A break-down of all the crucial reasons why a comfortable wheelchair is not only critically important but can also be lifesaving.
If you use a wheelchair on a day-to-day basis then it’s probable to assume, you’re reliant on it for your freedom and independence. It’s not just a piece of equipment, it’s a tool that enables you to live your life – so, that being said, it’s quite important to ensure your wheelchair is comfortable.
Apart from the obvious – that a comfortable wheelchair will be nicer to sit in than an uncomfortable one – there’s some unexpected reasons for making sure your chair is in tip-top condition when it comes to comfort. These reasons span from helping to avoid dreaded pressure sores, to helping to encourage physical activity – and all of the reasons for ensuring your wheelchair is a comfortable one, will be listed below within this post!
Fitting you with the right Sitting Position
When aiming to ensure that your wheelchair is comfortable to sit in, one of the first things that spring to mind is your actual sitting position. Determining your seating position comes when you’re first being measured for your new wheelchair. It’s extremely important to make sure all of your measurements are taken correctly, and by someone who knows exactly what they’re looking for – i.e. someone who works for a wheelchair services department in your respective region or country.
Your wheelchair is going to be with you, every single day, and in that time, you’re going to get an exceptional amount of use out of it, so it’s easy to understand why comfort is the most critical of points when navigating wheelchair selections. Not only will a comfortable chair be more enjoyable to sit in, but it’ll also go some distance to ensuring that problems such as hip pain, joint aches, and pressure sores, are far less likely than they would be if your wheelchair was an uncomfortable one.
Speaking from personal experience, the wheelchair that I had before the one I have currently, had too much of a ‘bucket’ in the seat, resulting in my hips being lower than my knees. Over time, this caused me a great amount of discomfort in my lower back, my hips, and my thighs, and was actually quite debilitating for me – limiting the effectiveness of my self-propelled pushing style. A sobering reminder of how measurements, positioning, and overall comfort, are highly important when choosing a wheelchair.
Complications attributed to ill-fitting wheelchairs
There are several complications which can be directly attributed to the use of an ill-fitting wheelchair. Some of these complications can even be considered life-limiting. These issues include (but are not limited to) the following:
- A wheelchair seat which is too narrow will hurt your hips, causing them to press up against the side of your chair, and can lead to your skin breaking-down in that area through pressure sores.
- Transferring too and from your wheelchair can become extremely challenging, and downright dangerous, if the seat width, length, and height, aren’t to your unique specifications.
- A wheelchair seat which is too wide will cause the user to slip easily, and slump around in their chair. This will cause bad posture, leading to increased back pain, pressure ulcers, and potential compression of the lungs and internal organs.
- Seat length is also important, with seats that are too short causing the user to have their legs hanging in an unnatural position, and a seat which is too long resulting in pressure sores behind the knees where the seat is digging into the user’s skin.
- The positioning of a footplate makes a huge difference, too. If your feet fall off the footplate, they can get twisted or injured by passing objects or even in your own wheels. And a footplate that is the wrong height will either cause your legs to dangle or your knees to raise up and wobble around.
A Comfortable Wheelchair Encourages Activity
It doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to work out that if someone is using a wheelchair which they are comfortable in, then they are far more likely to be active in their wheelchair than they would be if they were finding it uncomfortable to get around. Speaking once again from personal experiences, the moment I acquired my current wheelchair and felt the difference in seating position, as well as overall general comfort, I was instantly more energised and ready to head outdoors and keep fit. I love being in nature – and having a wheelchair which was fitted to my exact needs and requirements, just strengthened that desire to be out and about.
The near-total avoidance (in a perfect scenario) of pressure sores and pressure ulcers will also lend itself to being activity-inducing; given that pressure sores and ulcers leave you generally bed-ridden, unwell, and unable to get into your wheelchair (the very same ill-fitting wheelchair which gave you the pressure sore in the first place!). So, by avoiding such sores, due to having a wheelchair which is both comfortable and fitted to your specifications and measurements, the user is far more likely to live an active lifestyle – something which is important for a healthy, and hopefully longevous life.
A comfortable wheelchair seat should be almost exactly as wide as the person using the chair, with a little room left either side for potential growth of the user – as well as room for a seatbelt, if necessary.
Not having to worry about any discomfort will allow you to stay out and about. You can shop, do sports activities, work, or visit with friends for as long as you want. And staying active is good for both your physical and mental health.
Your wheelchair is an extension of your body. You have to make sure it serves you well and doesn’t do anything that could work against your health directly or indirectly. A well-fitted chair is paramount.