People spend a lot of time sitting down and it is relaxing to slump into your favorite couch. But many people experience lower back pain from sitting as well as other medical issues such as migraines that can be traced back to poor posture as well as a sedentary lifestyle. So what is the best angle for your seat back?
There is no such thing as the best angle for a seat back. To help reduce back pain you should consider reducing the amount of time you are sitting, work on getting proper lumbar and back support in the chair, and doing some movement or a stretching routine for 10 minutes out of every hour you spend sitting.
If you are experiencing pain (especially in your lower and upper back), fixing the angle of your couch won’t help much but there are alternatives, such as the ones mentioned above, that can help. In this article, I will take you through the latest research, showing you what we know about the causes of back pain and the strategies you can employ to stop your back aching!
Why Does My Couch Make My Back Hurt?
The causes of back pain are a bit of a mystery. However certain lifestyle habits have been shown to commonly be heavily correlated with people reporting back pain. One trend that has been noticed is that long periods of sitting tend to be associated with back pain.
Couches with large, soft cushions and upholstery tend to encourage poor posture or slouching. Poor posture or slouching leads to an abnormal curvature of the spine. Studies on human physiology, biology, and even anthropology have shown that the body of a human being does not respond well to long periods of sitting and inactivity.
Pressure on the base of the spine from sitting too long can cause lower back pain, whereas slouching can lead to kyphosis (KAI-FOE-SISS) or other spinal issues. Kyphosis leads to pressure on the upper spine which can lead to a variety of issues, including headaches, numbness, and nerve damage.
Interestingly it is not so much that sitting down is harmful in and of itself but rather long periods of inactivity combined with bad posture seem to cause issues. Comparisons of humans living in nonindustrial economic societies show that although they still do rest and sit for similar amounts of time that you or I do, generally this is via squatting or other ‘active rest’ postures which help engage muscles.
It is thought that this constant engagement of muscles helps keep the body active, which does not happen with chair-sitting sedentary postures, and this leads to increased production of essential enzymes as well as many other substances vital for good health.
Are Reclining Sofas Bad for Your Back?
Reclining sofas are still sofas and so any long periods of sitting on them could lead to back pain. It will depend on your own lifestyle and body shape but ideally, you want to make sure any furniture you will spend time in, particularly sitting, should fit you well.
Adjusting the sofa back so that it provides more lumbar support is key. This is not a substitute for standing up and stretching for 10 minutes every hour but it can help encourage active posture.
The main issue with reclining sofas is that they tend to be very comfortable and this encourages long periods of sitting. For example, if you have other types of pain, say in your shoulders or upper back or feet from long periods of standing, then reclining sofas can take the pressure off and bring relief. However, if you are doing this for hours at a time you will be likely causing other issues due to your sedentary lifestyle.
What Is the Best Couch for a Bad Back?
There are some general features to have and others to avoid when looking at getting a couch to help with back pain. Fundamentally, long periods of inactive sitting are going to cause you issues no matter the chair or couch you sit in.
Soft cushions and limited back support are standard features for a couch and unfortunately are unlikely to help with a bad back. Generally, you want to keep your feet flat on the floor and your hips parallel but this is difficult to do with a couch, especially a deep couch.
Rather than spending time and money searching for the best couch for you, it would be better to focus on stretching regularly, limiting uninterrupted periods on the couch, and maintaining a generally active lifestyle.
One way to do this is to set a timer. When the timer goes off, you can try various posture exercises or squatting. Doing this regularly throughout the day will help your back out much more than trying to adjust seat angles or rolling your shoulders back once they get sore. In the end, if you are having medical issues or debilitating pain, you should seek medical advice but as a first step, you should try reducing sitting time.
What Angle for Your Seat Back is Best?
The angle of the seat back should not be a right angle from the seat itself. Generally, a slightly reclined seat back allows the natural curvature of the spine as well as reducing pressure, particularly on the lower back. Some research suggests that anywhere from 100 to 130 degrees can be the best angle but this will depend a lot on your physiology.
Research has shown that there is no perfect chair and focus should be instead on avoiding sitting down for hours at a time, even if you are trying to maintain good posture as much as possible.