways slippage. The brace was invented by industrial designer Frank Roberts, who had wearied of the cumbersome plaster body cast prescribed by his doctor.

Since its introduction in 1980, more than 1 million Obus Formes have been sold to those suffering from herniated discs, osteoarthritis and swayback due to bad posture, pregnancy or overweight, as well as to wheelchair users. Indeed, many insurance plans recognize Obus Forme's therapeutic effectiveness.

Still, it seemed a chore to schlep the Obus Forme from chair to chair. So it was only a matter of time before some bright manufacturer united his seat and frame with the Obus Forme back. That producer, Global Upholstery, is a major supplier of ergonomic office chairs. With their movable backrests and five-branch swivel bases, ergonomic chairs resemble steno chairs but are more expensive and have a broader range of adjustments. These include a gently rounded "waterfall" edge at the front of the seat to promote blood circulation in the thighs, a gas spring cylinder to raise seat height with the flick of a switch, and tilt-angle and spring-tension adjustments.

Use of an ergonomic chair ($425 to $550) is hardly limited to the office; if you spend a few hours a day in front of a home computer, or reading or sewing, you probably could use one at home too. The Obus Forme's contoured back prevents slouching while sitting, a major cause of fatigue and lower-back pain. The armrests, which look stingily short to the casual viewer, support the elbows without getting in the way of the computer keyboard--a big plus for those who pamper their wrists by lowering the keyboard to knee height. It all adds up to just one more reason to work at home and skip the freeway war games.

The ergonomic chairs are available at Alan Desk Business Interiors, 8575 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (213) 655-6655; at Dozar Office Furnishings, 2656 S. Western Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 732-6173; and at American Office Products, 501 Broadway, Santa Monica, (213) 393-2701.

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