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Choosing A Wheelchair for Your Body Shape and Size

When choosing a wheelchair, you have to do so with the thought that it should make your life more comfortable. It should lend more freedom and independence to your body and not prohibit it or cause more pain.

As such, you would want to support and maintain good posture by:

  • choosing cushioning that is suitable for your shape and size
  • having your spine in alignment with your head and neck
  • having your pelvis in alignment with your hips and knees

A wheelchair should not create pressure points or limit movement in the chair. That can be achieved through:

  • making sure that the chair seat as well as the back and shoulder rests are the correct size
  • making sure that the pressure relieving cushions are right
  • making sure that there is adequate space between the chair and your thighs and bottom
  • avoiding lumpy cushions or baggy clothes which could contribute to pressure points

Measurements For Your Wheelchair

When sitting in a wheelchair you should not feel squeezed in, but have ample space to move in the seat, move your arms or rotate the upper body. However, your body should also be supported, especially when you have difficulty keeping posture or tire easily.

You might need help to properly measure yourself. Make sure you are seated comfortably and are well-supported. Place your hips at 90 degrees and your feet flat, with your back as straight as you possibly can. Measure and write down the following distances:

Seat Width

This width is just that of the seat, not that of the overall chair. Measure the width of your hips at the widest part and add an inch on either side. The width of the backrest should not be too big as it can cause you to lean sideways for added support, especially if you struggle with poor upper body control.

Seat Depth

The seat depth is measured as the distance from the back of your bottom to the back of your knees, minus an inch. Should one of your legs be shorter, just take the measurement of the shorter leg. If you go for a bigger depth it will tear into the back of the knee.

Armrest Height

This height is measured as the distance from the seat to the elbow when the elbow is bent at approximately 90 degrees. A better way to understand this is as the angle formed when your elbow is resting on the armrest. Don’t lean too much to the one side when measuring this.

Seat Height – Lower Leg Length

This is the vertical distance measured from the back of the knee all the way to the sole of the foot or the heel of the shoe. This distance will take into consideration the length from the seat of the wheelchair all the way to the footplate. Add approximately 2 inches to that amount, to give you the total seat height from the floor to the seat.

Backrest Height

The height of the backrest is determined largely depending on how much support is needed. With good upper body strength, only a short backrest is needed. Depending on how much support you need you can take the measurements as follows:

Vertical distance from the surface of the seat to the back of the head. This is necessary if you also require head support.

Vertical distance from the surface of the seat to the top of the shoulders. This is necessary if you need support up to your spine.

Vertical distance from the surface of the seat to the bottom of the shoulder blades. This is necessary if you are comfortable sitting with minimal support to the back.

Back Width

This is measured from the widest part across your back, below your armpits. With a broader back, broader than your hips and thighs, and with the need for back support, you should probably look at a wider chair or get a back rest recommended by a specialist.

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