Disclosure: Some links may be affiliate links. If you buy an item via links on our site, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
For many wheelchair users, they find that they are wheelchair-bound for long periods throughout the day. This can often cause a range of problems, including pain and discomfort. Factors such as excessive pressure and a poor seated posture can increase the risk of pressure-related injuries, which can lead to painful pressure sores.
Solving this problem will come from acquiring a wheelchair cushion. They can not only increase the wheelchair user’s comfort as well as improving their posture, but importantly, it can provide pressure relief, which can help to reduce the risk of skin breakdown.
With so many different types of wheelchair cushions available, choosing the right one that will prove most beneficial, can be a challenge. To help with this, we’ll look at the different types of wheelchair seat cushions that are available, as well as the vital factors that you should consider before choosing one. Finally, we will review some of the best wheelchair cushions that are available, that can provide improved pressure relief and comfort for wheelchair users.
Wheelchair Seat Cushions Comparison Chart
Regency Products Memory Foam Wheelchair Cushion
APEX Quad Gel Wheelchair Cushion
ROHO Quadtro Select High Profile Wheelchair Cushion
M2 Active 3D Quadra Gel Wheelchair Cushion
Support Pro Anti-Thrust Positioning Foam Cushion
16" – 20"
12" – 24"
16" – 24"
16" – 22"
12" – 22"
16" – 20"
2" – 4"
No weight capacity (suitable for all users)
250 lbs – 400 lbs (depending on cushion size)
250 lbs – 350 lbs
Gel & foam
Foam & Gel
Foam & Gel
What is a Wheelchair Seat Cushion?
A wheelchair cushion is a removable cushion that is designed to be used on top of an existing wheelchair seat, to provide additional pressure relief and comfort to the user.
For individuals who need to use a wheelchair for extended periods throughout the day, trying to remain comfortable can be a real struggle. Not only can it cause pain and discomfort, but it can also increase the risk of pressure sores.
A wheelchair cushion assists in distributing the user’s weight evenly across the cushion. This helps to enhance comfort and relieve pressure. It can also promote a safer and better-seated posture. A wheelchair cushion can prove particularly beneficial to most types of wheelchair users.
Benefits of Using a Wheelchair Cushion
The main benefits of using a wheelchair cushion include:
- Pressure relief and increased comfort – Sitting for too long in a wheelchair can cause skin and tissue to breakdown, which can lead to pressure sores. Factors such as prolonged pressure, heat, or excessive moisture are all contributory factors that can lead to pressure sores. The use of a wheelchair cushion can help to reduce the risk of pressure-related injuries. They are designed to redistribute the user’s weight. This reduces pressure around areas of bony prominence, including the buttocks, thighs, and the tailbone. Some cushions also use breathable fabrics that dissipate heat and moisture, which helps regulate the user’s skin temperature, and reduces sweating.
- Improved seated posture – Wheelchair users that suffer with mobility impairments or are frail may struggle to sit upright, causing them to slouch. A poor seated posture can cause strain on the spine, back muscles, and hips. This leads to problems, including musculoskeletal issues, fatigue, and circulation disorders. It can also cause the body to slide forwards, which can lead to shear and friction forces pulling and rubbing on the user’s skin, causing tissue damage, which can increase the risk of pressure sores. A wheelchair cushion can improve the user’s posture. It helps to keep the spine aligned and the pelvis positioned correctly, making it more comfortable for the individual to sit for longer without discomfort.
- Improves stability & safety – Traveling over uneven or bumpy surfaces can not only prove uncomfortable, but it can also put the user’s safety in jeopardy. They may surge forwards suddenly, causing them to fall out of their wheelchair. The use of a wheelchair cushion provides a stable seating surface, which offers increased stability and balance, increasing the user’s safety. Wheelchair cushions are also designed to absorb shocks and impacts. This helps to reduce the amount of discomfort when going over bumpy surfaces.
Types of Wheelchair Cushions
There are a wide array of wheelchair cushions available. The main differentiating factor that separates one cushion from another, is the type of material that it is made from. The most common types of materials that are used for wheelchair cushion include:
Foam is a popular type of material that is regularly used in wheelchair cushions. It is an affordable option, and it is available in different thicknesses and densities, to suit all needs.
They are usually either constructed from conventional foam which compresses when sat on, and then springs back after use. Alternatively, viscoelastic (memory foam) is another popular type of foam that is often used. Viscoelastic molds to the shape of the user’s body, and returns back to its original shape afterward. It offers better pressure redistribution than conventional foam.
