Are Recliners Bad for Your Back? The Hidden Truth

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I’ve been relaxing at home more often—because social distancing is important in case you didn’t know. While I’ve actually been enjoying this time at home, I have been noticing that my back has been a little sore after a few hours of sitting in the comfy chair in my living room. The comfy chair is the most relaxing spot in the living room, but if it is bad for my back, I’m not so sure it is a good idea. 

So, are recliners bad for your back? No, recliners aren’t bad for your back. Actually, in some cases, recliners can be used to relieve back pain. As long as the chair provides lumbar support, elevates your feet above your heart level, and fits your body size properly, your recliner should not be causing you back pain. If your recliner is causing you any pain, specialists suggest getting a chair proven to help your back.

I was happy to see that all recliners were not as bad for me as the old one in my living room. In the midst of my research, I found that many people had opinions on recliners and back pain. In my research, I learned which recliner was best for me, so I hope the information will make it easier for you to do the same.

Why Are Recliners Good for Your Back?

First things first, only a good recliner will be good for you back. If the reclining chair you have at home is not equipped with lumbar support at least, it can lead to even more back problems. Before you invest in a chair for your bad back, please do some research so that you know the chair you are bringing into your home is going to help your back. 

1. Angle of the chair

The first thing about recliners that helps your back is the angle of the actual chair. Most chairs—whether they are work chairs, dining chairs, or office chairs—are designed at a 90-degree angle. Studies show that sitting upright for hours at a time will almost certainly lead to chronic back pain. 

A clinical fellow in the department of radiology and diagnostic imaging at the University of Alberta Hospital in Canada said that the best position to sit is with a 135-degree body-thigh sitting posture. Spending time in your recliner at this angle can be really good for your back since the stress put on your spine and its associated ligaments over time can lead to pain, deformity, and chronic illness. 

2. Legs above heart level

The next thing that is great about reclining chairs is the ability to elevate your legs above your heart level. The second you lift your legs, I’m sure you can tell it immediately feels better. That is because when your legs are elevated, it takes the pressure off of your leg veins and encourages the blood to flow. This completely undoes the pressure that gets put on your legs throughout your day of standing, working, and walking around.

3. Lumbar support

Another thing about recliners that is great for your back is its lumbar support. Lumbar support is defined as any type of support given to your lower back, which is just as important as it sounds. The lower back is the most common form of chronic pain because most people do not know how to take care of that area.

When choosing a recliner, be sure to check that the position of the lumbar support is in the correct place for your weight and height. If you're looking for the best recliners built with amazing lumbar support for your home, and you're serious about taking proper precautions, you can read the reviews here.

How Do You Pick The Right Recliner for Your Body?

A good recliner chair will support both your back and neck, helping you find comfort even when sleeping.

Once I knew how great recliners could be for your body, I started doing even more research about how to pick the perfect recliner for your body. I’m happy I did the research because it takes a lot more than just going to the store and picking one and doing this online can be even more difficult.

Measure Your Body

Buying online without trying a chair out in person can be more difficult because you will need your body measurements. This is an important step in purchasing a reclining chair. The reason this is important is that you will want your recliner’s dimensions to match the measurements of your body. If you plan on buying your chair at a furniture store, you can skip this part.

Before you start, be sure to have a pencil and paper close so that you can record these measurements. Write them down – maybe even take a photo of the notes with your phone. It’s easy to misplace a scrap of paper!

Measurements to take:

  • The distance from your heel to your knee 
  • The distance from your heel to your tailbone 
  • The length of your torso
  • The width of your body

The first two measurements will give you a fairly good idea of what dimensions to look for as far as fully reclined measurements for a chair.

The third measurement will help you account for how high of a back you want your chair to have. If you like to have the back of your chair above your head, measure from your tailbone to your shoulders for the correct dimensions. If you like to have a chair with a wider back, measure from your tailbone to the top of your head for dimensions. 

For the fourth measurement, measure the widest part of your body. On most people, the widest part of their body is their hips, so you should measure the width of your hips. You could also consider measuring from shoulder to shoulder to get a proper width.

Getting the Correct Recliner Dimensions

Now that you have your own measurements, it is time to get your recliner dimensions correct. This is a crucial step if you want your recliner to help you with your back pain.

1. Lumbar Support Dimensions

Begin with lumbar support. There are four different kinds of lumbar support that can be used in chairs:

  • Fixed (most common)
  • Adjustable
  • Dynamic
  • External

No matter what type of lumbar support you get, the measurement instructions should work. When you sit against the seat cushions, you will want to make sure that there is no gap between your lower back or tailbone and cushions. Using the measurements you took from your tailbone to your knees, make sure that the lumbar support is about that long.

2. Feet Dimensions

Next, move on to the feet. Office Solution Pro has an in-depth resource about feet dimensions and recliner chairs which you can read right here. However, to summarize it briefly, the heel of your feet should hang slightly over the footrest when reclined. This will allow proper weight distribution and prevent leg strain.

3. Arms Dimensions

The next thing to deal with is your armrests. Luckily, this is a fairly simple part of the process. No matter what chair you get, the chances that the armrests will be smaller than your arms are is very tiny since that’s not usually how these chairs are made. As long as the end of your armrest encompasses your palm with your fingers hanging over the end.

When it comes to the actual sitting, you should be sure that there is at least an inch-long gap between each of your hips and each of your armrests. This will ensure that there is enough space for the lumbar support to properly help your aching back. 

A Word About Placement

Once you have the recliner, make sure to put it in an appropriate place in your home. You wouldn’t want to ruin all your hard work by placing your chair somewhere you have to strain your neck to see the television. Learn more about recliners and your neck here. Once you’ve picked the right spot, go ahead and enjoy it! 🙂

Stephen Lim

I write about office ergonomics and wellness.  Simple changes in the workspace can help produce better health and productivity, both at home and the office.