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Daily Living AidsHealth

Can Sitting in a Recliner Cause Back Pain?

Written by Claire Bonneau
Last Updated :
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Have you ever kicked back, popped the footrest, nestled in your favorite recliner, and wondered, “Can sitting in a recliner cause back pain?”

The surprising answer is yes; even your trusted recliner can betray you and cause back pain [1].

It might sound shocking, but I can tell you it’s a real issue I’ve experienced as a seasoned recliner user.

So, join me as I dive deeper into the cozy and treacherous world of recliners and back health.

Key Takeaways

  • Sitting in a recliner improperly or excessively can cause back pain. It can also occur when poor posture is adopted for long periods, causing discomfort in the back.
  • Healthy recliner usage revolves around maintaining proper posture, controlling the duration and frequency of use, and integrating periodic movement or stretching.
  • Choosing a recliner with good lumbar support and adjustable positions can significantly contribute to back health.

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Why Does Sitting in a Recliner Cause Back Pain?

Sitting in a recliner can cause back pain due to poor posture and lack of movement. Many recliners don’t offer sufficient lumbar support, encouraging a reclined position.

WOMAN WITH BACK PAIN SITTING ON THE CHAIR

It stresses the spine and muscles, creating back pain or “aggravating chronic low back pain” [1].

Thankfully, the best ones have features to prevent these issues. These options will conform to the body’s natural curvature, supporting the lower back and aligning the spine.

If you can find these top options, it’ll be recliner chair nirvana! But unfortunately, many don’t achieve this perfect balance, leading to discomfort and back issues.

So while recliners are indeed a blessing, improper use can lead to back pain. But with the proper knowledge and approach, and possibly the added support of a back brace, your recliner can remain your ally in relaxation.

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4 Health Implications of Improper Recliner Usage

The story of our love affair with recliners is not all sunshine and rainbows. After all, negative effects can result from improper or prolonged recliner use.

#1 Spinal Structural Problems

Slouching in a recliner might feel heavenly, but it’s a silent curse for the spine. Misalignment, brought on by poor posture, puts pressure on the spine, leading to structural issues.

x-ray of Spinal Column with issues

Sadly, my extended recliner use did result in these issues. My chiropractor confirmed it was due to bad posture when sitting in one.

#2 Circulatory Issues

Did you know prolonged sitting in a recliner can contribute to circulatory issues? Well, my legs and ankles didn’t.

As a result, they swelled up after a marathon movie session in my beloved recliner. I should’ve known it wasn’t a good idea to watch the original Star Wars trilogy in one sitting.

But now, I know that limited movement over prolonged periods can result in poor circulation. It can lead to swollen ankles, varicose veins, and even deep vein thrombosis (2).

#3 Digestive Problems

A surprising side-effect of improper recliner use can be digestive problems. For instance, lying down or reclining immediately after a meal can cause heartburn or acid reflux (3).

I remember a few uncomfortable nights sitting in my recliner right after enjoying a meal. It was anything but a ‘restful’ evening.

#4 Muscle Weakness and Atrophy

An unexpected health concern from recliner use is muscle weakness and atrophy. It’ll become apparent when your fitness levels take a hit after your ‘recliner time’ increases.

Over time, you’ll even start noticing a reduction in your overall strength. So please remember the less you use your muscles, the weaker they become.

Recommendations for Healthy Recliner Use

As I’ve discussed, using these relaxation havens is essential. So here are my best recommendations to ensure healthy recliner use and prevent back pain.

#1 Maintain a Good Posture

First things first, body posture is king! I’ve learned that maintaining an upright posture when reclined can make all the difference.

good posture

Recliners that support the body’s natural curvature—especially options that provide proper lumbar support—can help achieve this benefit.

#2 Limit Your Recliner Time

Next up, moderation. Nothing quite like a good lounge after a long day, but remember, too much of a good thing can be harmful.

Try to limit continuous recliner time to 1-2 hours. Otherwise, those health issues mentioned earlier could creep into your life.

Given this information, it’s a much better idea to limit the time you spend in your recliner. Trust me, your back will thank you!

#3 Don’t Forget to Stretch Your Legs

A bit of movement goes a long way when using your recliner. You would be surprised to know how much stretching or walking around during a commercial can help stop back pain (4).

One of my go-to habits is to perform leg raises and arm stretches right from the comfort of my recliner. It’s the laziest way to achieve healthy recliner use, but it works for me!

#4 Invest in a High-Quality Recliner

Lastly, investing in the right recliner chair can also be a game-changer. A good starting point is looking for recliners with adjustable positions and proper lumbar support.

I’ve also found that a chair that elevates my feet to heart level while reclining is a godsend. Mine has done wonders in preventing any strain on my back.

If you need help choosing a high-quality recliner, check out this video.

It’ll take you through a few top-rated options. Honestly, this video made my life much easier when selecting my recliner.