Foam provides good comfort and moderate pressure relief, so it’s ideal for patients who are looking for a way to minimize the risk of pressure sores. It provides good impact dampening, which helps to reduce shocks and vibrations, when going over bumpy surfaces. Due to the lightness of the material, it is suited for use on manual wheelchairs, as the cushion will not add too much extra weight to the user’s mobility aid.
The drawbacks of foam, is the material is not breathable. This means the cushion can get hot over time, as it is not able to dissipate heat and moisture effectively. Foam cushions are also not as durable as other types of materials. Foam cushions can lose their shape over time, which can reduce their effectiveness. This means they need to be replaced every couple of years depending on the amount of use.
Gel cushions are a good choice for wheelchair users who are at an increased risk from pressure sores. While more expensive than foam cushions, they do provide better pressure distribution.
Unlike with a foam cushion, where the material compresses when it is sat on, with a gel cushion the gel fluid moves with each user movement or position change. This means the user’s weight is distributed more evenly over the cushion surface, which reduces the pressure on the limbs and increases comfort. As the material moves with the user, it helps to decrease the amount of shear forces acting on the skin and tissue, which reduces the risk of pressure injuries. Gel cushions provide good postural support. They are suited for individuals with impaired sitting balance. Gel is also able to dissipate heat and moisture well, which helps to keep the user cool, and it reduces excessive sweating.
While gel cushions do offer many benefits, they do have some drawbacks. Gel cushions are heavier than foam ones, which means it will add some extra weight to the wheelchair. This is an important factor to consider if the patient is using a self-propelled wheelchair. They are also not as effective at absorbing impacts as foam cushions, which can be an issue if the patient travels frequently over uneven or bumpy surfaces. Gel cushions are firmer than foam or air cushions and don’t mold to the user’s body. To overcome this problem, some cushions will use a mixture of gel and foam, to make it softer and more comfortable for the wheelchair user.
Air cushions offer the best pressure relieving properties. They are particularly suited to users with delicate skin who are at a medium to high risk of pressure injuries.
This type of cushion consists of individual interconnected pockets or chambers that are inflated with air, using a pump. Each cell or chamber is designed to move independently from one another, adjusting to the user’s movements, ensuring an even distribution of pressure. Air cushions not only provide exceptional pressure relief and comfort, but they also minimize the effects of friction and shear forces on the user’s skin.
For users who are unable to shift position independently or suffer from more serious pressure-related injuries, alternating pressure cushions are available. These cushions are designed to automatically inflate alternate air cells at regular intervals, using a battery-operated pump, which helps to shift the user’s weight and relieve pressure build-up.
One of the major benefits of air cushions is the firmness can be adjusted to the exact needs of the user to maximize comfort. Air cushions are lightweight and are easily portable. They are able to dissipate heat which helps to reduce heat build-up. They are also effective at impact dampening, helping to reduce shocks and vibrations.
While foam and gel cushions can run the risk of bottoming out over time, air cushions do not face this problem, as the system is closed.
With air cushions, regular checks need to be carried out to ensure the cushion is inflated adequately. Otherwise, it may not provide the user with adequate support or pressure relief. Air cushions provide less postural stability than foam or gel cushions, so they are less suited for users with severe balance impairments.
More affordable than other materials
Can lose its shape over time
A good choice for wheelchair users who are looking to reduce the risk of pressure sores who use a manual wheelchair for limited periods throughout the day
Provides good pressure distribution
Heavier than other types of materials
Suitable for wheelchair users at medium risk of pressure injuries who need to use their wheelchair throughout the day
Excellent pressure distribution
Regular maintenance is required to ensure cushion is inflated adequately
Suitable for wheelchair users at medium to high risk of pressure injuries who need to sit down for extended periods
How to Choose the Right Wheelchair Cushion?
For users with impaired mobility who need to spend prolonged periods in their wheelchair, a wheelchair cushion can prove a useful addition. It offers pressure relief and increased comfort, as well as providing postural support. Choosing the right wheelchair cushion can often seem a confusing process. Should you opt for a foam, gel or air cushion, and is a contoured one better or not? To help choose the best wheelchair cushion, consider the following factors:
Always understand first the reason why the user may require a wheelchair cushion.
Does the user have delicate skin or have they suffered pressure sores or injuries in the past. If this is the case, you will want to choose a cushion that provides excellent pressure relief. Air and gel cushions are particularly suited for users at a medium to higher risk of pressure injuries, who need to spend extended periods in a wheelchair. Foam cushions, on the other hand, are more suited to users looking to reduce the risk of pressure sores, who use a wheelchair for limited periods throughout the day.
