Want to make your wheelchair more comfortable? Here's how……
For many people, a wheelchair is a life-changing device that allows them to remain mobile despite their disability. However, while being in pain already as a result of their illness, a wheelchair can sometimes exasperate the issue. In fact, separate pain issues can arise from the wheelchairs itself.
This article looks at ways to avoid pain and uncomfortableness associated with wheelchair use.
Humans are not designed to sit down.
Yes, that’s right we are not designed to sit down. Think of our ancestors who spent their time hunting on the plains of Africa. Remnants of these people can still be seen squatting for hours around a campfire in what’s left of hunter-gatherer societies around the world and it’s also common place in China. Sitting is an activity that developed alongside our sedentary modern life with the invention of the chair.
Studies have shown that sitting shortens the hip flexors, tightens the lower back (which causes disk problems), weakens the glutes, weakens the core, and makes our ankles less flexible.
I know that wheelchair users do not choose to be in wheelchairs but I believe many people do not realise how harmful sitting for extended periods can be.
Here's our top tips to make your wheelchair as comfortable as possible.
1. Standing up
2. Choosing the right wheelchair
There are thousands of wheelchairs available on the market today. They start from general off the shelf models which tend to be used by patients who are not spending prolonged periods in the chairs but need help from time to time. The other end of the spectrum is bespoke wheelchairs that have been made to fit a particular patient and their illness. These patients often spend the majority of their waking life in their chairs.
Cost varies dramatically and can often be a deciding factor when choosing a wheelchair initially.
I would start by asking yourself “How long am I going to to be spending in the wheelchair?”
This to me is the most crucial question you need to ask yourself. The more time you are going to be spending in the chair, the comfier it needs to be. I would strongly advise that you seek the help of a professional if you intend to spend long periods daily in a chair. I would also suggest you seek out a specialist if you have a specific condition that requires a specialist chair.
3. Adjusting the wheelchair
Many wheelchairs have adjustable parts to help improve your comfort. It’s important to familiarise your self with how to use these features and how best to adjust them for your individual needs and height.
Correct positioning of the footrest can significantly improve your comfort, and many wheelchairs allow you to change its position. Most wheelchair users find that having your knees slightly high than your hips is the most comfortable position.
Armrests should be adjusted to support the arms and shoulders. Having these correctly set up will also make it easier and safer to get in and out of the chair.
Adjustable backrests are also, and these should be adjusted to provide as much back support as required. By reclining a few degrees will provide this support and reduce the risk leaning forward and arching the back.
These are the standard adjustable components found on most wheelchairs. However, many wheelchairs vary in design and features, so if you have any questions, we’d be happy to help. Feel free to call us or send us an email. We have over 20 years of experience selling wheelchairs.
Again there is a bewildering array of cushions and supports available for wheelchair users.
Probably the most common is a memory foam cushion. The memory foam cushion moulds itself to the contours of your body, offering continuous support and providing proper distribution of pressure, helping to alleviate sores or ulcers. These cushions tend to be used for the back and seat of the wheelchair and can significantly improve comfort.
Memory foam back supports come in various shapes and size, but all are designed to offer support for the back
Supporting your lumbar (lower back) helps to force your back to remain straight and relieves pressure on the spine. While there are specific cushions that attach to the seat of your wheelchair, merely placing a rolled up towel on your back would do the exact same thing.
Wheelchair lateral supports can also be used to improve comfort and are often used to increase the user’s core stability and balance while in the wheelchair.
Armrest cushions and supports also help to relieve pressure on the forearms and will also help to avoid rubbing. Cushioned armrests may also help to alleviate stress on the rest of the body by distributing weight evenly while sitting in the chair.
If you really suffer from comfort problems, you can have supports and cushions custom made to suit your exact needs. By using pressure mapping, a specialist can create the perfect seat and backrest for your wheelchair.
5. Protection from the elements
As wheelchair users often remain inactive in their chairs (unless they are self-propelling), they often suffer from the cold. Making sure patients have suitable warm clothing, especially in the winter is essential to keep them comfortable. Fleece blankets, battery-powered heaters, or simply having a hotter bottle can really help keep patients warm.
A waterproof poncho is a must in case you get caught out in a rain shower. These ponchos completely cover the patient stopping rain from soaking their thighs like a normal raincoat would. They can be packed down into a tiny bag and stored within the wheelchair.