Do You Have Recliner Thighs?
When you want to buy a recliner, you are not alone. In nearly every home in America, you will find at least one recliner. Many homes will even have two, a His and a Hers. Now we have sofas and love seats that are recliners. Recently, we were in a furniture store and the salesperson showed us recliners that had lighted cup holders, USB ports, shelves, and places for the remotes to rest. In fact, one had a small refrigerator in the armrest, believe it or not! These chairs are giving people a reason to not move. If they can find a way to add a toilet to the chair, there would be no need for a person to ever move! That may sound great to some people, but the human body must move every day enough to increase the heart rate to maintain a healthy body. Too much time in these chairs and you could become crippled for life.
Why Not Buy a Recliner?
The recliner is a very comfortable chair while you are sitting in it. However, over time it can lead to back, neck, and knee pain. In this newsletter, I will explain how these things happen, then how to avoid the problems associated with the recliner. Let me say upfront, I am not saying you need to get rid of your recliner, not just yet anyway, Hehe!
Let’s begin with the front of your thighs, the quadriceps, or quads. There are four muscles on the front of your thighs. They attach on the back of the pelvis and run down your leg to their attachment site just below the kneecap. Have your spouse or friend recline back in your chair, then look at the positioning of their body. There is a bend at the neck, waist, and knee. The bend at the waist and knee causes the quads to be in a shortened state. Too much time in this position and the quads will remain in the shortened state and they will pull on your low back, and maybe your knee. It will not hurt while sitting in the chair. It will hurt when you stand up, get out of bed, or stand for any length of time. Chances are you will never think it is coming from your chair.
Now, picture again your spouse or friend sitting in your chair. Imagine they can remain in that position and place them in a standing position without changing the bend in their neck, waist, and knee. Not a pretty picture, is it? Too much time in that position and your body will take on that position.
Let’s look at the other aspects of what is happening to your body. First, since the knee is bent, the calf muscles will be in a shortened state. This can lead to pain behind your knee or foot. It may cause leg cramps, plantar fasciitis (pain in the heel), and reduce the flexibility of the ankle which can lead to a shortened stride.
The chair affects the neck too. Last summer, I visited my sister’s house and spent the day with her. All of her chairs and sofas are recliners. Nice, comfortable chairs that make you want to sit in them for hours, and we did. Big Mistake!! Like most recliners, the top of the back is puffed out like a pillow, and it forces your head in a forward position. This can cause the chest to shorten as well as the front of your neck. Keep in mind I rarely sit in a recliner and my body is not used to it. After sitting in one for most of the day, I could feel my neck tighten on the backside. Then I went to my mother’s house where I was sleeping. Around midnight, I woke up with the worst headache I had ever had in my life. My head was throbbing, my neck was hurting, and my neck was stiff as a board. I spent thirty minutes stretching my neck before it finally released, and I could get back to sleep. For the rest of my trip, I sat on dining room chairs at my sister’s house and my mother’s house. My neck never bothered me again.
Many times, when someone comes into my office complaining of back pain, I can visualize their body in the reclining position even though they are standing. Their torso is bent slightly forward. The head is out in front of their chest, and they take short strides when they walk. When they stand up from my chair, I hear a grunt as they stand and push off with their hands. If I ask them if they sit in a recliner, nine out of ten times they will say yes. I know they have “recliner thighs” and that is where their back pain is coming from.
You don’t have to sell your recliner, but you certainly don’t want to buy a recliner that you don’t need! I suggest the following stretches to counteract the impact of recliner time.
How Do We Solve Recliner Thighs?
Our goal here is to release the upper quads and the hip flexors which are in front of the hips. This will allow you to stand up straight reducing the compression on the low back. It will also allow you to walk leading with your belly button and will increase the range of motion in your ankles. By getting the top of your pelvis back underneath you instead of shifting forward, you reduce the curvature on the low or lumbar back and reduce strain on the low back muscles which are fighting to hold you up straight. Many people believe the bent-over stance is age-related, but the truth is, it is habit-related.
