Sitting in your wheelchair without good support or cushioning can make for a very long, uncomfortable day. Unfortunately for wheelchair users the reality of science is that the human body wasn't designed to sit all day long. So, while you may be reliant on your chair for everyday support and mobility, you will also have to find ways to improve your comfort to avoid experiencing any further issues that may arise from it.
Thankfully there are some really easy ways to make sure your chair is serving you well and that you'll be sitting comfortably from now on.
Book a Professional Chair Fitting
If we could give you one piece of advice it would be this. If it’s likely that you’ll be spending a considerable amount of time in your chair we would strongly advise that you seek the help of a specialist, professional to make sure the chair is precisely suitable for the specific needs of your body. Your physiotherapist or medical consultant can help, as can a specialist wheelchair supplier - many of whom, like us, offer bespoke fitting services regardless of your condition or budget.
The more reliant you are on your chair, the more comfortable you will need it to be. However, extra comfort and support can also come with extra cost which is often limiting for individuals. Choosing a wheelchair can be a confusing job given how many different styles and options are on the market, but a specialist can help you sift through the options and find something that will work for you and your body.
Use Additional Cushioning and Support
It is fair to say that the more money you spend, the more comfort and support you should expect from your chair. The easiest and most cost effective way to make your chair more comfortable though is to add a cushion to the seating surface and to the back, and there are many options available to do this.
Using a good, supportive comfortable cushion will immediately decrease the pressure on your bottom and legs and, as a result, will help to reduce any pain and discomfort you might feel in your chair.
These are some of the most comfortable wheelchair cushions we would recommend:
- Seat Cushions
Theracube cushions are ideal for pressure reduction when sitting for long periods, in particular for wheelchair users. The cushion supports the user with an even distribution of weight which helps to reduce the likelihood of ulcers or sores. The Theracube has a rounded front for comfort and is tapered front to back which helps to stop the user sliding forward on the seat and the deep channels allow air to circulate for less heat and sweat build up.
The Ripple Comfort Seat adds overall extra padding to the base, back and arms of your chair or wheel chair. Rounded contour nodules help spread body weight reducing friction and pressure. It has extra lumbar support for the lower back to help improve posture and is also available with an option for coccyx or bonyparts cut out for extra comfort and a bespoke fit.
The removable gel bag in this comfort-gel foam cushion is not only comfortable, but will help to keep you cool too - so it’s ideal for hotter months when heat and sweat can make prolonged periods of time in your chair increasingly uncomfortable. The removable cover is reversible; one side is easy-clean black polyester and the other a luxurious, soft fleece fabric.
- Lumbar Support
While many wheelchairs at the higher end of the price scale have adjustable back and lumbar supports, you may find that your chair does not and that you need to add a support cushion to keep your back upright and pain free. Good lumbar support will also improve core stability as well as relieving pressure on the spine reducing other surrounding pain, for example in the shoulder, neck and arms.
These are our recommendations for the best lumbar support options for wheelchair users and those who have to sit down for prolonged periods of time.
The MEDesign Backfriend is an ergonomic back support combining a back rest and seat support. It has height adjustable back to suit the individual users and offers both lumbar and thoracic support.
The Harley Lumbar Roll with its “D” shaped lumbar roll fits neatly against your lower back and encourages you to sit in a posture-proof position. The dense, firm foam helps you maintain that position whilst seated in your chair - easing related pains and discomfort associated with ‘slouchy’ sitting positions. It is easily fitted using a simple elasticated, buckled strap which works to make sure it doesn’t slip while you’re on the move.
Adjust your chair
Many wheelchairs come with adjustable parts which make the chair fit the individual better. A wheelchair specialist like us can show you exactly how to use these and get you set up in the optimal position for your body.
Adjustable parts will usually include the foot rest, armrests and backrests, although some of the more expensive models will have a larger variety of options to comfort-fit for each individual.
Moving the footrest is a great starting point for finding a better sitting position in the chair and many people find that simply raising the footrest so their knees are higher than their hips makes the chair immediately more comfortable.
Similarly, adjusting the backrest by reclining it just a few degrees can reduce the risk of arching your back and leaning forward, which can result in longer term spine and lower back problems.
Finally, the armrest position should adjust to find you a relaxed rest for your arms and shoulders. If the armrest is set up correctly they will also help to make it easier for you safely get in and out of your chair.
Keep Warm and Dry
As wheelchair user you won’t have the advantage of being able to use an umbrella in the rain or to quickly put on/take off extra layers of warm or waterproof clothing while you’re out and about. You might be very inactive in your chair if you don’t propel it by yourself so you’ll be much more likely to feel cold so make sure you’re well wrapped up, you might want to use a fleece seat lining, or even sit a hot water bottle on your lap.
When it’s wet outside you’ll want to invest in a waterproof wheelchair poncho which covers not just you but your chair as well and is a fantastic accessory to have to hand. It will keep your whole body dry, including your legs and feet, and can be neatly folded down and stored permanently on your chair in a handy wheelchair bag.
Need more support? We're always here to help.
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