Title:
Apparatus for supporting the human body and associated table
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An apparatus that allows a user to remain in a comfortable and stable standing position whereby there is less strain on the muscles and joints. Strain is reduced because body weight is ergonomically redistributed throughout the body. Improved blood flow provides rest and relaxation to individual muscles and joints while the user maintains proper posture in a standing, upright position. The apparatus is aesthetically pleasing and may be used in the home or office to allow the user to stand in a comfortable, supported position.



Inventors:
Liebeskind, Michael (Pepper Pike, OH, US)
Application Number:
10/138120
Publication Date:
11/21/2002
Filing Date:
05/03/2002
Assignee:
Winged Keel Group, Inc.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47C9/02; A61H1/02; (IPC1-7): A47C16/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CHEN, JOSE V
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Pillsbury Winthrop, Llp Nicole Bradley S. (Suite 2800, Los Angeles, CA, 90017, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. An apparatus to support the human body in a generally standing position, comprising: an elongated body support member; a generally flat base located below the body support member; and a support column having a proximal end and a distal end, wherein the distal end is attached to the base and the proximal end is attached to the body support member such that the elongated body support member is generally inclined with respect to the base.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the body support member is contoured.

3. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the body support member has a top end, a bottom end, and is generally rectangular with a centrally located generally convex curve and a generally concave curve at the top end and the bottom end.

4. The apparatus of claim 3, wherein the top end is configured to support an upper spine.

5. The apparatus of claim 3, wherein the top end is configured to form a head support member.

6. The apparatus of claim 3, wherein the top end is coupled to a head support member.

7. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the body support member is movable relative to the support column.

8. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the base includes a textured foot plate to prevent the user from skidding or slipping.

9. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the base includes a top portion, which lies at an acute angle relative to a horizontal plane.

10. The apparatus of claim 1, further including a lumbar support member movably attached to the body support member, wherein the lumbar support member is configured to be moved longitudinally along the elongated body support member to a selected position.

11. The apparatus of claim 10, wherein the lumbar support member further includes a grip member.

12. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein the grip member further includes a locking spring system, wherein the user can pull the grip member outward to release the locking spring system and slide the lumbar support member along the elongated body support member, and the user can release the grip member to engage the locking spring system in any of a plurality of locking holes to position the lumbar support member in the selected position.

13. The apparatus of claim 10, wherein the lumbar support member is configured to be rotatable by a user.

14. The apparatus of claim 1, further including arm members coupled to the body support member and extending so as to support a user's arms in a generally outward position.

15. The apparatus of claim 1, further including arm members coupled to the support column.

16. An apparatus to support a human body in a generally vertical position comprising: an elongated body support member configured to support a user's body; a pair of independent arm members coupled to the body support member; a generally flat base having a top portion, wherein the top portion of the base is inclined relative to a horizontal plane; a support column coupled to both the base and the body support member, wherein the support column maintains the body support member in a generally inclined position; and a lumbar support member movably coupled to the body support member, wherein the lumbar support member can rotate along a horizontal axis and can be positioned longitudinally along the body support member to allow for micro-adjustment by the user to provide comfort and support.

17. An apparatus to facilitate working in a generally standing position, the apparatus comprising: a standing chair portion including: an elongated body support member a generally flat base located below the body support member and a support column having a proximal end and a distal end, wherein the distal end is attached to the base and the proximal end is attached to the body support member such that the elongated body support member is generally inclined with respect to the base; and a table having a tabletop, the tabletop located at an ergonomically comfortable height for a user of the standing chair.

18. The apparatus as in claim 17, wherein the table includes a sliding portion.

19. The apparatus as in claim 18, wherein the sliding portion is configured to placed at an angle by a user.

Description:

BACKGROUND

[0001] 1. Field of the Invention

[0002] This invention relates to body supports and, more specifically, to supports in which the user's body is positioned by the support to enhance anatomical, physiological and psychological comfort and support to the user and associated tables.