You will also need to consider whether the user suffers from impaired sitting balance. If the user stoops or is unable to maintain a proper seated posture, you will want to choose a cushion that provides additional support and which prevents the user from sliding out of the wheelchair. There are a range of positioning cushions available, ranging from contoured, pommel to wedge cushions.
Once you fully understood the needs of the user, you will then be able to determine the type of cushion that will prove most beneficial for them.
Wheelchairs come in a range of sizes, so you should choose a wheelchair cushion that is sized appropriately for the particular seat. Always measure the inside dimensions of the wheelchair seat including, width and depth, so you know the right-sized cushion that you should opt for. It should fit snugly onto the wheelchair seat, and it should not be too big, otherwise it may prove dangerous as the user could potentially slide out of the wheelchair.
Consider the cushion thickness as well. Wheelchair cushions generally range in thickness from 2″ up to 4″. The thicker the cushion, the greater the seat-to-floor height. If it is too thick, the user may struggle to operate the wheelchair safely, or the wheelchair may not be able to fit under a table or countertop. The ideal cushion thickness should allow the user to rest their feet comfortably on the footrest, and they should be able to operate the wheelchair without having to struggle.
Ensure that you choose a pressure cushion that is suitable for the wheelchair user’s weight. Standard wheelchair cushions generally have weight capacities up to 250 lbs.
For heavier users, bariatric cushions are available that can support weights up to 750 lbs. Avoid exceeding the advertised weight capacity. Otherwise, the cushion could lose its shape, and it may not provide adequate pressure relief and support, therefore increasing the risk of pressure injuries.
Cushion Cover & Base
You should also consider the type of cover and base that is used for the cushion. We would recommend that you choose one with the following features:
Water-resistant cover – A water-resistant cover is recommended. Not only can it easily be wiped clean with a damp cloth, but it will also protect the cushion from any spillages, which is a particularly useful feature if the user is incontinent. Some cushion covers are also treated with an anti-microbial and odor protective coating. This helps to reduce the risk of germs and infections.
Slip-resistant base – To maximize safety, opt for a cushion that has a slip-resistant base. This will ensure the cushion remains in place, and it will prevent the user from sliding out of the wheelchair even when traversing over uneven or bumpy surfaces.
Best Wheelchair Seat Cushions
1. Regency Products Memory Foam Wheelchair Cushion
The Regency Products wheelchair cushion is ideally suited for patients with a low to medium risk of pressure injuries, who are looking for both a comfortable, and supportive cushion.
The cushion is constructed from memory foam, which means it molds to the contours of the body. This ensures the user’s weight is evenly distributed, which helps to prevent the build-up of pressure and increases comfort. After use, it returns to its original shape, so the cushion is virtually maintenance-free.
It features a removable cover that is liquid-safe and washable, making it suitable for users with bladder problems. The cover is treated with an antimicrobial coating, which inhibits the growth of bacteria, mold, and mildew.
To reduce the risk of the cushion slipping off the wheelchair, it features a non-skid base which helps to keep it in place and increases the user’s safety. Due to the memory foam construction, it offers good impact dampening. Any shocks and vibrations are kept to a minimum when the wheelchair travels over bumpy and uneven surfaces, further improving the user’s comfort.
- Width: 18″
- Depth: 16″
- Thickness: 3″
- Weight capacity: 300 lbs
- Cushion type: Memory foam
- Cushion weight: 4 lbs
2. APEX Quad Gel Wheelchair Cushion
For wheelchair users who need to sit for long periods, choosing a cushion that can keep the user’s skin cool is imperative. Not only can it improve the user’s comfort, helping to prevent sweating, but it can also reduce the risk of pressure-related injuries caused by excessive heat and moisture.
The APEX Quad wheelchair cushion has been especially designed to provide good stability and comfort, as well as helping to keep the user’s skin cool. The hybrid cushion uses a mixture of gel and high-density foam.
The four gel chambers evenly distribute the user’s weight, providing good pressure relief. This assists in reducing the risk of pressure sores and skin breakdown. These gel chambers also improve the cushions ability to dissipate heat, ensuring it remains cool even after extended use. The chambers are designed to prevent the gel from moving around, this reduces the risk of it bottoming out. This helps to prolong the lifespan of the cushion.
The cover is antimicrobial, which reduces the risk of bacterial growth. The breathable design helps to evaporate moisture from the user’s skin.
To prevent the cushion from sliding off the seat, the bottom of the cushion is fitted with a non-slip bottom. There is also a strap that can be secured around the back of the seat to keep it in place.