I will include the videos of the two stretches I am describing here in the section just below this content. Let’s begin by lying on your side. You can do this on the bed or floor, whichever is most comfortable for you. Use your top hand to grab your top ankle. You will need to bend your knee to grab your ankle. If you cannot reach your ankle, no worries–fold your yoga strap in half, wrap it around your ankle, and pull the strap back with your upper hand. Now focus on just the upper thigh moving behind your torso. It might be difficult to get your thigh even with your torso, even though your goal is to go past your torso. Do not force it. You will get there eventually. Please take your time with this one. Hold the stretch for five seconds and repeat ten times. The five-second hold is to avoid the stretch reflex from kicking in and the muscle shifting to contraction instead of releasing. The repeating ten times is to help you show your brain that the movement is safe. Make sure to do both legs.
The second stretch is for the hip flexors, and they lie in front of the hip joint. If you cannot get down on one knee, this may be difficult for you, and I will give you an option later. If you can get down on one knee, do so next to a table chair, or bed so you can balance yourself. Now place the opposite foot out in front of you. You will do a lunge, however, keep your torso straight and do not lean forward. Otherwise, you will lose the stretch. As you lunge forward, notice if your knee comes out past your toes on your front foot. If it does, slide the foot forward because you want your knee to be over your ankle when you have stretched as far as you can. If, when lunging forward, you cannot stretch enough to end up over your ankle, then slide the front foot back so you can. You should feel the stretch on the front of the hip. Hold for five seconds and repeat ten times. Be sure to do both legs.
I would do this after each evening of sitting in the recliner. If you sit in it most of the day, then about every two hours take a break and do these stretches. You can look back at other posts of mine and see how to stretch the front of your neck and calves, which will help you maintain a straight posture. The best chair to sit in is a straight-back chair with no reclining ability. I know that may sound crazy, but once you stretch out your body, you will find a non-reclining chair more comfortable than the recliner. Like I shared with you earlier, I find the recliner very uncomfortable and therefore have no need for one. My friends and family cannot understand why I don’t buy a recliner. I tell them,” I prefer to not have recliner thighs and to stand up straight.” What’s funny is, they tell me how they envy my straight posture and wish they could have that. Hopefully, they will read this and straighten out their posture.
Tips to Improve your Stretching
All you need is a yoga strap and a tennis ball for the tennis ball massage. Give yourself about 15 minutes twice a day and you should see better results within 2 weeks. This, though, is a lifetime event. Think of your pet. they stretch every day and several times a day. Stretch when they stretch. Follow the videos below and free your knees. In my opinion, the calf stretch is the most important stretch a human can do. It will solve many issues of the body.
Stretching is more about feeling the muscles letting go than forcing them to stretch. If you are forcing the muscle, you could be doing strength training, not stretching. Make sure you are feeling the intended muscle stretching. If not, the form could be wrong. Holding for 5 seconds allows the brain to release the muscle before it senses any danger. Repeating the stretches 10 times allows the brain to learn it is safe for the muscle to move that way.
Don’t forget the Tennis Ball Massage!
Softening your hips and back is easy when you use the tennis ball. Just lean against the wall and apply enough pressure to feel the painful area. The temptation is to press harder but resist it. Instead, breathe out and allow the muscle to soften under the ball. Then move to another spot and repeat. Continue doing this until most of the painful spots are gone. Check out previous newsletters to see the video.
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About The Muscle Repair Shop
Drawing upon his personal experience as a former competitive athlete turned wheelchair, obese, and chronic pain sufferer, Muscle Repair Shop Founder Butch Phelps decided to take his health into his own hands when at the age of 36 he was told he might not make it to his 40th birthday. Applying balanced nutrition advice from his doctor along with a sound exercise program, he went from 315 lbs. to 180 lbs. Motivated by his experience, he then acquired degrees in advanced therapeutic massage and aging sciences to help people eliminate chronic pain. This included applying his expertise in how people age, including the effects of dementia, anatomy, psychology, and the day-to-day struggles living as an older person to his practice and development of The Muscle Repair Shop’s one-of-a-kind Stretch n’ Release Technique.
Available through in-office and virtual coaching treatment sessions, this unique combination of stretching and breath work teaches the brain to release the emotional side of muscle tension and pain allows clients to find lasting relief and healing from stiffness, aches, injuries, and chronic pain. The at-home exercises come with customized instructional videos and virtual or in-office support, allowing clients to enjoy and experience life and sports as they did before limitations slowed or curtailed activities.