Ah, coming home and relaxing in your recliners is the best way for couples to rest their aching backs and ease any lower back pain they’re experiencing. To enjoy a stress-relieving recliner, choose one that is comfortable for your body.
In this article, we’ll cover factors you should consider when you buy a recliner and provide reviews of our top picks which we’ve made using information about ergonomics, back health, and reviews by actual users.
Important Features For Back Pain Recliners
The most important low back pain reducing feature in a recliner is lumbar support. Your chair should follow the curve of your back.
A chair without lumbar support increases stress on your back, which increases pain. While a recliner with good lumbar support eases stress in your back which can help alleviate low back pain.
Observing the chair in its reclined positions is one way to know if it has good lumbar support. If there is a gap or depression where the region above your hip bones rests, the chair doesn’t provide good back support. If you already have a chair that you suspect isn’t good for your back, recline in the chair and see if you can easily slide your hand between your lower back and the chair. If the chair isn’t supporting your back due to a gap, your hand won’t meet any resistance.
A chair with good lumbar support will require you to lift up to accommodate your hand. In every position, your back should be supported. You can use a pillow to improve the lumbar support in an existing chair. When purchasing a new recliner, you’ll want to buy one with built in lumbar support.
If the recliner has a gap, your weight will encourage your body to fill the gap, this increases the strain on the muscles and ligaments in your lower back.
You also want a chair that supports the curve of your neck. You do not want a recliner with a pillow that forces your neck forward. When your neck is tilted forward, the amount of pressure increases substantially. This illustration reflects the amount of pressure your neck experiences at various angles:
If the chair forces you into a position like the one many people are in when they look down at a cell phone, it exerts too much pressure on your neck. If you want a pillow when you lay completely flat, it is easier to add one than to take away a built-in pillow when you are in an upright or semi-upright position.
A good recliner should last about a decade. How much you use the chair will make a difference. If you spend many hours a day in the chair, it won’t last as long. If you need a big and tall chair but you buy one that isn’t made for someone who is big and tall, the chair may not last very long.
How is it made? Is it memory foam? Shredded foam? Is it firm enough? Will it retain its shape?
Most chair warranties only last 1-year. Some chairs will include a trial period, usually for 30 days. However, they may require you to pay return fees.
Budget and Value
Even if you have an unlimited budget, you want to receive good value for your money. Value derives from a combination of features, durability, and cost. The best value won’t necessarily be the cheapest chair. Value is determined over the life of the recliner. If the chair will last a decade while a competing one will fail after a few years, the higher priced one that will last longer is a better value.
Traditional recliners were big, bulky pieces of furniture that took up a lot of space to provide seating for one person. Today, there are recliners that look like accent chairs, sleek modern designs, as well as oversized recliners. There are styles to fit everyone’s taste.
One of the first steps in deciding which recliners might be right for you and ease your back pain is deciding where it will go and how much room you want it to take up in the room. Recliners with small footprints are available.
Fabrics vary from butter soft leather to linen and cotton. Your choice of fabric is one of the most important decisions affecting the durability of your new recliner. Real leather is the most durable. Although not all leather is created equally.
Top Grain – The top layer that would show imperfections is removed, leaving the most expensive “top grain” leather.
Full Grain – This is the full thickness, including any natural imperfections.
Split leather – thin layer of real leather.
Bonded leather – scraps of real leather bonded to the back of polyurethane.
PU leather – completely fake. Quality can vary considerably.
Mechanics of the Reclining Mechanism
The three reclining mechanisms include:
Push back recliners which rely on the user’s strength to recline them and return them to an upright position.
A lever, which can be a bar the user pulls or a smaller mechanism that is designed to be operated with the fingers.
Full electric control of the recline function
The mechanism that is best for anyone depends on their situation. A young healthy person can generally use any of the types but if they will be holding a baby when they get up, an electric mechanism may avoid jerky movements that would wake the baby.
Heat or Massage
Recliners that come with heat and massage features are not full-blown massage chairs that encase your legs on three sides. They are less expensive versions that incorporate heat and massage in a chair that looks like a regular recliner. Since heat and massage can help alleviate low back pain, a recliner with either of these features can be a good choice for individuals who suffer from low back pain. Both heat and massage can increase blood circulation that helps reduce inflammation and muscle and joint soreness.
There are styles to suit every taste, from sleekly modern, club chairs, hi-leg, to cozy oversized recliners that envelope the person.
Some chairs offer two or three reclining positions while others offer a lot of different positions including zero gravity and high therapy positions that raise your legs above your heart. Ask:
Does the footrest lock into position? (It should.)
How many positions does it have?
Chairs with a zero-gravity position can help swollen ankles and blood circulation by raising your legs above your heart.
Armrests can help you get out of the chair. If the armrests aren’t at the right height, they can put stress on your shoulders.
Your height and weight influence which recliners will help your lower back pain. Some chairs are designed with lumbar support where a petite person needs it and others are designed for taller people.
Another aspect of a recliner that will vary based on your size is the footrest. If your ankles or calves rest on the edge of the footrest, you may experience ankle pain or problems with your Achilles tendon. You want a chair that is large enough to support your entire body. When your legs are stretched out, is the footrest under the heels of your feet?
