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For wheelchair users who need to use their mobility aids for lengthy periods they may find that trying to remain comfortable while seated can be a real struggle. Sitting in the same position without regularly shifting positions can not only increase the risk of pressure sores, but it can also cause pain and discomfort.
A reclining or tilt-in-space wheelchair, gives you the option to stretch your body to relieve aches and pains. It gives you the option to move to a more comfortable position, thus helping to prevent pressure sores. These types of wheelchairs are particularly suited for patients with more complex needs, such as those who suffer with muscle function loss, who may require help with repositioning.
In this guide, we will cover what reclining and tilt-in-space wheelchairs are. We will cover the factors that you should consider when purchasing this type of wheelchair. We will also help you to uncover some of the best reclining and tilt-in-space wheelchairs that can assist with improving the comfort and safety of the patient.
Reclining & Tilt-in-Space Manual Wheelchairs Comparison Chart
Silver Sport Full Reclining Wheelchair
Invacare Tracer SX5 Recliner Wheelchair
Karman VIP-515-TP Tilt-in-Space Wheelchair
Karman VIP2-TR Tilt-in-Space and Recliner Wheelchair
Karman KM-5000 Ultralight Reclining Wheelchair
300 lbs, 350 lbs
250 lbs, 300 lbs
250 lbs – 350 lbs
16" – 20" (W) x 16" (D)
14" – 22" (W) x 16", 18" (D)
16", 18" (W) x 16" (D)
16", 18" (W) x 18" (D)
16" – 22" (W) x 17", 18" (D)
23" – 28" (W) x 42", 50" (L)
22.5" – 30.5" (W) x 34" (L)
24", 26" (W) x 44" (L)
25", 27" (W) x 44" (L)
25" – 31" (W) x 35" (L)
Reclines (90° to 180°)
Reclines (100° to 170°)
Tilts (0° to 35°)
Reclines (0° to 30°), tilts (0° to 35°)
Reclines (90° to 163°)
8" (front), 24" (rear)
8" (front), 20" – 24" (rear
7" (front), 14" (rear)
7" (front), 14" (rear)
8" (front), 24" (rear)
59 lbs – 61 lbs
36 lbs, 38 lbs
What is a Reclining & Tilt-in-Space Manual Wheelchair?
If you are spending long periods in your wheelchair, comfort and safety are imperative and this is one of the great advantages of the recliner and tilting wheelchairs.
As you can imagine, these are pieces of equipment which are able to tilt or recline backwards, as a way of providing relief, which can prevent pressure sores. You will also find that sitting in a reclined position allows for better care of the bottom and back, therefore, avoiding discomfort and aches.
Additionally, for those who have problems with upper body strength or balance, a reclining wheelchair provides that extra support, that is crucial for safety and comfort.
There is also an option to have footrests, which allow the user to elevate their feet, should they find that this is a more comfortable position.
How to Choose the Right Recliner & Tilt Manual Wheelchair?
Choosing between a reclining wheelchair or something that is upright, will largely be based on how often you will use the wheelchair.
For people who use their wheelchairs for shorter periods of time, an upright model may be sufficient. However, if you are spending most, or all of your time in the wheelchair, a reclining or tilt-in-space option is likely to serve you better.
As we mentioned earlier, these types of wheelchairs are particularly suited for users with more complex mobility needs. For this reason, there are many different types of reclining and tilt-in-space wheelchairs available to suit differing requirements. This can make choosing a suitable one more challenging.
Before you invest in one, you should first consider the following factors as this will allow you to choose a wheelchair that will meet your particular needs the best:
Who Will Propel the Wheelchair?
Quite often, one of the first things that people will consider when choosing a manual wheelchair is who is going to be propelling the chair? Wheelchairs are designed to either be pushed by a caregiver or assistant, or to be self-propelled by the user.
A wheelchair that has smaller wheels will require an assistant to propel it. This is a better option if you have a full-time caregiver. This is also a good choice for those who have limited movement in the arms and shoulders, since self-propelled wheelchairs do require a good level of strength in this area.
