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Spending a lot of time sitting in a wheelchair can be vastly uncomfortable, especially if you do not have the correct support.
However, if you are using a wheelchair for a significant amount of time, there are products out there that can make it a much more comfortable experience. One such item is the wheelchair back cushion. However, when it comes to choosing the right one, there may be more things to consider than you first thought.
Wheelchair Back Cushions Comparison Chart
1Supra Visco Memory Foam Back Cushion
Lateral Support Assembly Cushion
Jay Go Back Cushion
Jay J3 Back Cushion with Back Tilt
IncrediBack Wheelchair Cushion
Width: 16", 18"
Width: 15" - 22"
Width: 12" - 26"
Width: 14" - 20"
Width: 15" - 21"
Best Suited for?
Lumbar support and comfort
Improve upper stability
Lumbar support and comfort
Positioning and support
What Are the Benefits of Using a Wheelchair Back Support Cushion?
When you are in the same position for a lengthy amount of time, there is no denying that it is going to be uncomfortable. But the problem is that many people are reliant on their wheelchairs to give them better mobility. Therefore, there must be a happy balance between comfort and support and using the wheelchair full time.
One of the major benefits that wheelchair users see when using a wheelchair back support cushion is that they are able to sit with a better posture. Some users may find that their spine is not supported when they sit in their chairs and this is not only damaging for the spine itself, but it can have negative effects on other things.
For example, if the natural position of the spine is not supported, it can restrict how easily a person can breathe. The back cushion in your wheelchair will also allow for greater movement especially in the upper torso without putting pressure on the spine.
Offering both posterior and lateral support, a wheelchair back cushion keeps the user comfortable whilst also significantly lowering the risk of developing pressure sores, which is common in long-term wheelchair users. Furthermore, if you require a wheelchair for most of your day-to-day activities, you will find that using a back cushion can drastically reduce the amount of lower back pain you experience.
This translates into more sitting tolerance and heightened comfort. But what’s more, you will likely feel much more stable in your wheelchair. This is especially important for people who have a limited range of movement or balance problems.
Types of Back Support Wheelchair Cushions
Every wheelchair user is different and this means that there is no one size fits all solution when it comes to back support cushions. Understanding the benefits of each can help you to make a better decision when it comes to finding a product that will work well for your unique needs.
Contoured Solid Back Support Cushions
For wheelchair users who require a degree of positioning support, a contoured back support cushion is one of the best options. The traditional contoured cushion fits around the body comfortably offering an additional level of support for users who require additional posterior pelvic support.
These contoured cushions are also excellent for users who need better pressure management and can come in a variety of materials.
Flat Back Support Cushions
A flat back cushion is the standard design and one of the most simple. These are ideal for people who need general support from all angles. These cushions are flat on either side and offer an even level of support from all areas. These cushions are useful for people who do not need positioning support.
Types of Materials Used in Wheelchair Back Cushions
Foam is an ideal material for wheelchair users who are not seated all of the time. For people who use a wheelchair for most of the day, this may not be the best option. This is because the material is not breathable and this can cause sweating. As a result of this sweating, it is much more likely the pressure sores will develop.
Furthermore, since foam is heavier, the cushion can end up ‘bottoming out’ with most of the padding being pushed down. This means that the user will not have the support or comfort that the cushion is intended for.
However, on the plus side, for users who spend smaller amounts of time in their wheelchairs, these cushions are an affordable option. While they may need to be fluffed up from time to time, this is a minor consideration when they are only seeing light use.
With all of this in mind, there is some good news for people who rely more heavily on a wheelchair. There are many memory foam cushions that offer greater stability and are able to more easily mold to your contours for improved support when compared to more outdated options.
If you are looking for maximum support then an air cushion may be the answer. Unlike their gel-filled counterparts, these back support cushions are inflated with air in separate cells throughout the cushion. This means that they can easily contour to the shape of the user and offer the best, tailored support.
While these cushions are incredible when it comes to offering comfort, they may not be as adequate when it comes to helping the user maintain a good posture. For this reason, it is advisable to only use an air cushion if you are able to effectively support your posture without much assistance. The reason for this is that the air back support cushion has high impact loading. However, if you struggle with pain, this is an excellent option.
