The one goal on why it is so important to select a wheelchair cushion and a back support, is to cater to a person’s positioning needs, and to provide care against pressure sores and pressure ulcers, all while enhancing functional mobility from the wheelchair.
The question to ask though is, why is all of this important? Let’s look at a couple explanations.
What Are Pressure Sores?
To be able to answer this question we first need to know what a pressure sore is. Pressure sores are also known as pressure ulcers or bedsores. They can be defined as localized damage to the underlying skin and soft tissue.
They tend to occur over a bony prominence such as the hips, ankles, knees, heels, the tailbone, the base of the spine, the back of the shoulders or the back of the head. They usually form as a result of pressure to soft tissue, resulting in partial obstruction of blood flow to said tissue.
Bed sores can happen to anyone, but they are more prone to affect people who are bedridden or who are confined to wheelchairs for a prolonged time.
Pressure Care Principles
Whether you have a powerchair or a manual wheelchair as your means of mobility, just being immobile alone is a risk factor for pressure injury. Direct pressure creates a vertical force on the body.
The bigger the area that disperses the pressure like the buttocks or the thighs, the less pressure there will be on the bones underneath. Therefore, the size of the wheelchair seat should be well measured in order to reduce overall sitting pressure.
This size as well as the size of the seat cushion is normally based on your body measurements. If sized correctly, it will generally reduce sitting pressure. However, if it is too small, it will increase pressure under the thighs and buttocks, creating increased pressure injury.
To manually relief pressure is the process whereby you can adjust your position in the wheelchair independently. Doing it this way will help lift pressure that build up under the seat bones. If you cannot shift your weight in order to protect your skin, the therapist may recommend other means.
They may also suggest that you purchase a powerchair with “power seat actuators”. With these seats there are functions like power tilt and power recline in order to help you shift your weight to decrease pressure.
Important Features to Consider When Selecting a Wheelchair Cushion
- The temperature where it will be used, as it can change how effective the material can be for management of posture and pressure.
- The weight of the cushion, especially if matched with a light in weight wheelchair.
- The materials to be used for the cushion as well as their shape.
- What is needed to care and maintain the cushion. Does it need to be inflated to maintain effectiveness?
- How the shape and the dimensions will affect functionality and propulsion, which means how easy it will be to move forward on the cushion in order to transfer on or off the wheelchair.