If you are opting for a wheelchair that will be propelled by another person, you should be sure to select an option that is not too heavy. There are many lightweight wheelchairs that are very durable, so this may be a consideration when making your choice.
In contrast, if you live alone or will spend a lot of time being independent, a self-propelled wheelchair is a good option. These come with large back wheels that feature a hand rim, allowing the user to maneuver themselves. However, if you wish, this type of wheelchair can also be pushed by a companion, so offer greater versatility.
Choosing a wheelchair that is fitted with a comfortable seat is particularly important. Not only will it help with the patient’s comfort, but it can also assist with pressure relief and improve sitting stability.
Manual wheelchairs generally come with either a basic seat or a padded seat. A padded seat will offer better pressure relief than a basic one. It can help to reduce the risk of developing pressure sores. They are therefore better suited for those who need to use their wheelchair for prolonged periods, or suffer from skin integrity issues.
If the patient suffers from poor trunk stability, this can prove particularly problematic. Not only can it impact their seated posture, which may lead to musculoskeletal disorders or pain, but it can also increase the risk of them slipping/falling out of their wheelchair. For those suffering from such conditions, choosing a wheelchair that is fitted with a contoured seat is recommended. It will assist in maintaining a proper alignment of the user’s hip and pelvis, which will improve their postural stability, and lead to improved comfort and safety.
You should also consider the type of upholstery that the seat is fitted with too. Nylon and vinyl are the most common types of materials used in wheelchair seating. Vinyl is waterproof, which makes it particularly suited for incontinent sufferers. The drawback, however, is the material is non-breathable, which can lead to excessive sweating, therefore increasing the risk of pressure sores. Nylon, on the other hand, is breathable, which allows the user to remain cooler for longer. The downside is, the material is absorbent, so it can retain liquids, which means it can be harder to keep clean.
You should consider the dimensions of the wheelchair to ensure that it can easily fit through any confined spaces.
The width of a typical of reclining or tilting wheelchair can range anywhere from 22 to 32 inches. You should, therefore, always measure any narrow doorways or corridors that the wheelchair will need to regularly pass through. Compare these to the width of the wheelchair to ensure that there is sufficient clearance space. If you also need to self-propel the wheelchair indoors, you will require additional space otherwise you may struggle to propel it through any tight spaces.
It is important to remember also that these types of wheelchairs will require additional clearance space behind it, so that it can fully recline or tilt, so bear this in mind as well.
Elevating Leg Rests or Swing-Away Footrests?
Reclining or tilting wheelchairs will come with either swing-away footrests or elevating leg rests, and on some models, you may get the choice between either type.
Elevating leg rests allow the user to extend their legs while they are in a reclined position. Depending on the wheelchair, the leg rests can be adjusted in angle (between 70 – 180 degrees) and/or in length, which can help to maximize comfort and support for users of differing heights. Elevating leg rests are particularly beneficial for patients who suffer from swollen legs/feet or painful arthritic joints. They can help to improve blood circulation, therefore reducing swelling as well as alleviating pain.
If you’re considering a reclining wheelchair, we would recommend opting for elevating leg rests. Otherwise, comfort will be an issue, especially as you will be unable to elevate your legs while in a reclined position, which will cause them to dangle, which may lead to discomfort.
For patients with sensitive skin, we would suggest choosing padded leg rests over hard ones. These will prove more comfortable, and they will also help to reduce the risk of possible skin injuries.
One of the drawbacks of elevating leg rests, however, is it will add weight to the wheelchair. Swing-away or detachable footrests, on the other hand, can help to make wheelchair transfers easier and safer. They can be positioned out of the patient’s way when getting into and out of their wheelchair.
Tilt-in-Space or Reclining Wheelchair?
An important factor that should be considered is whether you would prefer a wheelchair that reclines backward or one that tilts. Both types of wheelchair have their particular benefits and drawbacks, so you should choose wisely to ensure that it provides the patient with the most benefit.
