Why is my wheelchair uncomfortable?

Why is my wheelchair uncomfortable?
Why is my wheelchair uncomfortable?

There can be a number of reasons why a wheelchair can be uncomfortable, here we will look at some of the main reasons so you can hopefully get back to being as comfortable as possible in your wheelchair.

One of the first considerations is if you are using a new wheelchair? or one that you have used for a longer period.

New wheelchairs can take some getting used to, over a period of a few weeks, as your body naturally adapts to the different settings of the chair and you get fully used to it. 

This is perfectly normal and although this may feel different, it should not be overly uncomfortable or painful.

If there is a region of the body that is experiencing more pain than usual in normal use, then this may be a sign that there is a problem with the wheelchair or its settings, worthy of further investigation.

If, on the other hand, you are using a wheelchair you have owned over a longer period of time, then any discomfort experienced may be an indication of the wearing out of some components, or changes in your original wheelchair set-up, that is leading to the discomfort or pain being experienced.

1, Wheelchair cushion

One of the first areas to consider that may be causing you discomfort is your wheelchair's cushion.

A poor quality cushion, or one that has lost its cushioning response over time due to age and use, will definitely lead to an experience of pain that is usually in the form of a dull ache that becomes more severe over time, or even a much sharper pain being felt.

On new wheelchairs, it can be the type of cushion being different to what you are used to, or it may also be that the level of cushioning support is too low for your individual needs.

Another aspect on a new wheelchair is the positioning of the cushion and ensuring that it is fitted correctly and the right way around, especially if it's been taken off temporarily for any reason.

If a cushion is causing too much pain, or there is a tingling sensation that may indicate the compromise of the blood circulation, then it is important that advice is sought and checks made as soon as possible.

2, Wheelchair armrests

The armrests on your wheelchair are an important component as they will cause discomfort if they are fitted incorrectly or they are set to the wrong position.

Wheelchair armrests are usually adjustable for height and may have other available adjustments depending on the make and model of the wheelchair.

The other factor for your arm rest comfort is the level of cushioning support on the armrest and whether this is sufficient for your individual needs. 

An arm rest that is in the right position and with good cushioning should make the use of the wheelchair pain free and easy.

If the discomfort of your arms is noticeable, then it is a case of checking and adjusting settings and heights, if these all appear to be fine then further checks may be necessary.

On new wheelchairs, it's a good idea to check the arm rest position before purchase to make sure that you are happy that the settings and type of rests meet your requirements.

3, Lumbar Support

The support of the lumbar region of the spine is important and can lead to intense discomfort if this area of the lower back is not properly or fully supported in the seated position. 

Many newer models of wheelchair offer excellent lumbar support and there are models that offer adjustment of the lumbar support so that a personalised setting can be made.

If this is not possible on an older model of wheelchair, then it may be a case of using a cushion or special lumbar support pad to insert into the space between the seat and lower back area.

If the problem persists, then again, it will be a case of seeking out some professional help and advice on the matter. 

4, Footrest adjustment

The position of your feet play an important part in your being comfortable on your wheelchair. Footrests usually enable a supportive position that takes the weight from your lower limbs and enables your legs to rest in a comfortable posture.

Poorly adjusted footrests can lead to discomfort and pain in the longer term use of the wheelchair. Footrests need to be correctly adjusted for height, width and on some models the angle of the foot itself so that the position feels natural and intuitive.

When this is achieved there should be no discomfort and the feet and legs should feel secure and comfortable.

Depending on the age, make and model of your wheelchair, there will be a variety of adjustments available to get exactly the right fit and position to your individual requirements.

Always refer to your wheelchair handbook for the correct settings for your individual weight and height.

5, Backrest angle

The angle of your seat in a wheelchair can play an important part in your levels of comfort. 

If the angle is positioned too far forward, this may cause discomfort in the lower back, but also in the upper front thighs and in the abdomen area. 

The discomfort can be amplified if the user is in this position for longer journeys when an aching becomes more painful and noticeable to the user.

Similarly, if the angle of your backrest is too far back, it can cause a number of areas of the body to feel discomfort, if the position is unnatural to the best postural position to the user. 

There is some trial and error here and you will need to make some minor adjustments and trial for a few days to see if a positive result is achieved.

Also, remember that in changing your backrest angle, it may have knock-on effects to other wheelchair settings that may need to be adjusted in turn, to achieve the best levels of comfort.  

We hope you have enjoyed reading about how to solve discomfort on your wheelchair. If it's time for a new model, or even one from our quality used range, take a look at what we have on offer here

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