[0003] 2. Related Art

[0004] Standing is a natural human posture and, by itself, poses no particular health hazard. However, being in a standing position on a regular basis can cause sore feet, swelling of the legs, varicose veins, general muscle fatigue, low back pain, stiffness in the neck and shoulders, circulation problems, sore feet and other health problems.

[0005] Keeping the body in an upright position requires considerable muscular effort that is particularly unhealthy, even while standing motionless. Keeping the body in an upright position effectively reduces the blood supply to the loaded muscles. Insufficient blood flow accelerates the onset of fatigue and causes pain in the muscles of the legs, back and neck—these are the muscles used to maintain an upright position.

[0006] A person suffers not only muscular strain, but other discomforts as well. Prolonged and frequent standing, without some relief by walking, causes blood to pool in the legs and feet. When standing occurs continually over prolonged periods, it can result in inflammation of the veins. This inflammation may progress over time to chronic and painful varicose veins. Excessive standing also causes the joints in the spine, hips, knees and feet to become temporarily immobilized or locked. This immobility can later lead to rheumatic disease, a disorder of the connective tissue, due to degenerative damage to the tendons and ligaments (the structures that bind muscles to bones).

[0007] One solution has been the use of chairs to allow a person to be in a seated rather than standing position. Many chairs of common design having a horizontal seat member and a vertical back member do not provide support for the shoulder blades, the lumbar region of the spine and the pelvic region of the chair user. A typical chair has a back support member, usually positioned above the seat, and adapted to provide some support for the small of the user's back. However, the shoulder blades and pelvic region are usually unsupported, and after an extended period of time, this can result in fatigue of the user's muscles thereby causing discomfort and pain. Therefore, although a chair-type device is one solution for problems relating to joint and muscle pain, it is not a complete solution. Furthermore, as explained in more detail below, a chair is often not an efficient or desired solution.

[0008] Several devices are known in the art that allow the user to relax his or her body by removing weight from the feet and redistributing it to other parts of the body while remaining in a semi upright position. Additionally, there are a variety of medical devices, novelty devices and various other types of devices that provide for relaxing or removing strain from the body. However, all use a seat as part of their configuration, which prevents the user from remaining in a standing position.

[0009] U.S. Pat. No. 4,932,719 to Rojas, entitled, “Inclinable Stool,” discloses a stool designed to support the standing weight of a user in a near standing position, comprising a tripod base, a support column with a spring hinge assembly and a saddle like seat. It does not disclose the current invention in which a single support structure supports the standing body without the use of a seat.

[0010] U.S. Design Pat. No. 229,880 to Keith, entitled, “Pole Seat,” discloses a pole having a bicycle-like seat attached by a swivel assembly to the pole. This invention incorporates the use of a seat that a user sits on, thus not allowing a user to maintain a standing position while providing rest and relief from strain on muscles and joints.

[0011] U.S. Design Pat. No. 251,098 to Diedrich, entitled, “Portable Adjustable Seat,” discloses a portable adjustable seat which is disposed at an angle from vertical and rests on a pedestal like base. This invention, like others in the field, incorporates the use of a seat that a user sits upon, thus not allowing a user to maintain a standing position while providing rest and relief from strain on muscles and joints. Moreover, the disclosed design is not made of a continuous piece of material, has a defined seat and is not ergonomically contoured to support and adjust to the standing human body.

[0012] Problems arise because there are many situations, such as in factories or laboratories, where a seated workstation is either not possible or not desirable. Moreover, a chair or any other seated apparatus may not be readily available or desirable as it does not provide proportional weight distribution but, rather, focuses weight on particular body structure(s). Additionally, many of the apparatuses of the prior art are not artistically designed in order to allow the apparatus to be placed in the home or office without detracting from the aesthetics of the room in which it is placed.

[0013] Accordingly, there is a need in the art for an apparatus that allows a user to remain in a natural, comfortable, stable, standing and upright position whereby correct posture is maintained and there is less strain on the individual muscles and joints. Strain would be reduced because body weight is redistributed throughout the body. As a result, improved blood flow would provide rest and relaxation to individual muscles and joints while a person remains in an ergonomically healthy, correct and supported standing position.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0014] It is an object of embodiments of the present invention to provide an apparatus for reducing strain on muscles and joints while standing in an ergonomically efficient, comfortable and supported posture.