The main differences between each model includes:
A reclining wheelchair features a backrest that can recline anywhere from 90 degrees (upright) to up to 180 degrees (horizontal), while the seat remains in a fixed position. This type of wheelchair is usually fitted with elevating leg rests that allow the occupant to raise their legs while they in a reclined position.
A reclining wheelchair provides good pressure relief, as it allows the user to alternate between an upright seated position to a lying down one, which helps to distribute pressure more effectively. This importantly means the user can remain comfortable for longer while they are seated, which helps to minimize fatigue, alleviates musculoskeletal pain, and also reduces the risk of developing pressure sores.
As this type of wheelchair features a higher backrest, it provides good stability which can prove particularly beneficial for users with impaired trunk stability. For those suffering from respiratory disorders, sitting in one position can restrict the airways which can cause further breathing complications. By being able to recline, this helps to open the diaphragm, which improves breathing capacity.
The drawback of this type of wheelchair is there is an increased risk of the patient sliding forwards when the elevation of the backrest is altered. This can be a particular problem if the user suffers from upper body weakness, as this can impair their sitting balance. Not only can this potentially lead to them falling out of their wheelchair, but it can also lead to shearing injuries. This occurs when the skin and deeper tissue are pulled in opposite directions, which can result in damage to the deeper tissue and blood vessels, which can lead to skin breakdown.
With a tilt-in-space wheelchair, the seat, backrest, and leg rests can be tilted backward as one unit. This allows for the orientation of the seated person to be altered, while the angle of their hips, knees, and legs remains at 90 degrees. The degree of tilt can vary depending on the model of wheelchair, with some able to tilt back as far as 60 degrees.
A tilt-in-space wheelchair is particularly suited for users with poor trunk stability, who rely on their wheelchair for much of the day.
These wheelchairs provide good pressure relief, which can help with comfort and improve sitting tolerance. As the chair’s center of gravity can be alternated throughout the day, this allows for pressure to be redistributed regularly, helping to reduce any build-up of pressure in one particular area of the body, which helps to mitigate the risk of pressure sores. As the wheelchair tilts back as one complete unit, this helps to maintain the patient’s posture and prevents them from slipping out of the chair, which minimizes the risk of any shearing injuries.
Most reclining back and tilt-in-space wheelchairs have maximum weight capacities of between 250 lbs – 300 lbs. For larger individuals, a heavy-duty wheelchair should be considered as these have larger weight capacities of up to 400 lbs.
When choosing a reclining or tilting wheelchair, you should ensure that it can accommodate the patient’s weight. Exceeding the wheelchair’s stated weight limit could cause the chair to become unstable, which could put the occupant’s safety at risk and cause possible injury.
Best Reclining & Tilt-in-Space Manual Wheelchairs
1. Silver Sport Full Reclining Wheelchair
The Silver Sport wheelchair from Drive Medical is a comfortable and affordable option for patients looking for a fully reclinable model.
The Silver Sport features a backrest that can recline up to 180 degrees, and which can be placed in infinite positions. This allows the user to adopt a range of comfortable positions, anywhere from an upright seated position, to a fully reclined one.
The wheelchair is fitted with elevating leg rests that allow the patient to raise their legs while in a reclined position. If required, the leg rests can easily be removed. Please bear in mind that the reclining mechanism on this chair can only be operated using the push handles located at the back of the wheelchair. This means the occupant will need to rely on a caregiver if they are unable to get out of their chair independently to operate this.
A headrest is fitted to the wheelchair that helps to support the head and neck, which is particularly useful for users with impaired trunk stability. The headrest is attached to the backrest using Velcro, so it can be detached if not required.
The chair is fitted with nylon upholstery that is both durable and which is easy to clean. The seat comes in a choice of 3 different widths including 16″, 18″, or 20″. You can also choose between padded full-length armrests or removable ones.
The frame is constructed from durable carbon steel which can support weights up to 350 lbs (this varies depending on the size of seat you choose). Despite its good weight capacity, it is relatively lightweight and weighs under 65 lbs. The frame is also foldable, so it can easily be transported in the trunk of a car if needed.
