I’ve had the HAG Capisco for a little over two weeks now, which is not really long enough to give a definitive verdict, but it is just about long enough to give some initial impressions of it.
Let’s get something out of the way right off the bat - this is not an instantly comfortable chair. It’s most definitely not the kind of chair you can buy, plonk yourself into and be immediately at ease - far from it. It might seem crazy to spend this amount of money on a chair that initially makes you rather saddle-sore, but if you’ve ever had recurring back problems, you’ll know that the word ‘comfort’ is relatively alien to you anyway, and having sore thighs for a while really isn’t a big deal in comparison to something sawing away at your spinal column day-in day-out.
The saddle seat means your weight distribution is very different to a normal chair, shifted from the back of your pelvis (which can remove the healthy ‘S’ shape of your spine and put you off your centre of gravity when you use a desk, despite lumbar supports and other ergonomics) to the middle of your pelvis instead, largely mimicking the way weight is carried when you’re standing up but mostly taking your legs out of the equation. It takes a while to get used to that. I still can’t sit on it for long periods of time (maybe an hour) before I need to switch to standing up for a while, but that’s actually a good thing, since variety and movement is precisely what my back needs. Going back and forth means that I can do almost a regular day at the desk again, so long as I keep moving and stick to my exercise regimen.
I also like the way you can spin the chair around and use it backwards (the back is designed so you can lean against it, and put your elbows on the arm rests which work both ways). I don’t use it like this myself, but I can see some people might like it. Lastly, the fact that the gas lift goes way high and is still super-stable is ideal for me with my stand-up desk setup.
So, what about results so far? Well, I think it’s helping. My back has been a bit variable this month; starting pretty bad - the ogre3d.org hack probably had a lot to do with this, since I was stressed out and putting loads of hours in- but improving a lot in the last 2 weeks. I’m not sure if this improvement is just down to the chair, since I made some other changes too. After the problems I had after recovering the OGRE server, I changed my routine so that it’s much more strictly focussed on health rather than work again, because that really is more important. I go for a brisk walk of a couple of miles every morning without fail (previously I’d leave it until a variable time later in the day which didn’t work very well), followed by 30-45 minutes of careful stretching and strengthening exercises. I use the stand-up desk and chair all day, and switch between postures at least once an hour and generally try to keep active. In the evenings, I have to make sure I switch things up a lot. No sitting / standing at the PC/laptop all evening like I used to, or indeed doing any one thing for long periods - sorry to those wanting more work on OGRE, but I have to be realistic. I might catch up for an hour standing at the PC, do some guitar practice, play on the 360 a little bit (Rock Band is interesting because it’s active enough to actually help rather than hinder like most other things). Basically, I’m forced into being a delittante in just about everything these days! I seem to have to avoid using the laptop very much, because sitting at the dining table for a long time really sucks the next day.
Still, awkward regime or no I’ve definitely noticed my back getting stronger overall. It is still susceptible to occasional upsets - I had one this week for example when I either lifted something I shouldn’t have, or spent too much time using the laptop one evening, and I’ve really paid for it these last 2 days. Not as badly as I once might have done - it doesn’t hurt most of the time, but exercising it (like I have to for the longer term!) or moving in certain ways can set off a pretty nasty bout of pain if I’m not careful.
Blips aside, I do think I’m on an overall upward trajectory, and I think the Capisco is one positive facet in that process. I’ve lost a stone in weight since mid last year and in these last 2 weeks, for the first time in around 4 months I’ve been able to get up in the morning without a good chance it’ll feel like I have a rusty, barbed chain running down my back. The trick is to maintain that improvement without accidentally overdoing it, which is a lot harder than it sounds and I don’t always get the balance quite right. Still, there are definitely positive signs here that I’m trying very much to remember whenever one of the ‘blips’ occurs. As my wife keeps reminding me, I’m light-years away from the situation 4 months ago which included being in hospital jacked up on morphine, hobbling around the house at 4am trying not to scream too loud, and laying in a crumpled heap on the floor wondering how I was ever going to get up, none of which I’ve done for ages. So, big improvements since then, and improvements even compared to a month ago. It’s hard when you’re as impatient as I am, but staying the course for the long term is clearly the way to go.
My primary goal for 2009 is to recover enough to take a holiday back to Canada this year, which is about both being able to tolerate a 10 hour flight in economy class again, and be fit enough to get around and have fun when we get there. You certainly won’t see me horse riding or white-water rafting any time soon though 😉