Did you know that 11.6% of those with travel-limiting impairments use wheelchairs? If you’re hoping to improve your mobility, the right wheelchair can make all the difference. Even more specifically, you’ll want to pay attention to the wheelchair seat so you can stay comfortable on the move.
1. Evaluate the Wheelchair Seat Cushion Material
Foam, gel, and air tend to be the most popular types of wheelchair cushions available today. Each type has its share of advantages over its peers.
Foam cushions usually provide more support, while gel cushions excel at providing comfort. Cushions filled with air are known to stay cool and they can help your body from enduring too much pressure.
When evaluating the material of a wheelchair cushion, also look at breathability. A fabric that stifles airflow can trap moisture that causes skin irritation over time. Gel cushions can work effectively to minimize moisture build-up.
For those who deal with incontinence, a washable and waterproof cushion is essential. Check to see if the cushion has a removable cover. It also should have a non-slip base to help prevent sliding in the seat.
2. Look at the Shape of the Seat
Wheelchair seats also come in a variety of shapes. The shape that is right for you may depend on your stage in life and your level of mobility. Further, if you struggle with back issues or internal rotation, you’ll want a seat that offers corrective support.
For example, you can find saddle-shaped seats that are excellent at offering more stability in the pelvic region. Wedge-shaped cushions also address pelvic stability by helping individuals maintain better posture. This, in turn, helps to reduce back pain.
As another option, pommel-shaped cushions work well to offset some knee and rotation issues. For older adults who might turn their knees inward, the pommel shape counteracts that tendency by keeping the legs apart.
For more mobile adults, an anti-thrust cushion shape can be helpful. Seniors who are twisting and moving might not have enough control to return to a comfortable position in their seats. The anti-thrust shape is higher in the front, meaning that the seated individual won’t be sliding out of their seat.
3. Consider Your Activity Level
One’s activity level should factor into choosing a wheelchair cushion. For those who are very active, a honeycomb cushion provides plenty of ventilation and pressure relief. This type of cushion also offers strong weight distribution and shock absorption.
While honeycomb seats are on the high end of the cost spectrum, they’re well worth it for active individuals. But for someone seeking comfort and value, memory foam is a reliable choice. These cushions can lose support over time, meaning a replacement will be necessary.
For those who need more help with balance, an air cushion might not provide enough help. On the other hand, for someone who deals with lots of pressure from sitting in the same place, an air cushion works well.
Anyone who likes to be active using their wheelchair should consider a cushion that combines multiple materials, too. For instance, a foam and gel pad provide the best of both worlds. An individual will gain the coolness of the gel with the pressure-reducing capabilities of foam.
4. Select Wheelchair Cushions with Enough Support
A good wheelchair seat cushion will provide adequate support and encourage good posture. Seats also should help minimize friction to ward off sores and other skin conditions. An alternating pressure cushion, for example, can redistribute pressure on the seat so the user doesn’t have to.
If you’re using a manual wheelchair, you’ll want a cushion that provides stability when you’re reaching and moving your arms more. A sacral cut-out cushion can help reduce pressure on the tailbone, for instance. Or a no-lean cushion can correct a tendency to lean to one side.
For those who find themselves looking down when seated in a wheelchair, a contoured cushion will neutralize this issue. On the other side of the spectrum, an anti-thrust cushion can help an individual whose position in the seat causes them to look up.
5. Find the Right Weight and Height
For those who enjoy sitting at tables to write, read, or play games, it’s essential to find the right height for a wheelchair seat cushion. Otherwise, a seat that is too tall could mean someone’s knees are constantly hitting the table.
You can find wheelchair cushions that are as thick as 4 inches or as trim as 1 inch. It’s critical to test out different thicknesses to find a height that works well for the tables most often used. Likewise, individuals should find a seat with the correct width to fit their particular wheelchair.
A cushion’s weight is another critical consideration. Individuals using manual wheelchairs or moving around a lot will want a lightweight cushion to make moving easier. This might mean bypassing a gel cushion, which tends to be heavier.
A cushion that is heavier and more supportive might be helpful for those carrying significant weight. Such a cushion can help the seated individual feel more comfortable. The cushion’s added weight, however, may make mobility harder.
Choose the Right Wheelchair Seat Cushions
The best wheelchair seat cushions are ones that provide adequate support for your typical activity level. Evaluate the cushion material and shape of the seat as you make your determination. And check to see that the height can allow you to sit comfortably at tables or in other settings.
When you need help finding the right wheelchair for your needs, contact us so we can help!