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How Does a Lift Chair Work? Quick Guide for Beginners

By Maurice

How Does a Lift Chair Work

Today, we’re going to answer the question: How does a lift chair work? to give beginners some basic information. We’ll cover what these chairs are and what they do, and how they can work well in many people’s lives to improve their quality of living.

What Is a Lift Chair?

Lift Chair Troubleshooting

A lift chair, also called a power lift recliner, is an upholstered armchair with a motor that allows the seat, leg rests, and back to move up or down so that the user can sit or stand without effort. Lift chairs are designed for people with mobility limitations to ease them gently in and out of the chair at the touch of a button on a hand-held controller.

There are three main categories of lift chairs:


Two-Position Chair Lift – Courtesy of 1800 Wheelchair

Two-position lift chairs don’t recline too much as they’re designed for lifting the user into sitting and standing positions only. The seat and leg rest move, while the back moves only a tiny amount to remain mainly at a 45-degree angle. These are ideal lift chairs for relaxing, watching TV, or reading and are priced lower than the reclining versions.


Three-Position Lift Chair

In addition to the two-position chair features described above, the three-position models include a reclining capability that lets the seat lie almost flat and the lifting mechanism to work from that position and in sitting mode. So along with providing comfort for watching TV or reading, the three-position lift recliner can also be used for napping.


Infinite Position

Infinite-position lift recliners are the most expensive type of lift chair but also the most versatile. They have sitting, standing, and full reclining capability. Infinite position chairs include a zero-gravity position that is a treatment often recommended by doctors for some medical conditions to help improve blood flow, reduce anxiety or tension, lessen lower back pain, or improve circulation.

What Is the Difference Between a Lift Chair and a Regular Recliner?

Lift Chairs


At first glance, a lift chair looks just like a regular recliner. Upon closer examination, though, many differences become apparent. Traditional recliners aren’t powered by a motor or have a backup battery and don’t lift the user gently to sit or up to a vertical position to stand. Because of these features, there is a significant price difference between regular armchairs and lift chairs since the first is furniture only while the second is medical equipment.

Regular Recliners

Manual Recliner

Like lift chairs, regular recliners are available in different fabric choices, colors, sizes, and styles. These non-lift upholstered chairs offer more variety for color and pattern choice as lift recliners are typically limited to mainly solid, neutral colors – although often very stylish ones. Regular recliners are adjusted manually and not electric-powered as they don’t work for lifting. Although a standard recliner may be highly well-built, it isn’t a medical device like a lift chair, so it will never be as heavy-duty as its powerlifting counterparts.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Lift Chairs?


  • Power recliner chairs can help improve daily living for many with age-related health conditions and those with back pain, circulation issues, or a disease such as cerebral palsy.
  • Wheelchair users can often transfer easily to and from a lift chair.
  • Lift chairs are often great help and comfort to those with painful medical ailments or limited mobility. They tend to help take the pressure off weak or painful joints and muscles and allow those who can’t sit unsupported the ability to sit rather than being confined to a bed. A clinical study suggests that lift recliner use can help patients recover and function better than being in a hospital bed.
  • If needed, in many cases, a lift chair can be customized for buyers to fit the user’s unique requirements, such as for a smaller or larger person or to provide a different type of leg rest or headrest.
  • The freedom of movement to comfortably enjoy sitting, relaxing, watching TV, or reading is a major “pro” for most lift chair users.


  • Lift chairs are expensive since they are medical equipment. Many people wonder: How does a lift chair work on Medicare? While Medicare plans don’t cover the entire lift chair cost, the good news is that if your doctor considers a lift chair medically necessary for you, it’s possible that the seat lifting mechanism ​​​​may be covered by your Medicare plan.
  • A lift chair isn’t suitable for those unsteady on their feet or who don’t have the necessary cognitive ability to properly use the handheld power control. It’s also not recommended for those whose doctors instruct to move their muscles to strengthen them.

How a Lift Chair Works – The Mechanics

Lift Chair Parts


  • Motor – The lift chair motor runs the lifting mechanism. In the infinite-position chairs, two motors are used in a scissor-mechanism – one for lifting and one for powering the chair back.
  • Power hand control – The handheld device, usually with two buttons for up and down signified with arrows, offers one-touch button control for lift chair users. Some lift recliners require the button to be held down while the chair moves.
  • Backup battery pack – The backup battery is for emergency use during a power failure.
  • Lift chair seat and backrest – The lift chair itself is usually sent in two parts – the seat, with footrests, and the backrest, that may have an additional pillow or headrest.

Lift Chair Set-Up

  • The two main chair pieces need to be attached, either with screws or a sliding mechanism.
  • The lift chair should be set sturdily on the floor or carpet. Leg leveler parts sent with the chair can help position the chair properly.
  • Once the chair is set away from the wall at the manufacturer’s specified distance, the chair plug can be plugged into an ordinary wall socket. Plug wiring and lift chair wiring should be routinely checked to ensure there is no fraying or a loosened electrical connection.

How To Use a Lift Chair Safely

  • A lift chair should be set up so that it is steadily on a surface whether flooring or carpeting. Some higher-pile carpets may not allow the lifting base of the chair to move correctly, even after chair-leg adjustments, so those carpets should not be used under the chair.
  • Lift chair users shouldn’t have another person sit on their lap in the chair or have pets or children near the chair when it’s in operation.
  • People with cognitive impairment who may forget to move their legs to stand shouldn’t operate a power lift chair.

Well, that’s the basic beginner scoop of how lift chairs work. If you’re still wondering: How does a lift chair work for your specific condition, it might be a good idea to talk with your doctor to see if this type of medical equipment could be right for you.

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