Backrest styles (shape and angles)

Backrest shape

Comfort is often determined by the shape of the backrest. It should be gently curved to match the natural curves of the spine and provide good support, particularly around the small of the back and the head. Many older people have a rounded or 'C' shaped back and shoulders which make it difficult to get the correct support unless special cushions are used. People with a marked curvature of the spine may find a softer, canvas or angled backrest more comfortable or may require a more customised solution.

Backrest angle

The backrest should be angled slightly backwards to around 105 degrees. If it is too upright then you may be spending a lot of unneccessary energy trying not to lean forward. A reclined angle may also be helpful for the heavier person with additional weight around their stomach or on their thighs. Conversely, if the backrest slopes back too far, it might force you to slide forward on the seat. This can increase risk of pressure sores developing and your head will be towards the ceiling rather than in a more functional position to, for example watch TV or engage in conversation with others.

Waterfall type back

This back consists of usually three or four cushions which overlap each other and sometimes there is an option to add or subtract filling from the individual cushions to suit the needs of the individual. Other models have several cushions which have velcro adjusters to customise the positioning. This type of back usually allows the person's back to be accommodated or sink into the cushions more than some styles which may be made out of firmer materials. These type of backs are primarily found in riser recliner chairs.

If you would like similar advice regarding issues with sitting to standing and questions relating to furniture then you could try the sitting and standing and chair sections of AskSARA. AskSARA is the Disabled Living Foundation (DLF)'s free online self assessment tool. AskSARA will ask you questions about yourself and your environment (in this instance standing up from a chair, wanting to raise your legs) and then offer relevant advice, product suggestions and supplier details.
- AskSARA's standing to sitting section
- AskSARA's chair section

All advice is either supported by references (cited in the text) or is based upon peer reviewed professional opinion. Our advice is impartial and not influenced by sponsors or product suppliers listed on the site.
Conflict of interest statement