How to find the best chair or couch for easing a bad back

When it comes to buying a new piece of furniture, how it looks in your home is just one of the key considerations.

How your new furniture feels is just as important, particularly if you have back pain and rely on your lounge chair or couch to provide a place of ease and comfort.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that one in six Australians suffer from back problems, which means purchasing the right product is key to the happiness and better health of many people.

Even those of us who don’t currently suffer back pain are at greater risk of developing issues as they age, because of the way our spines change as we get older, which makes taking care of your back important even if you don’t currently suffer from back pain.

That’s why Jane Lau, a physiotherapist from Collins Place Physio in Melbourne, says it’s vital to look for furniture that supports the spine in its natural curve, so you can maintain good posture whether you’re sitting or lying on your couch.

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“The height of the furniture is particular important,” Lau says.

If you prefer being seated upright, it’s best to look for chair height that allows your feet to be fully supported on the ground.

If you prefer to lounge back in your chair, a reclining option, such as those made by La-Z-Boy, are a good choice.  Some of La-Z-Boy’s recliners (including the James Silver Lift Chair pictured above) come with manual and powered recline options, as well powered lifts if you need extra help getting out of a chair.

Recliners offer support for the feet and the body, especially those that include adjustable lumbar supports and a headrest that allows you to rest your muscles and joints without putting extra strain on any specific area.

For the same reason, beware of chairs with upholstery so soft you ‘sink’ into the seat and have to struggle to stay upright or maintain a comfortable position.

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“[This is] especially important for older shoppers as they may have some degenerative changes in their spine, muscles, tendons and ligaments,” Lau explains. “You want to be in positions where it’s most efficient to maintain good posture so that you don’t put extra strain in your body.”

For this reason, it’s not whether you sit upright or recline that matters, but that you do so in a way that supports that natural curve of your back and provides support for your feet, she adds.

That said, spending too much time sitting, no matter how comfortably, isn’t great for your back, Lau says.

She suggests getting out of your chair regularly, so you’re not in one position for too long, and says the best way to look after your spine is simply to “keep moving” every day.

“Movement and exercise is always good, so whatever exercise that you enjoy doing is great as long as you understand how much stress your body can tolerate at any particular point in time so as not to overload it,” Lau says.

Do you have a bad back? Have you considered whether your lounge chair or couch is designed to support it?

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