[0015] It is a further object of the present invention to provide an aesthetically pleasing apparatus that can be placed in the home or office. The apparatus is adjustable to fit the desires of a particular user and enables the user to stand rather than sit. Thus, the apparatus allows a user to stand in a comfortable, supported position.

[0016] It is a further object of the present invention to provide an ergonomic and aesthetically pleasing set of furniture which may be used in either the home or the office.

[0017] It is a still further object of the invention to provide an aesthetically pleasing apparatus for the user to maintain an ergonomically efficient posture while in a natural and comfortable standing position.

[0018] These and other objects are accomplished by the parts, constructions, arrangements, combinations and subcombinations comprising the present invention. The nature of the invention is set forth in the following general statement and preferred embodiments which illustrative of the best modes in which the inventor has contemplated applying the principles are set forth in the following description and illustrated in the accompanying drawings and are particularly and distinctly pointed out and set forth in the appended claims forming a part hereof.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0019] A detailed description of embodiments of the invention will be made with reference to the accompanying drawings, wherein like numerals designate corresponding parts in the several figures.

[0020] FIG. 1 is a right tangential view of an apparatus constructed in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

[0021] FIG. 2A is a right side view of an apparatus constructed in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

[0022] FIG. 2B is a right side view of the apparatus according to one embodiment of the present invention when occupied by a user meant to illustrate the design of the support column incorporating an “S” contour as well as inherent flexion and resiliency of the invention;

[0023] FIG. 3 is a front perspective of the apparatus according to one embodiment of the present invention when occupied by a user;

[0024] FIG. 4 is a schematic side view of the apparatus of the present invention illustrating the position of the spine and other structurally sensitive areas of a user of the apparatus of the present invention; and

[0025] FIG. 5 is a view of a table according to one embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0026] The present invention utilizes resilient, ergonomically designed materials to provide a novel apparatus wherein a user in a standing position can gain relief from strain and stress on structural body elements by redistributing body weight proportionally throughout the entire body. Furthermore, the present invention provides an apparatus that allows a user to stand in a comfortable, supported position. Moreover, the present invention provides an aesthetically pleasing apparatus that can be placed in a home or office, providing a functional, yet artistically designed, apparatus.

[0027] Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines ergonomics as an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that people and things interact most efficiently and safely—also calling it “human engineering.”

[0028] Referring now to the drawings, and initially to FIG. 1, an apparatus in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention is designated generally by the reference numeral 10 and includes modular elements comprising a separately formed base 12, support column 13 and elongated body support member 11. The base 12 is attached to the support column 13. The elongated body support member 11, in turn, is mounted on the support column 13, which extends upwardly from the base 12.

[0029] Continuing to refer to FIG. 1, the details of one embodiment of the apparatus may be seen. The elongated body support member 11 shown in FIG. 1 is manufactured from an integrally formed piece of material. Preferably, the material has qualities that allow for flexion and resiliency. By way of example, and not by way of limitation, a wood such as figured English Sycamore may be used to form the elongated body support member. It will be understood by one skilled in the art that many other materials such as various plastics, metals and other woods, may also be used to form the body support member. In an alternate embodiment of the present invention (not shown), the elongated body support member may be formed from a plurality of pieces.

[0030] Joined to the area of the elongated body support member 11 that comes into contact with a user's body is a material 20 which provides both comfort and stability to the user. Comfort is provided because the user is not placing his or her body in direct contact with the material used to construct the elongated body support member 11. This material 20 may be padded, firm or hard. Alternately, this material 20 may simply be leather, or material having a greater resilience than the elongated body support member 11. This material 20 may provide friction or similar support so that the user feels more stable. Stability is also provided because the user will not be forced to maintain contact with the surface of the elongated body support member 11. Rather, the user has the material 20 on which to rest his or her body.