- Weight capacity: 300 lbs, 350 lbs
- Reclines/tilts: Reclines (90° to 180°)
- Seat dimensions: 16″ – 20″ (W) x 16″ (D)
- Seat-to-floor height: 20.5″
- Product dimensions: 23″ – 28″ (W) x 42″, 50″ (L)
- Wheel size: 8″ (front), 24″ (rear)
- Product weight: 59 lbs – 61 lbs
2. Invacare Tracer SX5 Recliner Wheelchair
The Invacare Tracer SX5 is an extremely well-built but lightweight reclining wheelchair. The wheelchair can recline from 100 degrees up to 170 degrees, which allows the user to alternate between positions, to provide maximum comfort throughout the day.
Featuring a triple chrome-plated carbon steel frame, the wheelchair is extremely durable but also lightweight, with it weighing just 51 lbs so it can easily be carried into and out of a vehicle without too much effort. The wheelchair is fitted with urethane flat-free tires, which means you won’t need to worry about getting a puncture or having to inflate them regularly.
A great feature about this wheelchair is how customizable it is. You can choose between swing-away footrests or elevating leg rests. If the user has particularly sensitive skin, you can opt for padded calf rests that will offer increased comfort. The wheelchair can also be fitted with full length or desk length armrests, that are either fixed or height adjustable, depending on your particular requirements.
The wheelchair is fitted with a comfortable but tough vinyl seat, which is available in width’s ranging from 14″ up to 22″, and you can either opt for a 16″, 18″ depth seat. The upholstery is resistant to mildew, bacteria as well as UV damage, which helps to extend the longevity of the wheelchair.
Rear anti-tippers are fitted as standard to the wheelchair to provide maximum safety, and if the patient suffers from poor postural stability, you can choose to have a seat belt fitted, which will reduce the risk of them sliding or falling out of the chair.
- Weight capacity: 250 lbs, 300 lbs
- Reclines/tilts: Reclines (100° to 170°)
- Seat dimensions: 14″ – 22″ (W) x 16″, 18″ (D)
- Seat-to-floor height: 17.5″, 19.5″
- Product dimensions: 22.5″ – 30.5″ (W) x 34″ (L)
- Wheel size: 8″ (front), 20″ – 24″ (rear)
- Product weight: 51 lbs
>> See full Tracer SX5 recliner wheelchair review
3. Karman VIP-515-TP Tilt-in-Space Wheelchair
The Karman VIP-515 tilt-in-space wheelchair is particularly suited for patients with more challenging mobility impairments. The wheelchair can tilt from 0 to 35 degrees which allows the chair’s center of gravity to be adjusted throughout the day. This assists with pressure redistribution. It also helps to prevent pressure sores, thus ensuring a more comfortable seated experience for the occupant.
A great feature about this wheelchair is how portable it is. Constructed from sturdy but lightweight aircraft-grade aluminum, the Karman VIP-515 weighs just 34 lbs which makes it the lightest tilt-in-space wheelchair currently on the market. The folding mechanism on the wheelchair is easy to operate. In less than 10 seconds the chair folds to a compact 15-inches wide, which allows it to easily fit in the trunk of a car.
The wheelchair is fitted with swing-away footrests as standard, although these can be upgraded to swing-away leg rests if preferred. The padded desk-length armrests provide good support and they are also height-adjustable to maximize comfort, and to assist with transfers they flip-up.
Please be aware the wheelchair is fitted with 14-inch rear wheels, so it is a transport chair. It is unable to be self-propelled so it will need to be pushed by either a caregiver or assistant. To ensure maximum safety, the wheelchair is fitted with both a seat belt and anti-tippers.
The ergonomically designed seat cushion with headrest and backrest provides adequate support and comfort. The seat cushion can however be upgraded to either a foam or gel one. You can also choose between a regular foam, or memory foam backrest if you prefer. The seat cushion, backrest and headrest is attached to the wheelchair using Velcro, so it can be removed for easier cleaning. The upholstery is also treated with an AEGIS anti-microbial layer, which helps to protect it against bacteria, fungus, odors, and staining.
