If you're a wheelchair user, you know how helpful these critical mobility devices can be.
Yet, for all of their advantages, wheelchairs can also lead to frustrating and often painful side effects, including pressure sores.
Any time you put a consistent amount of pressure onto any surface of your body, there is the potential for a sore to develop. Yet, proper cushioning can help support your bones and joints so this issue doesn't occur.
Is your current wheelchair cushion doing the job, or is it time to upgrade? Today, we're taking a close look at the different options available on the market so you can prevent pressure sores from developing in the first place.
What Are Pressure Sores?
Put simply, pressure sores are areas on your skin that have become damaged due to staying in one position for too long. When this happens, excess pressure is concentrated in one spot, and a sore can develop.
Most of the time, you'll find them in places where your bones are the closest to your skin. This is because your skin is thinner there and more easily affected. As such, some of the most common places that pressure sores develop include your:
Pressure sores are also referred to as pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers.
Symptoms of Pressure Sores
Pressure sores affect your skin, as well as its underlying tissue.
It's important to understand the early warning signs and symptoms of a pressure sore. This way, you can seek treatment as early as possible. The signs to look out for include:
- Isolated, unusual changes in your skin color or texture
- Skin that feels cooler or warmer than other areas
- Inflammed or tender areas
Pressure sores can range in severity from slightly red, unbroken skin to a deep injury that affects both your muscle and bone. For this reason, physicians will categorize this issue into stages depending on the depth and severity of your affliction.
Anyone who remains seated or lying down in one position for an extended period of time is at risk of developing a pressure sore.
This includes persons who are bedridden, persons who use a wheelchair, and persons who are unable to change their position without assistance.
What Is a Wheelchair Cushion?
As its name implies, a wheelchair cushion is a special type of cushion that is designed specifically for wheelchairs. It can be uncomfortable to sit in any chair for an extended period of time, but a wheelchair is stiffer and less plush than most.
Wheelchair cushions can be an incredible addition to your overall health and wellness routine. They feature unique shapes that are appropriate for a range of different wheelchair styles and sizes. They're also available in various different heights and come in many types of materials.
As you shop, you'll even find that the pressure sensitivity is different on certain cushions than others. Yet, despite their differences, all wheelchair cushions share a few common aims. They are meant to help wheelchair users feel more comfortable, prevent pressure sores and other conditions, and correct the user's posture.
Why Use a Wheelchair Cushion for Pressure Sores?
As they sit in their wheelchair, many people will notice pain in their lower back, tailbone, and hips. In time, this can lead to chronic pain as well as other afflictions.
The right wheelchair cushion can help relieve excess pressure from your joints. If your wheelchair is uncomfortable or unsupported, your delicate skin and bones could rub against each other for a prolonged period of time.
When this happens, it causes heat and friction to build up simultaneously. From there, a sore can develop.
Once a pressure sore becomes severe, it can be difficult to treat it. Using the right cushion can help you prevent them from even forming in the first place. In addition, a wheelchair cushion can also ensure a breathable environment for your skin, keeping that area cool and supported.
Three of the main benefits of using one include:
- Reducing pressure-related injuries (e.g. pressure sores, skin afflictions)
- Improving and adjusting posture at the pelvic bone, coccyx, and lumbar area
- Encouraging skin breathability and reducing perspiration
Not only are wheelchair cushions an important part of your wheelchair itself, but they're also a critical component of patient care. In addition to pressure sores, inadequate wheelchair cushioning can also obstruct users' blood flow, which can cause inflammation and pain.
However, a quick search will reveal that there are many different kinds of wheelchair cushions on the market. Let's take a look at a few of the most common types.
Standard Foam Wheelchair Cushions
Standard foam wheelchair cushions are some of the most traditional and cost-effective ones on the market. These cushions are made entirely of foam and their primary use is to provide support and comfort.
While they can do the job for a while, the biggest disadvantage of a standard foam cushion is that it is not meant to last for years. The foam is comprised of a sponge-like material that tends to wear down and flatten with time. As such, these tend to wear out faster than their counterparts.
Still, if you are looking for a low-cost and low-maintenance cushion option, this one can work. Standard foam cushions provide decent support for your tailbone and spine and can be easily transported from your workplace to your car and home.
Memory Foam Wheelchair Cushions
Where standard form fails, memory foam excels!
This is a special type of foam that is responsive to body heat, making it capable of conforming to a user's individual curves and body shape.
A wheelchair cushion made from 100% pure, premium memory foam will last much longer than one made from standard foam. This material is also more durable and comfortable.
Gel-Infused Memory Foam Wheelchair Cushions
Gel-infused memory foam features all of the valuable characteristics of premium memory foam, but with one special addition. This material features a special cooling gel that helps keep wheelchairs comfortable all day long.