[0031] The elongated body support member 11 may be adjusted in height so that the same apparatus may be comfortably use by tall people, people of average height, and those of less than average height. This adjustment in height may be accomplished by any mechanism known in the art including, but not limited to a mechanism (not shown) similar to that which is described herein with the moveable lumbar support member. The mechanism should be readily adjustable by the user and able to be adjusted to a plurality of heights.

[0032] The elongated body support member 11 according to one embodiment of the present invention further comprises longitudinal slide tracks 17 running along both lateral sides of the elongated body support member 11 on its front surface 21, as illustrated by reference in FIG. 1. The tracks facilitate the use of a movably attached lumbar support member 16. The elongated body support member 11 further comprises a plurality of locking holes on the flat sides of the elongated body support member 11. The lumbar support member 16 may be adjusted along the front surface 21 of the elongated body support member 11 by sliding it longitudinally along the tracks 17 running along the sides of the front surface 21 of the elongated body support member 11. The provision for the adjustment of the lumbar support member 16 along the elongated body support member 11 is advantageous because no one shape or contour is ideal for all persons who will be using the apparatus 10. As a result, it is advantageous to provide an adjustable lumbar support member 16 for micro-adjusting the elongated body support member 11 contour.

[0033] In an alternate embodiment of the present invention (not shown), the apparatus 10 may also be equipped with a movable neck or head support.

[0034] Referring to FIG. 1, the lumbar support member 16 has attached thereto a grip member 18 in order to facilitate micro-adjustment of the lumbar support member 16 by the user sliding the lumbar support member 16 along the elongated body support member 11, optimizing user comfort and ergonomic efficiency. The lumbar support member 16 may be rotatably mounted on a lateral post. When pressure is applied by a user leaning back on either the upper or lower portion of the lumbar support member 16, the lumbar support member 16 may rotate around the lateral post to micro-adjust to the contour of the user's back and provide the desired position for comfort and support.

[0035] Continuing to refer to FIG. 1, further functionality of the lumbar support member 16 is shown. In the embodiment of the present invention shown in FIG. 1, micro-adjustment by longitudinal sliding is made more convenient by the design of the grip member 18. The grip member 18 according to one embodiment of the present invention comprises a bulbous end and a shaft end. The bulbous end provides a comfortable and efficient apparatus for sliding the lumbar support member 16 longitudinally along the elongated body support member 11. However, it will be understood by one skilled in the art that the grippable end does not have to be bulbous; it may be oblong, cylindrical, angular, or any other shape that may be gripped.

[0036] The shaft end (not shown) provides an improved apparatus that allows the user to insert the shaft end into any of a plurality of locking holes (not shown) along the side of the elongated body support member 11 in order to facilitate locking the lumbar support member 16 into the desired position. In an alternate embodiment of the present invention, the grip member 18 may also comprise a compression/expansion system, such as a spring, that allows the user to pull out on the bulbous end of the grip member 18 to decompress the spring and release the bulbous end to recompress the spring. The spring allows the locking shaft end of the grip member 18 to stay in place once positioned in one of the locking holes by the user.

[0037] It will be realized by one skilled in the art that the above description of the adjustment mechanism for the lumbar support member 16 is not intended to be limiting. Adjustment may be achieved by any means know in the art including, but not limited to, friction and engagement members.

[0038] In an alternate embodiment of the present invention, as shown in FIG. 2A, the lumbar support member 16 may be integral to the elongated body support member. The placement of the lumbar support member 16 against the user's back may be adjusted by raising or lowering the elongated body support member 11. This raising and lowering may be accomplished by using any mechanism known in the art including, but not limited to a mechanism (not shown) similar to that which is described above with the moveable lumbar support member. The mechanism should be readily adjustable by the user and able to be adjusted to a plurality of heights.