- Weight capacity: 250 lbs
- Reclines/tilts: Tilts (0° to 35°)
- Seat dimensions: 16″, 18″ (W) x 16″ (D)
- Seat-to-floor height: 20″
- Product dimensions: 24″, 26″ (W) x 44″ (L)
- Wheel size: 7″ (front), 14″ (rear)
- Product weight: 34 lbs
4. Karman VIP2-TR Tilt-in-Space and Recliner Wheelchair
The Karman VIP2-TR is an extremely versatile wheelchair that combines both tilt-in-space and recline functionality which allows for increased comfort and pressure relief.
The Karman VIP2-TR wheelchair can tilt from 0 to 35 degrees, and the backrest can recline up to 30 degrees. The increased flexibility that this wheelchair offers means the patient can more effectively redistribute pressure throughout the body, which is especially important for full-time wheelchair users.
The wheelchair is fitted with a curved headrest that is fully adjustable both in height and angle. The headrest helps to provide good head and neck support which is vital for patients who suffer from poor trunk stability.
The seat and backrest are breathable, which assists in preventing excessive sweating. This helps to lessen the risk of developing pressure sores, it also anti-microbial. The tension adjustable backrest allows for the firmness to be adjusted to suit the patient’s particular needs. The seat is available in two different widths, including a 16 or 18-inch seat, and a seat belt is included for improved safety.
It features a foldable design, and it can fold down to just 16-inches wide which makes the chair easily transportable, especially considering it only weighs 43 lbs. The 14-inch polyurethane rear tires and 7-inch casters provide good maneuverability over most types of surfaces, which makes the wheelchair suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.
The wheelchair comes with swing-away footrests. If you prefer these can be upgraded to elevating leg rests which can help to increase blood circulation and is beneficial in particular for edema sufferers. The padded armrests are height adjustable and they are also removable for greater convenience.
- Weight capacity: 255 lbs
- Reclines/tilts: Reclines (0° to 30°), tilts (0° to 35°)
- Seat dimensions: 16″, 18″ (W) x 18″ (D)
- Seat-to-floor height: 19″, 35″
- Product dimensions: 25″, 27″ (W) x 44″ (L)
- Wheel size: 7″ (front), 14″ (rear)
- Product weight: 43 lbs
5. Karman KM-5000 Ultralight Reclining Wheelchair
The Karman KM-5000 is an ultralight reclining wheelchair that is perfect for those looking for one that is compact and easily transportable.
The wheelchair is constructed from aluminum, which makes the wheelchair very lightweight, weighing only 36 lbs. It features a compact foldable design, and it measures 13-inches wide when folded. This means the chair can easily fit in the trunk of a vehicle, and it can be stored in a closet when the wheelchair is not in use, to conserve space.
The backrest on the chair can recline from 90° – 163° which allows the patient to alternate between a seated to an almost lying position, to provide optimum pressure relief and comfort. The swing-away detachable elevating leg rests on the chair allow the patient to elevate their feet. This can assist with improved circulation and alleviate fatigue. The leg supports and footplates are length adjustable, making them suitable for users of differing heights.
The nylon upholstery on the seat and backrest is breathable. The seat is available in a range of widths ranging from 16 to 22 inches. An adjustable height headrest is fitted to the chair which provides additional head and neck support. The full-length padded armrests offer good arm support, they are also detachable to assist with easier and safer transfers into and out of the chair.
The larger 24-inch polyurethane rear tires allow the wheelchair to either be self-propelled, or it can be propelled alternatively by a caregiver. Anti-tippers are fitted as standard, which increases the wheelchair’s stability and prevents it from toppling over.
- Weight capacity: 250 lbs – 350 lbs
- Reclines/tilts: Reclines (90° to 163°)
- Seat dimensions: 16″ – 22″ (W) x 17″, 18″ (D)
- Seat-to-floor height: 20″
- Product dimensions: 25″ – 31″ (W) x 35″ (L)
- Wheel size: 8″ (front), 24″ (rear)
- Product weight: 36 lbs, 38 lbs