One of the major drawbacks of an air-filled back cushion is that there is a chance that it may leak. That being said, most cushions come with a repair kit, and sealing any holes is relatively simple.
If you opt for a gel cushion, you are, in part, getting the best of everything. This is because these cushions usually have a foam base which gives them a good degree of stability. This stability is excellent for helping users maintain a healthy posture. Couple this with the comfort of the gel and you have a back support cushion that is highly effective.
These cushions are great for those with sensitive skin as they put very little pressure on the skin. The surface typically has a variety of gel-filled cells that will move with the user rather than against them, further providing comfort for delicate skin.
As you sit back onto the gel cushion, it will easily mold to the contours of your body offering support that is perfect for you. This is extremely important for patients with atrophied muscles and other similar conditions. However, you should keep in mind that these cushions are not designed for high impact and as a result, this could feel odd for the user as well as cause leaks. If you hit a bump in the road or fall back quickly into the wheelchair, it could have an adverse effect on the cushion.
That being said, there are many modern options that are specially designed to counteract this problem so it is worth looking for these when you are choosing your back support cushion.
Wheelchair Back Support Cushion Buying Guide
Aside from the various materials that are used to make back support cushions, users will have many other considerations before committing to any particular cushion. It is important to take the time to think about your options especially if you will be getting a lot of use out of the back cushion.
Many people believe that the reason that they don’t feel fully supported in their wheelchair is that they do not have a back cushion. While this is sometimes true, it is also important to first check whether your wheelchair is the right fit for you.
When you first purchased your wheelchair, you should have been measured to ensure that the chair offered the utmost support and you didn’t slide around while sitting in it.
However, if you are confident that your wheelchair is a good fit for you then you may need to consider a back cushion. When it comes to finding the right fit, it is vital that you ensure the back support cushion is suitable for your wheelchair.
Contoured or Flat Design?
Deciding between a flat or contoured cushion will largely depend on the needs of the user. If the cushion is to be used for minimal support, particularly for wheelchair users who are not in the chair for long periods, then a flat cushion may work well.
On the other hand, a contoured cushion will fit around the user’s body offering a much greater degree of comfort and support.
We have already discussed the various types of material used in wheelchair back cushions and their pros and cons. But let’s have a quick recap:
- Gel-filled cushions are good for users with sensitive skin and who need additional support due to muscle atrophy. They are also excellent for comfort and thanks to a foam base are very stable.
- Foam cushions are typically better for short-term use as they can be less breathable and end up bottoming-out. However, opting for memory foam will give similar advantages to gel and air cushions without losing their shape.
- Air-filled cushions are lightweight and best for those who experience pain and need improved comfort while using their wheelchair. However, they are not as good for positioning.
In addition to these considerations, users will need to think about how breathable the material is. The last thing that you want is a cushion that causes you to sweat excessively, particularly if you live in a warmer climate. This can lead to sores and a lot of discomfort.
You should look at whether the covers are removable and can be washed. There are some wheelchair back cushions that are anti-bacterial and much more hygienic. It is worth looking at purchasing an additional cushion cover as many of these have a lot of features that can be useful for patients with specific needs.
For example, there are cushion covers that are water-resistant for those who struggle with incontinence as well as those that are tear-resistant and therefore, longer-lasting.
While there are many options when it comes to choosing a back support cushion for your wheelchair, you should also consider whether any further adjustments can be made. This is imperative for users who need an additional degree of postural support. What works for one wheelchair user may not work for the next.
Having the option to adjust the height of the back support can make a difference when it comes to propelling the wheelchair. For example, users who are able to use self-propulsion may need a significantly lower cushion than those who will be propelled by a caregiver.
The height of the back support should give enough postural support without compromising on how the user can move their arms and torso.
Conversely, users who struggle with balance may need higher back support and this is something that is often used in tilt-in-space wheelchairs.
For bariatric patients, it is important that the back support cushion has a greater weight capacity as this will prevent it from bottoming out through long-term use. These cushions also offer a much greater degree of weight distribution which is important if the support is to be maintained.