Our Gel-Infused Memory Foam Wheelchair Cushion is ventilated and designed for optimal comfort. While you're seated, the strategically-placed ventilation holes go to work to ensure that you never become overheated. The gel itself provides a stable surface for wheelchair users and helps to fortify the layers of memory foam.
As it is still a memory foam cushion, it's also heat-responsive and capable of contouring to meet your body's specific needs. As it properly distributes your body weight, you'll notice that pressure is alleviated from your lower back and coccyx, or tailbone. This shift can also help prevent circulatory issues in some users.
Overall, a gel-infused cushion is one of the best buys any wheelchair user can make. In fact, this is one of the most versatile products in our shop! While it's made with wheelchair users in mind, our wheelchair cushion also makes the ideal accessory when you're riding in a car or relaxing at home.
Air Flotation Wheelchair Cushions
As you search for cushions for wheelchairs, you may also come across air floatation models.
These cushions are fully supported by air, which makes them fairly bouncy and lightweight. They are designed with rows of cells or pockets that hold a specific amount of air as determined by the user's weight and needs. Most cushions come with a pump that allows you to increase or decrease the air concentration for optimal comfort.
While they can be comfortable, there is always the inherent risk of developing a slight hole or leak in the cushion. This could happen if too much pressure is exerted on the cushion.
When this happens, it can render the cushion completely ineffective. As such, air flotation cushions are best suited for people who do not need to move around too much in their wheelchair.
Honeycomb Wheelchair Cushions
In your search, you may also come across honeycomb wheelchair cushions. These are usually made of a material called urethane.
The honeycomb design of these cushions aids in weight distribution and makes for a solid seating surface. In addition, these cushions are usually very stable and allow for proper air circulation, which can keep users cool.
However, for all their bells and whistles, these cushions can be on the higher end, budget-wise. They are also somewhat limited in positioning capabilities.
Hybrid Wheelchair Cushions
Hybrid wheelchair cushions are some of the newest and most technologically advanced models. These feature a combination of one or more weight-bearing materials designed to reduce pressure on your joints, encourage postural stability, and better align your skeleton.
Most hybrid wheelchair cushions feature a type of contoured foam base, as well as strategically placed air cells, all encased in a moisture-control cover.
They are specially designed to reduce pressure in your pelvic area, as well as increase blood flow and provide skin and tissue protection. This is why physicians often recommend hybrid wheelchair cushions for wheelchair users who are paralytic.
These users cannot control the amount of pressure inflicted on certain areas of their body, and a well-made hybrid cushion can do the job for them. However, while this design can prevent pressure sores, these are also some of the most costly wheelchair cushions on the market.
Choosing a Wheelchair Cushion for Pressure Sores
As you can see, there isn't a one-size-fits-all wheelchair cushion for users who are concerned about the risk of developing pressure sores. The type that is ideal for you might be detrimental to someone else, based on factors that include lifestyle and ability.
Your options will range from the very basic to the very tech-savvy and advanced. Let's take a look at the steps to take when it's time to find the best one for your needs.
Speak to Your Physician
Not only will your physician know how to treat pressure sores, but they'll also be well-versed in the accessories and devices you can use to help keep them at bay.
Before you buy a new wheelchair cushion, speak to your trusted healthcare provider about your concerns. Do you have any specific health concerns you need to discuss? What specific types of cushions should you be eyeing?
Your physician may perform a comprehensive exam at this juncture. Or, they may review your file to better understand your lifestyle and overall health before making a recommendation.
If you're especially prone to developing pressure sores, you may also consider speaking to someone who specializes in wheelchair seating and understands the nuances between the different types of cushions. This expert will also be able to explain the concept of pressure mapping technology and why it can be a crucial element of cushion design.
Browse Your Options
Whether you prefer to shop online or in-person, you should learn more about each wheelchair cushion before you invest in one.
Take the time to read the fine-print details about each option. If you're browsing in the store, you may even be able to try the cushion out for yourself to help you make a decision.
Increase Wheelchair Comfort and Support
Wheelchair users deserve to be comfortable and well-supported all day long. You don't have to subject yourself to the rock-hard, uncomfortable seats that are characteristic of most chairs.
When you find the right wheelchair cushion, it can make a world of difference. Not only will your risk of developing pressure sores decrease, but you'll also benefit from improved posture, as well as better airflow and circulation.
Are you interested in learning more about the different types of seat cushions we offer? We have plenty of models in our online shop, all designed to reduce pain in your lower back, coccyx, hips, and legs. Made of pure, premium memory foam, these are cushions you'll want to take with you wherever you go.
Contact us today to learn more and let's connect.