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Everything You Need To Know About Recliner Chairs
Riser recliners are essentially electric armchairs which will recline and lift you up out of the chair at the touch of a button. These chairs are very versatile and can help you get out of your chair more easily and raise your legs up if swelling is a problem. There is a wide range of riser recliners (sometimes also known as ‘lift’ chairs) on the market, some produced by traditional furniture manufacturers whilst others are produced by specialist mobility product manufacturers.

This guide is intended to help you understand the different types of chair available, explain some of the more specialist features and give guidance on how to measure the correct size of chair for you.

All riser recliners are powered by at least one electric motor. The chair will generally have a metal frame with scissor type mechanisms which when pushed or pulled by the motor causes the chair to move in the desired direction. Contrary to popular belief the electric motor is not battery powered. The electric motor plugs in to a normal mains wall socket via a transformer. This transformer reduces the voltage to a safer level so that it is not possible to get an electric shock from the chair.

The chair will be equipped with a remote control linked to the motor by a cable. This gives you control of the chair whilst seated. There will be at least 2 buttons on the controller allowing you to recline or be raised up. You are able to stop the motor at any time and do not have to go to the end of the motor’s position.

One thing to bear in mind with riser recliners is that the standard chair needs to be positioned away from the wall. This is to allow enough space for the back to recline. If you are going to recline fully, then there needs to be at least a 2 foot gap between the wall and the chair when in an upright position. It is extremely important to ensure that the back of the chair does not hit the wall as this can cause the frame to bend which is expensive to repair. If you have limited space available, there are chairs designed to overcome this problem called wall huggers.

Single motor
Single motor chairs have just what their name implies – a single motor! This is an important difference to make as it fundamentally affects the reclining action. The impact of only having one motor is that when the chair reclines, the backrest and footplate move together or in a coordinated fashion. The upwards rising function is exactly the same no matter whether the chair has a single or dual motor.

Different chairs have different motions and recline to different degrees. On most single motor chairs, the footplate rises up before the backrest goes down. It is normal for this motion to become blurred as the footplate reaches its highest point and the two move in tandem. Once the footplate has reached its highest point the backrest will continue to recline.

Single motor chairs do not fully recline. It is normal for the recline to only go back to an angle of 45 degrees. This is what is known as a comfortable TV watching angle. This angle also allows you to have conversations with others in the room. It is only if you want to sleep in the chair that you would need to look at a motion which reclines fully so that a flat ‘bed’ can be achieved.

Dual motor
As the name suggests, dual motor chairs have two motors - one motor to control the footrest and one motor to control the back rest. This gives the ultimate in flexibility and allows you to find a reclined seating position to suit you. In addition, a dual motor chair will recline fully, so is ideal if you may need to sleep in your chair on occasions.

The handset on a dual motor will have four or more buttons (an up and down switch for each motor). This can be slightly confusing at the outset but most people get used to it with practice. However, if you are buying the chair for someone who has dementia, it may be better to go for a single motor chair with its greater simplicity.

Some handsets have a fifth button, which will take you back to a seated position from whatever position you may be in. This fifth button coordinates both motors at the same time. This is very useful when the phone or door bell rings, so you don’t press the wrong button and go the wrong way!

Style of back
There is a range of different back styles available and your choice will depend on which you find most comfortable and your personal preference of the way it looks.

Button back
This is a very traditional style and produces a neat looking chair. In general, a button back will provide reasonably firm support to your back although it is possible to have a soft button back design.

Also known as a pillow back, the waterfall is typically made up of 3 separate pillows cascading down the back of the chair. Each pillow will have a zip to allow you to adjust the amount of filling and hence achieve the ideal level of comfort for you. This can be done on each of the pillows giving the ultimate flexibility to mould the back to your preference. This back style is generally softer than a button back, which may not suit everyone. Due to the nature of the fibre padding, you will find that the back will flatten slightly with use.

Orthopaedic Back
This type of back provides firm support and will be suitable if you experience back pain. The shape of the back mirrors the contours of your spines natural position and encourages good posture.

Wall hugger
Typically found on some single motor chairs, the wall hugger movement means that the seat base actually moves forward whilst the chair is being reclined. This enables the chair to be placed within a few inches of the wall and still recline without hitting the wall. Ideal for small rooms.

Tilt in space
Tilt in space is a particular type of motion a chair has when it is reclined. When the back reclines on normal chairs it can put strain on the lower back as the seat stays horizontal. A tilt in space motion angles the seat of the chair backwards with the reclining back and reduces the amount of strain placed on the lower back. The motion maintains the support on your back by keeping the chair in an L shape as you recline. It also stops you having to move backward in the chair when it is reclining.

Due to the angles involved, chairs that have a tilt in space action don’t recline very far back and it is only available on single motor chairs.

How to assess the correct size of chair

Getting the dimensions of a seat right is crucial in terms of the comfort, support and pressure distribution it will give. The key measurements are the seat height, width and depth. You should ideally ask someone to help measure you when you are seated not forgetting that your current chair may not be the right dimensions.

Seat height
The correct seat height can be calculated by measuring the distance from the floor to the crease at the back of the knees. When seated, the hips and knees should be at right angles whilst your feet are flat on the floor whilst wearing your usual indoor shoes. A slightly higher seat can make it easier to stand up and sit down, particularly if you have any pain or weakness in your legs.

Seat depth
To calculate the correct seat depth, measure the distance from the back of the hips, along the thighs to approximately 1.5” (3 cm) before the back of the knees. When seated you should be able to place two fingers together between the edge of the seat and the back of the knee. The seat needs to be deep enough to support the full length of the thighs but not so deep that your lower back is not properly supported.

Seat width
The seat should be wide enough to allow you to sit comfortably whilst reading, writing or knitting, but narrow enough to enable you to make use of the armrests. Ideally, it should be the width of your hips plus a clenched fist on either side.

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