To answer your question as quickly as possible, yes, sitting in a recliner can cause blood clots, but before you drop cozy old faithful off at your local dumping ground, consider this.
It’s not just necessarily the fact that a chair has a recline function and a footrest that causes blood clots, it’s sitting in general.
When we sit down for long periods of time and give ourselves no breaks to stretch our legs, the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis increases significantly, reclined or not.
DVT is essentially a clot that normally forms in the larger veins of the human body, i.e. the legs. Sounds scary, right? Just wait until you hear what happens next.
Sometimes, the clots that form in the larger veins in the thigh or lower leg can travel all the way to the heart or the lungs. This is what’s known as a pulmonary embolism, and it can affect your respiratory health, cause chest pains, and in severe cases, can be fatal.
Does the term Coach Class Syndrome ring any bells? Garnering a lot of media attention a few years back, it’s the same thing, but DVT develops due to prolonged periods sitting on airplanes.
The CDCP (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) believes that roughly 900,000 people suffer from DVT or PE a year.
Does a recliner pose more of a risk than a standard chair? It’s a good question. As fewer muscles are required when we’re reclined, the chances are they do pose more of a risk. That said, don’t let it spook you from treating yourself to a cushy recliner.
As long as you take a break from being seated at least once every 60 to 90 minutes or so, you’ll be as healthy as a horse.
However, for those that are genetically predisposed to developing DVT, it might be worth choosing a more traditional chair. Obesity and oral contraceptives can also increase the risk of developing DVT, so always be mindful when choosing your new chair.
Are recliners bad for leg circulation?
As recliners are all about comfort and relaxation, they do pose a serious circulatory risk should we use them irresponsibly. However, as was the case in our last answer, recliners aren’t the only culprits.
Any extended periods of inactivity are bad for our circulatory system, especially our legs. When our muscles are takin’ her easy for too long, we’re at risk of developing certain circulatory problems, but one of the most common is known as peripheral artery disease PAD.
Essentially, PAD is the result of the narrowing of blood vessels and arteries, limiting blood flow to the heart. Symptoms can be as mild as feeling stiff or tired, but if it worsens and goes untreated, it can eventually lead to heart attacks and strokes.
It’s often advised that to help increase circulation while sitting that you elevate your legs, so there's a good chance that recliners with footrests are actually better for circulation than standard seating.
Having said that, recliner footrests rarely give your legs enough of a lift to truly help eliminate poor circulation. Ideally, you need to keep your legs elevated at heart level or above.
Whether you’ve had your legs up or not, if you really want to ensure your circulatory health remains on top form, after every extended seated period, lie down with your legs against the wall at 90°.
Letting gravity do most of the work, the blood flow to your heart aids in recovery after static periods and increases the circulation of lymphatic fluid too.
Can sleeping in a recliner cause swollen ankles?
Even though it’s only up a few stairs, sometimes bed can feel like a million miles away, often leading to a lengthy nap in our cozy recliners. There’s nothing wrong with doing this every now and again, but if it happens too often, you may well notice a swelling of the legs, ankles, or feet.
This swelling is caused by the pooling of blood in your lower extremities. As a recliner normally rests you diagonally, gravity does its thing and pulls most of your blood downwards.
It’s also important to note that your veins don’t simply stop working when they’re on the wrong side of gravity, they’re actually working overtime trying to push your blood back into your heart.
Those who make a habit of falling asleep in their recliners may experience significant vein pain or ache. Beyond that, the risk of developing varicose veins and DVT increases significantly.
The best thing you can do to stave off these circulatory conditions is the same thing we suggested in our previous answer. Lie down in bed or on your floor and put your feet against the wall at a 90° angle.
If you want to kill two birds with one stone, you could work on your core by doing some reverse crunches. That’s sure to get the blood flying in the right direction.
Should your feet hang off a recliner?
If a recliner is well-designed and suited to your body type, your heels should come to rest just over the edge of the footrest, allowing your feet to sit naturally.
In this position, the weight of your entire lower leg is spread proportionally, ensuring you remain comfortable without having to constantly readjust the way you're seated.
If your footrest is too long, your heels will dig into the cushion, placing pressure on both your Achilles tendons and your knees. After sitting like this for a while, standing up becomes a painful prospect, especially if you already suffer from sore joints.
When not reclining in your seat, your feet should be perfectly flat on the ground without any need to stretch or strain. This is the best possible seated position to encourage healthy posture, keeping your back healthy and your knees supported.
Compared to having your feet dangle halfway down the front of the chair or extended out so your heels dig into the floor, it’s the best position for circulatory health too.