For those of you who spend time in a wheelchair it will come as no surprise that posture and comfort are closely linked and are all important. In essence, posture is all about the alignment of your body and is equally important for abled folk as it is for those who use a wheelchair regularly. And, whether it is a self propelled or a transit model the principal remains the same.
So what is good posture ?
Starting from the top of your body we begin with the head, which should ideally be kept balanced centrally over your shoulders. Tendency to tilt to one side for prolonged periods can cause problems. Moving further down the body, the shoulders should be tilted back a little behind the hips helping the spine to maintain its intended S shape. This is not so easy to achieve in all wheelchairs and often as not some support in the form of a well placed cushion is required to assist with this. The cushion will need to be re-positioned and reshaped if necessary throughout the day
If you are not able to set your wheelchair up to attain good posture you can experience discomfort and aching and in some situations eve poor breathing. If you lean forward in the wheelchair it can lead to slight compression of the diaphragm which will affect the efficiency of your breathing. In turn, muscles that should be in use can become atrophied leading to the shortening of tendons and ligaments which will over time make the problem worse.
Moving down to your legs, we all know how easy it is to get pins and needles and poor circulation if your legs are positioned badly, so keeping them parallel and setting the foot plates correctly so that your feet are flat is very important to avoid numbness in the feet. If you can achieve right angles between your spine and your legs, your upper legs and lower legs and lower legs and feet you will feel the most comfortable and reduce the risk of muscle atrophy.
So what do i need to look for in a wheelchair ?
The more time you spend in your chair, the more important it is to address comfort and posture and to ensure you have suitable model. Ergonomic pressure systems like the ones in some of the Karma range of wheelchairs are ideal. This systems aims to reduce slumping or sliding in the wheelchair and give added back support. Some models have shaped seats which again help you to remain upright and prevent sliding down in the chair. Sitting as far back in the seat as possible will help you to achieve the upright position that you need. If you need a more comfy cushion please see our range here.
We hope these tips are useful. If you have specific requirements then please seek advice from your OT and if you have any other questions please don't hesitate to call us and we will help in any way we can.