[0039] Referring to FIG. 1 and FIG. 3, which show one embodiment of the present invention, the arms 15 of the apparatus 10 extend laterally on a primarily horizontal plane from their attachment point on the reverse face 22, as illustrated in FIG. 1, of either side the elongated body support member 11. At a point sufficient to accommodate the width of the body of a user as shown in FIG. 3, the arms 15 turn at approximately a 90° angle to extend roughly perpendicular to the elongated body support member 11. The arms 15 are constructed of a material that allows for flexion and resiliency to improve ergonomic performance. The arms 15 may optionally be covered with a resilient or padded material to provide additional comfort and ergonomic support for the user. The arms 15 are positioned to provide maximum comfort and relief from strain on the individual muscles and joints. Such positioning is at a height approximately parallel to the upper waist of the user and which allows the user's arms to rest at or about shoulder width apart.

[0040] It will be understood by one skilled in the art that such arm attachment may be altered. That is, the arms may be attached in virtually any manner to the apparatus so that they extend at an appropriate location. By way of example, and not of limitation, the arms may be attached directly to the side of the elongated body support member 11. Alternatively, the arms may be attached to the side of the elongated body support member 11 that faces the user when in use. Clearly, though, if the arms are attached to the side of the elongated body support member 11 that faces the user when in use, they should either be placed so that they do not press into the user or designed such that they are adjustable in width.

[0041] Continuing to refer to FIG. 1 and also turning in part to FIGS. 2A and 2B, the elongated body support member 11 is mounted to the upper portion of the support column 13 such that the elongated body support member 11 is generally inclined. The support column 13 is manufactured from an integrally formed piece of material in one embodiment of the present invention. Alternatively, the support column 13 may be manufactured from a plurality of parts and/or different materials. Preferably, the material has qualities that allow for flexion and resiliency, examples of which are disclosed above in reference to the manufacture of the elongated body support member 11. In one embodiment of the present invention, the design of the support column 13 incorporates an “S” contour to enhance the ergonomic features of the present invention. Moreover, the “S” contour allows the support column 13, working in conjunction with the base 12 and elongated body support member 11, to flex as shown in FIG. 2B. Such flexion provides isometric resistance depending on the user's body weight or force applied by the user to the elongated body support member 11, optimizing the ergonomic health-enhancing effects of the invention as a whole. At its distal tip, the support column 13 is attached 14 to the base 12. In an alternate embodiment of the present invention, the support column 13 is primarily linear. In a further embodiment of the present invention, the support column 13 has a curved shape. In a still further embodiment of the present invention, the support column 13 has a “C” shape, where the body support member is on one side of the “C.”

[0042] Referring now to FIG. 1 and FIG. 3, the base 12 of the apparatus 10 may either manufactured from an integrally formed piece of material as shown, or may be manufactured from a plurality of pieces. The base 12 shown in FIGS. 1 and 3 is generally rectangular. As shown in FIGS. 1 and 3, the base 12 may have a large width at the front, tapering to a narrower width at the rear. Such a design provides both added support to the user and added resiliency to the apparatus 10 as a whole—thus enhancing its ergonomic efficiency. Alternatively, the base may be triangular, oval or round, or have an aesthetic shape. A wider front portion provides additional stability, but may not be required if the base is sufficiently large. The base 12 may also include a footplate 19 incorporating a textured surface to prevent the user from skidding or slipping on the base 12. The footplate may be metal, wood, or any other relatively durable surface that provides traction for the user. The surface may be textured to provide additional traction. The footplate shown in FIG. 2A is made of wooden slats that provide traction for the user. The footplate shown in FIG. 3 is textured metal, which also provides traction for the user.

[0043] In the embodiment of the present invention shown in FIG. 3, foot supports 31 are attached to the bottom surface of the base 12, and placed in the front portion of the base 12. These supports may be adapted to incline the base 12 and, as a result, the entire apparatus 10, to a pitch of between approximately 5° and 25° from the horizontal axis. The pitch, effected by the foot supports 31, is a functional element to enhance the ergonomic efficiency of the apparatus 10 and provide enhanced support and relief from stress on muscles and joints. The foot supports 31 are specially adapted to include a non-skid surface to prevent the entire apparatus 10 from skidding or slipping when the apparatus 10 is being used as well as when it is not being used. Moreover, incorporating the incline of the base 12, the support column 13 and the body support member 11 remain at an approximately perpendicular angle relative to the base 12. Thus maintaining the natural standing posture of the user wherein the feet of the user are generally perpendicular to the body of the user.