Many of the bariatric support cushions provide users with the advantage of additional cushioning on critical pressure points, therefore greatly improving comfort. This is excellent news for patients who have particular problems with pain.
Best Wheelchair Backrest Support Cushions for Enhanced Pressure Relief & Stability
Wheelchair users have a wide range of choices when it comes to back support cushions. However, we believe that these are some of the best options available.
1. Supra Visco Memory Foam Back Cushion
Memory foam is a very durable and long-lasting material that is ideal for people who use their wheelchairs for long portions of the day. This cushion is contoured in such a way that it offers impeccable support to the lower back. The soft yet supportive material contours to the natural curve of the spine and so is excellent for offering postural support and positioning.
The cushion is flame-retardant and moisture-proof making it excellent for patients who may struggle with incontinence or even for trips out in bad weather. Furthermore, the cover can be quickly removed and is easy to clean.
The non-slip design means that support won’t be compromised and the back cushion is suitable for use in all wheelchairs.
- Width: 16″, 18″
- Front height: 1″
- Pommel height: 2″
- Cushion weight: 2 lbs
- Cushion type: foam
2. Lateral Support Assembly Cushion
This lateral wheelchair back cushion offers support from both sides, making this the perfect option for users who may struggle with stability in the upper body. The supports are vertically adjustable to suit a variety of user heights and are excellent at relieving pressure. This feature makes them ideal for users who spend a lot of time in their chairs.
The support comes in a choice of sizes but what is truly great about this product is that it is designed for maximum skin protection. If you find that your skin is easily irritated, then this may be a viable option.
The back support can be installed over most slingback wheelchairs quickly and easily. Furthermore, once it is in place, the hook and loop fastening offers excellent security.
- Width: 15″ – 22″
- Depth: 4″, 6″
- Cushion type: foam
3. Jay Go Back Cushion
This is a traditional flat back cushion that offers superior comfort and is ideal for general use. While it may not be suitable for people who spend a lot of time in their wheelchairs, it is perfect for short-term use.
With 1 ¼” foam, this is a great choice for people who want additional padding and who do not need a lot of postural support. However, it does feature an adjustable strap allowing the user to alter the shape of the backrest to suit their needs.
The cushion is covered with a flexible, lightweight material that is breathable and water-resistant. It can be easily removed for cleaning and installation is a breeze thanks to a quick hook and loop sleeve system.
- Width: 12″ – 26″
- Weight: 1.7 lbs
- Thickness: 1 1/4″
- Cushion type: foam
4. Jay J3 Back Cushion with Back Tilt
One of the most notable aspects of this back support cushion is how versatile it is. Rather than creating a separate back cushion for every user, the manufacturer has made this one so adjustable that it is suitable for most adult wheelchair users.
It provides good support that is excellent for positioning and comes with a variety of contours that are designed to suit the shape of the user perfectly. This increases the level of comfort beyond anything else. Furthermore, the system can be altered to suit a variety of heights, ensuring that you always have the correct level of support.
This system features a foam cushion for added comfort and is suitable for use by both active and less active users.
- Width: 14″ – 20″
- Thickness: 2″
- Back height: 16″ – 20″
- Cushion weight: 6 lbs
- Cushion type: foam
5. IncrediBack Wheelchair Cushion
This is a great option for people who spend long hours in their wheelchair and would like the advantage of being able to tilt back to rest or change position. The cushion attaches to the wheelchair, effectively replacing the standard slingback. It offers a tight and secure fit giving the user confidence.
The back support cushion can be adjusted to suit a range of heights thanks to the vertical strap. This back cushion has been designed with pressure relief in mind further adding to its use as an ‘all-day’ cushion.
It also boasts a breathable fabric that will repel moisture and is incredibly easy to clean. Owing to the fabric’s ability to lower the temperature of the seat, this adds to the pressure relief, reducing the chance of sores developing.
- Width: 15″ – 21″
- Back height: 21″, 34″
- Thickness: 2″
- Weight: 9 lbs
- Cushion type: foam