How to Find The Perfect Recliner For Your Body

Finding a recliner can feel like hunting for the perfect pair of shoes – it’s all about the fit! But don’t worry; I have a few tips for finding a recliner that fits your body like a glove.

man using Vive Health Lift Chair Recliner

#1 Consider Your Height

A too-big or too-small recliner can affect posture and comfort. I learned the hard way that my feet dangled off the footrest.

Unfortunately, this setup wasn’t only comical; it was straining my back, so I had to replace it.

#2 Focus on Seat Depth

When I sit in my recliner, I look for a fit where my feet comfortably touch the floor. It’s also key to ensure a small gap between my knees and the edge of the seat.

If I do find a recliner with this setup, it’s perfect. After all, it’ll ensure I’m not slouching or stretching my legs unnaturally.

#3 Don’t Overlook Lumbar Support and Armrests

I’ve discovered that the best recliners support the natural curve of my spine, reducing the risk of back pain. This support can make a world of difference!

You also want to consider the armrests too. They should be at a comfortable height for your arms to rest naturally.

I’ve spent many a movie night grateful for the perfect armrest height on my recliner. I promise you will too!

#4 Evaluate the Reclining Mechanism

It should be easy to operate and offer various positions for optimal comfort. My trusty recliner offers different reclining angles.

It’s easy to find the best one for each activity. This is a much better option than being stuck with one reclining angle.

#5 Benefits of Elevating Your Feet in a Recliner

Elevating your feet isn’t just about comfort; it comes with health benefits too! As someone who loves to kick back and elevate, I’ve discovered first-hand these unexpected perks.

elevated feet in a recliner

#1 Reduces Swelling in Inflammation

It’s a game-changer for swelling and inflammation. After a long day, elevating my feet in my recliner helps reduce puffiness in my legs and ankles.

It’s a relief that’s as immediate as it is soothing! As a result, it can be a godsend for anyone struggling with a sprained ankle over an extended period.

#2 Boosts Circulation

I was surprised to learn that lifting your feet can help blood flow back to the heart more efficiently. It can have a significant impact on your overall circulatory health.

You won’t have to feel the uncomfortable numbness of poor circulation. If you’re anything like me, your legs “falling asleep” is one of your biggest pet peeves.

#3 Reduces Back Strain

Yes, I’ve been discussing how recliners can cause back pain. But they can also relieve when you’re elevating in them correctly,

Elevating my feet to the level of my heart reduces the strain on my back. It’s an easy habit with a payoff that’s hard to ignore.

#4 Alleviates Pain From Varicose Veins

Elevating your feet can alleviate symptoms for those who struggle with varicose veins. As someone who has grappled with this, I can vouch for the relief it brings.

It’s nice not always looking at my legs and seeing these ugly varicose veins. Elevating my feet regularly ensures that’s possible.

FAQs

#1 What is the correct posture for sitting in a recliner?

The correct posture is sitting upright with your back’s natural curvature supported, especially the lumbar region. Your feet should be flat on the floor, and your knees at or below hip level.

#2: Can I sleep in a recliner?

Generally, sleeping in a recliner isn’t recommended. However, some people may find it helpful for short-term relief from certain conditions, like sleep apnea.

#3 Can using a recliner lead to weight gain?

The recliner chair itself doesn’t cause weight gain. However, excessive time in a recliner can contribute to weight gain.

Conclusion

“Can sitting in a recliner cause back pain?” Yes, back pain can occur if you neglect proper posture and overdo your lounging.

Circulation problems, neck pain, and deep vein thrombosis can also be unintended side effects. So, moderation is crucial!

Remember, you’re aiming to increase your comfort level, not a date with discomfort. The key to avoiding these issues is awareness.

Know your recliner, adjust it to support your body, and practice ideal posture. Regular stretches and moving around can make all the difference.

Since you know so much more about healthy recliner usage, here’s a final question: Are you ready to turn your recliner relaxation into a health-enhancing experience?

Resources:

1. Watanabe S, Eguchi A, Kobara K, Ishida H. Influence of trunk muscle co-contraction on spinal curvature during sitting reclining against the backrest of a chair. Electromyography and clinical neurophysiology [Internet]. 2008 [cited 2022 Nov 17];48:359–65. Available from: https://europepmc.org/article/med/19097476

2. Mayo Clinic. Deep vein thrombosis – Symptoms and causes [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. 2022. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/deep-vein-thrombosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20352557

3. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gerd/symptoms-causes/syc-2036194

4. Publishing HH. Stretching and strengthening are key to healing and preventing back pain [Internet]. Harvard Health. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/stretching-and-strengthening-are-key-to-healing-and-preventing-back-pain

About Author

Claire Bonneau
Claire is a registered nurse with experience in freelance medical writing. She is very passionate about geriatric nursing and seniors care and education (it is her favorite area of nursing). She worked with many seniors in a variety of medical settings to provide high-erLATEST POSTS. Learn more about her HERE.

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