- Width: 16″ – 20″
- Depth: 16″, 18″
- Thickness: 2″, 3″
- Weight capacity: 300 lbs
- Cushion type: Gel & foam
- Cushion weight: 4 lbs
3. ROHO Quadtro Select High Profile Wheelchair Cushion
The ROHO Quadtro Select High Profile wheelchair cushion is an excellent choice for users who are at a high risk of developing pressure-related injuries, as well as for those who have limited or no sensation.
The ROHO air cushion uses Dry Floatation technology. This essentially means that the individual air cells within the cushion can constantly adjust and adapt to the user’s contours. This not only helps to decrease shear and friction forces acting on the skin, but it is also able to provide excellent pressure relief, therefore helping to prevent as well as manage pressure ulcers.
The cushion has 4 separate air chambers. With a simple push of a button, the air pressure within these air chambers can be adjusted to suit the user’s particular needs while they remain seated. So no matter the user’s weight or shape, the level of inflation can be adjusted easily and quickly at regular intervals to alter their posture to improve their seated position, as well as maximize their comfort.
The cushion has a removable zippered Lycra cover with a non-slip base that is machine washable. The cover is also breathable, which helps to eliminate moisture and heat build-up, and assists in keeping the user cool.
This ROHO cushion has no weight limit, so it can be used by users, and it is suitable for bariatric use. It only weighs 3.5 lbs, so it’s incredibly lightweight, so it can be transported and carried easily.
- Width: 12″ – 24″
- Depth: 12″ – 22″
- Thickness: 4″
- Weight capacity: No weight capacity
- Cushion type: Air
- Cushion weight: 3.5 lbs
4. M2 Active 3D Quadra Gel Wheelchair Cushion (Zero Elevation)
The M2 Active 3D Quadra Zero Elevation pressure relief and positioning cushion is an ideal choice for users with poor postural stability. It features tapered leg adductors that assist with leg alignment. The lateral and medial leg contours help to enhance postural alignment. The coccyx relief cutout provides pressure relief from the tailbone as well as from the lower spine, which enhances comfort for wheelchair users who need to spend prolonged periods seated.
The cushion is constructed from a dual-density molded foam base, which is covered by 4 gel compartments. The top gel compartment layer improves heat dissipation, and it also assists in reducing shear forces, thus reducing the risk of pressure-related injuries. The high-density foam base provides good support, as well as enhanced pressure relief.
To stop the cushion from sliding off the chair, it has a non-slip base, and it also has hook and loop attachments that can be secured to the wheelchair.
The cushion comes in a choice of two types of covers. You can choose the “Comfort-Tek” cover, which consists of a polyurethane cover that is impermeable and protects the cushion from fluids, and is suitable for users with bladder problems. Alternatively, you can opt for the “Stretch-Air” cover, which has been designed for improved breathability, and heat reduction.
- Width: 16″ – 24″
- Depth: 16″ – 20″
- Thickness: 3.5″
- Weight capacity: 250 lbs – 400 lbs (depending on cushion size)
- Cushion type: Foam & gel
- Cushion weight: 3 lbs
5. Support Pro Anti-Thrust Positioning Cushion
Sliding or surging forwards in a wheelchair can be a relatively common problem for patients that suffer from upper-body weakness, or for those who use a self-propelled wheelchair. Not only can it increase the risk of shear stresses, which can result in skin breakdown, but it can also cause the user to slip out of their wheelchair, which can lead to serious injuries.
For wheelchair users who tend to lean forwards in their wheelchair, an anti-thrust positioning cushion is recommended. The Support Pro Anti-Thrust wheelchair cushion features an elevated 3″ front, while the lower back section measures 2″. The elevated front section is designed to stop the user’s hips from sliding forwards in the wheelchair, thus helping to reduce the risk of falls as well as pressure-related injuries.
The anti-thrust cushion has a moleculon foam base that is designed to provide good support and distribute pressure evenly. The top layer consists of 4 gel packs that assists in keeping the user’s skin cool, and helps to prevent skin breakdown. The cushion features a coccyx relief area that provides pressure relief on the tailbone and spine.
The cover has an impermeable layer, which means any spillages will not damage the cushion. The cover is also treated with an anti-microbial finish, so reduces the risk of bacteria build-up on the cushion.
- Width: 16″ – 22″
- Depth: 16″, 18″
- Thickness: 2″ – 4″
- Weight capacity: 250 lbs – 350 lbs
- Cushion type: Foam & gel
- Cushion weight: 3 lbs