[0044] The advantages in comfort and ergonomic design of the apparatus 10 may be further realized with reference to FIG. 3 and the schematic view of FIG. 4. As shown therein, the apparatus 10 facilitates the user being able to maintain an ideal posture. For example, as illustrated in FIG. 3 the user maintains a straight spine, rather than slouching to the side, slouching forward or hyperextending. The contoured design of the elongated body support member 11 combined with the lumbar support member 16 maintains the natural curvature of the user's back 41. Additionally, the contour of the lower portion of the elongated body support member 11 as illustrated in FIG. 2A is positioned forward of the shoulders, providing for considerable support of the sacrum 42 of the user, thereby urging the pelvis 43 forwardly and maintaining an erect posture of the spine. The flexion and resiliency of the materials used in the manufacture of the apparatus 10 allows the user to keep his or her feet approximately shoulder width apart 32 on the base 12 and keep the knees slightly bent, facilitated by flexion and resiliency of the apparatus 10 as a whole, and specifically the support column 13. Finally, the foot plate 19 prevents slippage or skidding by the user while the underlying base 12, manufactured from a resilient material, provides a soft, cushioned surface for the user to stand on, thereby reducing stress and strain on the user's muscles and joints.

[0045] It will be further appreciated that an apparatus 10 of the current invention offers considerable manufacturing advantages and efficiencies over comparable apparatus' of the prior art due to the relatively few parts needed to construct the apparatus. In particular, the novel construction of the base, support column and elongated body support member and the novel configuration by which the lumbar support member is attached thereto, eliminates several parts and reduces the number of moveable parts to one.

[0046] FIG. 5 is a view of a table 50 according to one embodiment of the present invention. While the table 50 as shown in FIG. 5 is round, it will be understood by one skilled in the art that the table may be square, rectangular, oval, triangular, or varied in shape. The table 50 should be of a height designed for ergonomic comfort for those who use this table. The height may be specifically selected from the manufacturer based on an average sample size of the population, it may be provided by the manufacturer in a variety of sizes, it may be individually designed for a particular consumer, or it may be adjustable. The adjustment of the height may be accomplished in any manner that is known in the art that is used to adjust table or seat heights.

[0047] The table 50 is equipped with a number of sliding portions 51 that may be extended towards those who wish to use the table. If the users are standing in the apparatus 10 of the present invention, this feature of this embodiment of the invention allows the user to remain in the ergonomic position while “sitting” at the table 50. These sliding portions 51 may be designed to sit flush with the perimeter of the table 50 when not in use so as to provide a visually pleasing appearance. Alternatively, these portions may be designed to fixedly extend from the table 50.

[0048] The sliding portions 51 may be designed in any manner known in the art. By way of example, and not of limitation, sliding portions 51 may have a bracket on either longitudinal side that is slidingly engaged with the sliding portions 51. Alternatively, a guide wheel apparatus may be used.

[0049] Furthermore, in an alternate embodiment of the present invention (not shown), the sliding portions may be designed so that they may be optionally angled. Such a configuration may be desired, for example, if the table 50 is to be used as a workstation.

[0050] The legs 52 of the table 50 may be designed as shown in FIG. 5 so that they do not come towards the perimeter of the table. This facilitates placing apparatuses 10 around the table, since the bases of apparatuses 10 will not collide with the legs 52 of the table. In an alternate embodiment of the present invention, legs 52 of table 50 may be placed towards the perimeter of the table 50, with the understanding that such configuration may limit the number of users who may comfortable fit around the table 52.

[0051] While the description above refers to particular embodiments of the present invention, it will be understood that many modifications may be made without departing from the spirit thereof. The accompanying claims are intended to cover such modifications as would fall within the true scope and spirit of the present invention.

[0052] The presently disclosed embodiments are therefore to be considered in all respects as illustrative and not restrictive, the scope of the invention being indicated by the appended claims, rather than by the foregoing description, and all changes that come within the meaning and range of equivalency of the claims are therefore intended to be embraced therein.





 
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