If you use a wheelchair full-time, you’ll want to know these tips on how to make a wheelchair more comfortable.
According to a 2016 study, wheelchair users are susceptible to pressure ulcers because of continuous sitting in one position (1).
So how do you increase the comfort level in a wheelchair? Here are some tips for improving your wheelchair experience by adding comfort.
Let’s dive in.
Table of Contents
- Wheelchair-specific cushions, backpacks, and other accessories can help make wheelchairs more comfortable.
- Sitting in a wheelchair for long periods causes discomfort and might even lead to skin breakdown.
- If the other tips fail, getting a custom wheelchair seat will help make your wheelchair more comfortable to sit in.
Check our list of the best manual wheelchair for elderly.
10 Best Ways To Make a Wheelchair More Comfortable
Wheelchair accessories will often be crucial for a pleasing wheelchair experience. Here are some ways to increase the level of comfort of your wheelchair.
1. Wheelchair Cushions
A foam wheelchair seat cushion will go a long way in helping you sit in a comfortable position. Foam cushions also help prevent pressure sores.
While choosing a wheelchair cushion, remember that not all will have the same level of comfort.
Comfort is relative, and the interface pressure of wheelchair cushions usually means different things for every wheelchair user, as this study found out (2).
2. Lateral Side Supports
Lateral side supports are also an excellent way to make a wheelchair more comfortable. They improve your body posture by keeping your arms in the correct position.
CHECK: Wheelchair Armrest Types
3. Try Adding Proper Lumbar Support
Long hours in a wheelchair without proper lumbar support is a recipe for an uncomfortable wheelchair experience.
Since you’re likely to spend hours in your wheelchair, getting a lumbar support seat attachment is prudent. The lumbar support can be a simple attachment or an extra cushion.
But you can also purchase a soft foam cushion to support the lumbar area, the area around your lower back.
Whether you use a wheelchair yourself or want to learn how to help someone who does, this video is packed with helpful tips and tricks for safely and efficiently carrying things while in a wheelchair:
4. Cross Your Legs
A simple body movement is enough to ease the pressure on your body and make sitting for long periods more comfortable.
Crossing your legs is a slight change you can make to your sitting posture to be more comfortable.
5. Avoid Wearing Bulky Clothing
People who don’t know how to make a wheelchair more comfortable think wearing oversized hoods and other bulky clothing helps to improve the comfort level of seating in wheelchairs and prevent skin breakdown.
But that isn’t true. Bulky clothing will bring balance issues that also interfere with body posture. This adds an extra level of discomfort.
6. Recline the Backrest a Few Angles
Physical therapist Bob Schrupp in a video posted on his YouTube channel, advises reclining the wheelchair backrest for more comfortable sitting:
The wheelchair user shouldn’t be too upright in the wheelchair seat. Nor should they lean back too much. He advises the user to find the perfect sitting.
You’ll need to get the chair adjustments right to ensure you sit in the proper posture.
7. Adjustable Foot Rests
Bob Schrupp also advises using a chair with adjustable footrests to prevent sitting in a bad posture.
The footrests ensure less pressure exerted on the leg muscles, which makes the wheelchair user more comfortable.
8. Wheelchair Backpacks and Trays
Most users might think backpacks do little for a wheelchair’s comfort level. But they can be an essential accessory if you carry many things in your lap.
Placing too many things on your lap will exert pressure on it, leading to an uncomfortable sitting experience. Wheelchair trays also allow you to eat comfortably in your wheelchair.
Learn practical tips and methods for carrying items with ease in our video, “How To Carry Things In A Wheelchair!”
CHECK: Best Wheelchair Backpack
9. Wheelchair Gloves
Manual wheelchairs, unlike their automatic counterparts, require the user to propel them. Although I have an electric wheelchair, I still use my manual wheelchair occasionally.
Trust me, moving on rugged terrain can be tough if you don’t have wheelchair gloves.
Wheelchair gloves help make my grip on the wheels harder and prevent slipping. For more comfort using your manual wheelchair, consider buying wheelchair gloves.
10. Custom Seating
This is usually a last resort strategy to make a wheelchair comfy once and for all. The other methods might not work for you, necessitating a custom wheelchair seat and backrest.
Here, your doctor or therapist will examine you to know your ideal chair seating.
Why Should You Make Your Wheelchair More Comfortable?
About 2.3% of U.S. adults use a wheelchair (3). That’s about 5.5 million people that have to sit for long hours in a wheelchair.
Sitting for that long, besides causing significant discomfort, might cause more serious issues such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) (4).
DVT is the formation of a blood clot in a person’s blood vessels. It isn’t the only risk of sitting for long hours in an uncomfortable wheelchair.
Skin breakdown, pressure sores, and back pain will inevitably come up. The human body can only tolerate discomfort for so long.
So if you use a wheelchair full-time, it’s in your best interests to make that wheelchair comfortable enough for your needs.
Consider making slight adjustments to your wheelchair to ensure you have the highest wheelchair comfort levels.
Being in a wheelchair full-time is already challenging, so why not make it worthwhile?
1. Should cushions always be used in a wheelchair?
No, it isn’t a requirement to always use a wheelchair cushion. Some wheelchairs don’t need cushions to be comfortable enough for the user.
2. How do you sit comfortably in a wheelchair?
Adding accessories like wheelchair cushions, lateral side supports, proper lumbar support and adjustable footrests will help you sit more comfortably in your wheelchair.
3. What is the most comfortable wheelchair for the elderly?
There are a variety of comfortable wheelchairs you can select for use by the elderly. This list of the best wheelchairs will help you choose one.
Every wheelchair user needs to know how to make a wheelchair more comfortable. There are a ton of ways to do this. Wheelchair cushions are notable for the comfort level they add to wheelchairs.
But they aren’t the only accessory that makes a wheelchair more comfortable.
Sitting in a wheelchair doesn’t need to be an awful experience, especially with a myriad of options to try.
Know any other ways to add to the comfort level of a wheelchair? Share them with us in the comments.
1. Moore ZE, van Etten MT, Dumville JC. Bed rest for pressure ulcer healing in wheelchair users. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2016;10.
2. Stockton L, Rithalia S. Pressure-reducing cushions: Perceptions of comfort from the wheelchair users’ perspective using interface pressure, temperature and humidity measurements. Journal of Tissue Viability. 2009;18:28–35.
3. Ellis RR. DVT and Wheelchair Use: What to Know [Internet]. WebMD. 2022 [cited 2022 Dec 20]. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/dvt/dvt-wheelchair-use
4. Beckerman J. What Is a DVT? [Internet]. WebMD. 2020. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/dvt/what-is-dvt-and-what-causes-it