The human body wasn’t meant to sit in a wheelchair all day, which must explain why it took so long for the wheelchair to finally get comfortable. Thank God for the 20th century and the invention of rubber, plastic, poly-stretch, electricity and everything else; rocketing the wheelchair into the echelon of comfort.
It still takes a keen eye however to make the wheelchair perfectly comfortable despite all of these advances that are now standard on a wheelchair. Slight adjustments make a huge difference, as well as accessories you didn’t even know existed. The thing about using a wheelchair fulltime is that it must be comfortable. You just can’t accept anything less.
And it’s up to you to make the effort. Check out 10 easy ways to bring your wheelchair into the land of comfort, and never again complain about an achey back.
1) Try a ROHO Cushion
One of the first places to start with making your wheelchair comfortable is the cushion. There are dozens of cushion options available, but one of the best is the ROHO cushion. Made up of dozens of inflated nodules that create a pillowy effect under your bum, the ROHO cushion is one of the most popular wheelchair cushions because it feels amazing and works for most wheelchair-users.
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They have their high profile and low profile series (the nodules are either higher or lower) and most insurance companies will cover it because it’s also really good at preventing skin breakdown. Make sure you try both the high and low profile before committing to one.
2) Lumbar Support
Your lumbar area can make or break your comfort level in your wheelchair; the little space in the lower part of your back where it curves inward. If it doesn’t get proper support, your entire back will feel like giving out all day. You can use a small rolled up towel or an actual lumbar support seat attachment depending on how much you want to spend.
Just know that it can make a world of difference if you decide to try. A friend of mine who’s been a quadriplegic for five years recently put a lumbar support in his wheelchair for the first time ever and was astounded how something so small could improve his comfort level so much.
3) Cushioned Arm Rests
Why have hard plastic armrests if you don’t need to silly goose? If your wheelchair has armrests, an easy way to improve your wheelchairs comfort level is to make sure they’re cushioned. That little extra cushion can feel amazing when you’re in a wheelchair all day, especially if you also use them to transfer or to re-position yourself during the day.
4) Adjust Your Footrest
The footrest on your chair can have a huge impact on your comfort level too. They key is to make sure your knees are slightly higher than your hips. If they’re too high, your poor booty gets crammed into the back corner of your seat, and believe me when I say it can wreak havoc on the back. Hopefully your footrests are adjustable. If not, bring your chair into a wheelchair repair shop to force the adjustment. Nothing is impossible.
5) Cross Your Legs
Sometimes a simple body movement can make all the difference and most wheelchair-users agree crossing your legs is one of the most effective ways to relieve back pain when sitting. It’s the redirection of the pressure of your body on your lower back that helps. However, when crossing your legs, make sure to switch the legs every couple of hours so you don’t get any pressure sores.
6) Try a Jay Backrest
Trying a different backrest is a great way to get more comfortable in your chair and one of the most popular backrests among wheelchair-users are Jay backrests. Made of a soft foam cushion, Jay backrests curve to your back. The longer you sit against a Jay backrest, the more it feels like it was custom-made.
7) Lateral Side Supports
If you have bad torso control and therefore have balance issues, lateral side supports are a great accessory to add to your wheelchair. Think of these as tiny ping pong paddles that jut out on the sides of your backrest, helping support you if you lean too far to the right or left. These supports can be indispensable when doing more arduous tasks, keeping your balance so you don’t have to struggle.
8) Avoid Bulky Clothing
A big no-no when sitting in a wheelchair all day is wearing big, bulky clothing. Giant wool sweaters with belts that tie in the back, oversized hoods that hang too low, even extra thick coats or shirts; having too much fabric on or behind you can really through off your balance and comfort when sitting in a wheelchair. If you are generally cold, your best bet is to try to find warm clothing made of thin fabric.
9) Recline the Backrest a Few Degrees
Another thing you can do that lands in the “slight adjustment” category is to recline your backrest a few degrees to get more comfortable. Sitting too straight in your wheelchair can make you lean too far forward and have to fight to keep your balance all day. By simply bringing back the backrest a few degrees, you will notice a huge difference.
10) Custom Seating
If all else fails and you still can’t get comfortable in your wheelchair, consider custom seating. It may seem like a drastic step, but I’ve been using custom seating for nearly nine years and would never have in any other way. The clinicians use pressure mapping to create your seat and backrest to make it perfect for your body, widdling the foam away until it’s just right. Most clinics and hospitals in major cities offer this.
Whatever you do, never think it’s a lost cause getting more comfortable in your wheelchair. It may seem like a hassle, but if you’re able to find that one adjustment that can make all the difference, you’ll be thanking your lucky stars you gave getting comfortable a serious effort. When you’re completely comfortable and pain-free in your wheelchair, anything is possible.
What adjustments to your wheelchair have made all difference?