As trusted wheelchair suppliers, 1st Step Mobility see first hand the struggles of many disabled people and wheelchair users, which may go unnoticed by those who don’t directly see it. For instance, people do not give much thought to posture for wheelchair users, but it’s an important thing to think about!
For wheelchair users, good posture helps relieve pressure on vulnerable areas like the spine, neck, and thighs, which in turn can help improve mobility and decrease the risk of long term health complications. Of course, “good posture” varies from person to person, and those with spinal problems will often be unable to sit in ways conventionally thought to be “good posture”. Thus, the ideal posture for individuals needs to be built around their condition and abilities, with an ultimate goal of ensuring comfort and stability whilst minimising strain.
Sitting correctly will allow users to propel their wheelchair effectively and efficiently in a way that reduces the risk of repetitive strain injuries in the shoulder, joint problems, and pressure sores. Users who are slouched in their chair or who slide around in them will have a harder time propelling themselves, and may even cause themselves pain or injury in the process.
So how can this be achieved? A good place to start is the seat, which needs to be stable and evenly distribute weight. Harnesses and cushions can be used to provide personalised and optimal support.
Footrests must be positioned correctly to give user a functional angle for the knees and ankles to rest at. This is generally thought to be around 90 degrees, but this cannot always be practically implemented. The angle used instead needs to be sure to not disrupt the hips or create too much pressure on the buttocks and thighs.
Backrests also play an important role when it comes to posture, and a wide range are available depending on individual needs – some more active users may prefer smaller backrests that allow for greater mobility, whilst others may require more support for their spine. Like the rest of the wheelchair, the type of backrest that is best depends on the user’s needs, comfort, and preferred function. Armrests are also vital to posture and for allowing a user to rest both their arm and neck muscles. There is much less variance here and most users will have their elbows supported at a 90 degree angle.