Christopher Knight Home produces highly affordable recliners that earn good marks as well as an Amazon’s Choice Award. This elegant model is offered in several colors that will enhance your décor including pale blue, charcoal gray, light gray, and beige.
Macy’s advertises a similar chair at more than three times the price of this one!
The small footprint of this chair makes it perfect for bedroom sitting areas and small living rooms.
Lumbar support is provided by the thicker area at the base of the back of the chair.
Heat and massage built into a recliner is a great way to soothe lower back pain. Heat helps loosens tight muscles and the vibrating massage will ease them even more. This recliner looks like a regular chair, not a massage chair. The price tag is also a far cry from the much higher price you’d pay for a specialty massage chair.
Stretch out and relax with your feet up in your recliner while the soothing heat and vibration eases your lower back pain. Massage improves blood flow.
Best Recliners for Low Back Pain with Heat and Massage
36.6″ (W) X 37.8″ (D) X 38.6″ (H)
The Merax heated massage chair supports individuals up to 330 pounds. With custom settings for different zones, including intensity level, massage type, and heat.
If you fall asleep after the massage and heat relax your body, don’t worry. The auto shut-off will kick in to automatically shut-off the heat and massage. A handy side pocket provides a good place to store the remote control.
Many nurseries are furnished with a glider that has an ottoman; a recliner has several advantages. Moms frequently experience low back pain. Hauling the little one around can strain the back. Some moms take their babies into their bed and prop themselves up with pillows while they nurse. When my babies were born, I had a high four poster bed that was so high I needed steps to climb into it. Carrying a baby while climbing up steps and then turning around was not easy so I used our recliner to nurse our children.
It was perfect because I could relax with my back fully supported. The one drawback was our recliner had an arm mechanism that required me to reach down and pull it to bring the chair upright; my movements would usually wake her back up. I learned to keep a book nearby and would read while she napped in my arms.
Nursing in an uncomfortable position steals joy from those precious moments. A recliner with an easy to reach finger latch mechanism or a power recline feature is best.
The seat has individual spring coils to support you while you tend to all the children you have over the years. It doesn’t have separate lumbar support. You could easily add a pillow to provide any support it lacks.
The runner up comes with a lumbar pillow that will alleviate lower back pain when you relax with your baby in this recliner.
The clean lines of Art Deco Club Chairs don’t lend themselves to lumbar support. While a variety of attractive club chairs are offered, by themselves they don’t usually offer the lumbar support a recliner needs to ease lower back pain. If you really want a Club Chair, plan to use a lumbar support pillow to provide the support your back needs.
For the big or tall person (up to 500 pounds) who wants a recliner that doesn’t feel as if it was built for a little person. As long as a king-sized bed when fully reclined, you won’t feel confined in this recliner that is built to support your back and ease lower back pain.
This contemporary recliner comes with a high price that might make you pass it by, especially if you don’t have experience with high grade butter-soft leather. The leather used in these chairs feels as soft as the softest human skin you’ve ever felt. The luxurious feel combined with their ergonomic design makes them a viable option for discerning customers who are looking for a modern recliner that doesn’t look like a recliner.
Recline while you use it – don’t just extend the legs without reclining as this position increases pressure on your lumbar region.
Sleeping in a Recliner
For most people, it is better to sleep in their bed. However, some individuals breathe better when they are in an upright position. Sleeping with your head raised can alleviate the symptoms of acid reflux (GERD). While an adjustable bed is a better option than a recliner, if you don’t have an adjustable bed, a recliner is not an unhealthy option.
If you sleep in a recliner, make sure you also do stretching exercises that allow your joints to fully extend the way they would if you were in a bed while you sleep.
If you are experiencing difficulties sleeping in your bed, you can try a recliner. However, you should also speak to your doctor to find out the underlying reason you’re not able to sleep well in a bed.
While cognitive approaches to stress management and exercise are two of the best ways to manage stress, when facing extreme stressors, going to sleep is often the best short-term solution.
The position a recliner allows, leaning back and having your legs raised, helps your body relax which will help your mind calm down.
Easing stress can also help pain. When stress increases, so does pain.
In addition, laying back in a recliner with your legs raised, eases the stress on your joints and back. Reclining can alleviate muscle strain.
Cons of Recliners
Some recliners require a motion where you exert backward pressure from the knees down in order to close the recliner. Individuals with arthritis or weakness in their knee joints may find this motion difficult. If you believe this may be a problem for you, choose a recliner with a lever that allows you to use your arm to close it or one with an electronic closing mechanism.
Maintaining Your Furniture
Do You Sit Gently?
Some people sit gently in a chair while others plop down in a way that exerts considerably more pressure on the furniture. When you sit gently, you lower yourself into the chair and gently transfer your weight from your muscles onto the chair. The transfer is smooth and does not jar the chair. When someone plops down, they tend to let themselves fall the last few inches, which has the effect of a hundred or more pounds slamming into the chair every time they use it.
As a fan of recliners, most of the chairs, sofas, and loveseats in my home are recliners. I’ve had two reclining mechanisms break. Both times were the result of someone plopping down in the chair instead of sitting.
If you want your furniture to last, teach your children to sit down gently.
Scotch Guard and Guardsman
Use Scotch Guard to protect your upholstery and Guardsman to protect the leather from stains and spills that could ruin your beautiful new furniture.
Return to our Quick Comparison Chart of the Best Recliners for back pain.