A wheelchair is a great mobility solution for anyone who has trouble moving around on their own. We say “confined to a wheelchair” with a negative connotation, but if you think about it, a wheelchair is actually the means of freedom and independence for many people. Without it, it would be impossible for someone with a spinal cord injury or muscle atrophy to live on their own, provide for themselves and have the life they live today. Life doesn’t end in a wheelchair—it just gets more complicated. If you’ve spent a great deal of your life in a wheelchair, you probably already have it outfitted with all the necessary seating, positioning and other accessories. Maybe you’ve even tried every brand on the market and have your favorites. But if you (or your loved one) have just found yourself in this unfamiliar situation, here are a few tips from our Maryland wheelchair experts to help you turn your wheelchair into a comfortable ride.
Seat Cushion Makes All the Difference
The truth is, many seat cushions that come with your wheelchair might not be ideal for your comfort or recovery needs. And if you are buying a budget wheelchair for temporary use, there might not be any cushion at all. When shopping for a wheelchair, check if the cushion is removable so that you can replace it with a better one. If it’s not (or if there is none), check whether adding a few inches in cushion would interfere with any of the wheelchair’s functions. Sometimes, raising a seat too high may affect your neck’s position on the neck rest if your chair comes with one. Modern wheelchair seat cushions come in many shapes and sizes. Some are even contoured to fit the outline of your legs and others have adjustable firmness. When choosing a seat cushion, prioritize your needs. Comfort is certainly an important factor, but keep in mind other benefits of a seat cushion:
- Pressure management is crucial for users spending the majority of their day in a wheelchair, especially if they don’t have feeling below the waist.
- Sitting stability is a top priority for users with balance issues or those not able to control their movement at all.
- Positioning is important for those with medical conditions or injuries that require maintaining certain body angles.
Wheelchair seat cushions can be filled with gel, foam or air, and removable covers are also available to provide easy care options.
Lean Back Comfortably
Some wheelchairs come with flat backs. Is your back flat? No it’s not, so why should you lean it against a flat surface? Wheelchair backrests can be added to some wheelchairs to offer more cushion and comfort. These backrests also adjust your general posture and curvature of your spine, to make sure you are not putting extra stress on your pelvis and joints. Sitting hunched forward all the time is bad for your internal organs and may lead to a variety of issues like problems with digestion or blood circulation.
Advanced Positioning Aids
Whether for comfort or to ensure proper recovery and healing, there are many other positioning aids you could use. The specific devices you choose will depend on your unique posture, challenges and medical conditions, but here is the range of wheelchair positioning accessories you can choose from:
- Straps and belt buckles for upper body support
- Calf panels to prevent unwanted leg movement
- Shoe holder
- Ankle and foot positioner
Need help choosing the right seating and positioning accessories for your wheelchair? Contact Freedom Mobility and let us guide you through all of your different options.