Are Recliners Bad for Your Neck?

After a long hard day or just a long hard morning, nothing is better than leaning back and getting some relief. Whether you have a soft recliner or an office chair that reclines, you may be concerned about the effects leaning back has on your body.

Many people attribute neck pain to recliners, but they may not be the source of your neck pain. If you have experienced neck pain and use a recliner often, you may want to blame the chair.

Before you toss out your comfy lounger, read this article on the connection between neck pain and recliners so you can decide what the source of your pain truly is.

Short Answer

The short answer to “Are recliners bad for your neck?” is no.

But that doesn’t mean using a recliner can’t do damage to your body. However, the damage usually occurs because you are sitting incorrectly or using the wrong recliner for your body. So in a way, the answer is yes because recliners can result in discomfort to your neck, but it isn’t inherently the recliner’s fault.

How to Recline Ergonomically

There are recliners and laying positions that will cause discomfort or even injury to your neck. First, we will discuss the correct way to recline in a chair that won’t cause tension on your neck or back.

The Magic of 135 Degrees

Chiropractors have determined through ergonomic research that reclining in a chair at a 135-degree angle may be better for your body and spine than sitting upright at 90-degrees, as many believe is the optimal posture.

Flat Feet

One thing that hasn’t changed in ergonomics is your feet should be firmly planted on the floor. If you cannot reach the floor or can only touch with your toes, your seat is too high and puts strain on your back while decreasing circulation in your legs.

Lumbar Support

If you plan on reclining and your chair doesn’t have lumbar support, you should purchase a lumbar support pillow to add to your chair. The necessity of lumbar support applies to both office chairs and sofa recliners.

When you lay back, your spine can curve the wrong way, adding stress to your vertebrae, so having lumbar support to keep your spine correctly curved is vital.

Headrest

Make sure you have a comfortably cushioned headrest. You should adjust it so it supports both your neck and skull, and you don’t have to strain to look forward. The majority of the headrest should support your skull, so you don’t bend your neck into an unnatural position to see your screen.

No Crossing

Never, ever cross your legs. It is terrible for your knees and spine as it contorts your body’s alignment. Crossing your legs can lead to knee, back, pelvis, and even shoulder pain. Crossing your legs is one of the biggest don’ts in the ergonomic world — so refrain by any means necessary.

Armrest

The position of your armrests is always important for proper ergonomics, but it is even more crucial if you recline in your chair. To avoid stress on your shoulders it is best to use a lap keyboard or a keyboard tray, so you don’t need to stretch forward to use your devices.

Benefits of Reclining

recliners bad for neck
Source: Shutterstock

Better Breathing

When you lean back your ribs, and abdominal cavity expands, making it easier to take large, deep breaths. When you take deeper breaths with an improved lung capacity, your entire body benefits. Improved breathing can awaken your mental state and make you more alert, which is excellent for workplace productivity.

Spinal Relief

When you sit at a 90-degree angle, your spine compresses, and the vertebrae have to support one another against gravity pulling you down. But when you recline, the gravitational pull is dispersed more evenly across your body, so your spine is less strained. So take that, gravity!

Prevents the Hunch

Ergonomic facts can change with advanced research into posture, but there is one position that is universally recognized as damaging to your body and spine. When you hunch over, your back curves the opposite way that it should, causing tension on your vertebrae and neck that can lead to spinal problems in the future.

If you recline in your seat, the detrimental hunch becomes impossible to accidentally settle into. If you have a terrible habit of hunching over at your desk or on your couch, a recliner can make a world of difference in your comfort and posture.

Risks of Reclining

Neck Strain

So it is possible for reclining to cause neck strain, but only if you are not reclining properly. As long as you have a sufficient, supportive headrest to hold your skull and you don’t have a work setup that forces you to strain to see your monitor or strain to reach your devices, you should be okay.

Even if you are using a sofa recliner in your living room, make sure you don’t need to raise your head or push your neck forward in any way to comfortably watch the television.

Spinal Tension

While reclining can relieve spinal tension, it can worsen if you do not use a chair with effective lumbar support. If you recline with little or no lumbar support, you may lay in a position that reverses your lower back’s natural spinal curvature, which can cause pain and lead to health problems.

How to Choose the Right Sofa Recliner

If you have been laying in your recliner properly and still experience neck pain, you may be using a recliner that lacks an ergonomic design. To choose the best ergonomic recliner for you and your body, there are a few factors to consider and tests you can do on the chair before you commit to it.

The best way to determine if a recliner is right for your body is to judge your neck comfort when you lay in it. Your neck should naturally and immediately slip into a comfortable position that mimics the neutral spine position.

When you sit in the recliner, if you need to adjust your neck a few times or wriggle around to find a comfortable position, it is likely not the right recliner for you.

The ideal recliner will immediately support your neck and back, so you are comfortable; there should be no need to adjust your positioning to fit the chair. The chair should fit your position.

Bottom Line

Neck pain is nothing to take lightly. There can be many causes of neck pain, but odds are it isn’t your recliner’s fault. And if it is because of your recliner, that doesn’t mean all recliners are evil, you need one that suits you better.

Hopefully, this guide has answered all your questions about recliners and their ergonomic properties. Even if you are experiencing neck pain, you don’t need to give up your comfy recliner just yet!

FAQs

What if I’m using the right recliner and still have neck pain?

If you are using the proper recliner for your body and neck and still experience neck pain, it is likely the source of the pain is caused by something else.

What else causes neck pain?

If your recliner is not the source of your neck pain, many other things could be causing it. Your neck pain could stem from aging, injury, mental stress, physical strain, conditions that affect spinal balance, or growths.

If your neck pain persists and you can’t determine the source it could be an underlying health condition, and you should contact your doctor.

Can I recline all day?

Although reclining has been proven to be better for your spine than sitting upright, no one position is ideal for your body to be in all day long. If possible, you should try to stretch throughout the day and swap between sitting and standing positions. This will relieve stress on joints and muscles.

This also applies to those using sofa recliners. Don’t stay in the same position all day, every day, it is not good for your bodily health.

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