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Wheelchair Cushions

Selecting the most appropriate cushion is based on factors such as how much time you spend in your chair, how much you move around in your chair, how stable your posture is, and if you are susceptible to pressure sores. When sitting in a wheelchair only one third of the body is supporting all the weight which causes blood flow to be restricted. There are 4 major types of wheelchair cushions, air, foam, gel and honeycomb. Each has its advantages, disadvantages and applications.

  • Air Cushions
    Air cushions can provide good pressure distribution when properly inflated. These cushions have multiple interconnected air cells that evenly distribute pressure. Air cushions are frequently the cushion of choice for individuals who have a history of pressure sores. Clients who are at high risk for developing pressure sores due to lack of sensation and a decreased ability to shift their position can benefit from this type of cushion. Setting up and properly maintaining an air cushion takes time. If there is too little air in the cushion, a client bottoms out. If there is too much air, the person does not sink into the cushion. In both cases, this can cause the development of pressure sores. Air floatation cushions support the body entirely on air designed with a group of small, interconnected rubber balloons arranged in rows. Pressure is balanced by air shifting out to surrounding balloons, spreading pressure evenly against your skin. Air cushions tend to be lightweight, and are waterproof. Air cushions can be less stable for those who move around a lot in their chair, but recent designs offer either low profile or quadrant options that minimize this problem. The biggest drawback to air cushions is that they require more maintenance. It is necessary to check the pressure frequently, especially if you have pressure sores.
  • Foam Cushions
    There are many types of foam cushions, ranging from basic to complex. Because of the variability in types, foam can work well for many individuals. Foam cushions can be used for individuals with good sensation who frequently move themselves in the wheelchair. This cushion is usually thin and is made of soft foam so it can be easy to bottom out on it. Several foam cushions are thicker and combine multiple layers of different types of foam. Usually, softer foam is positioned closest to the patient and more dense foam is underneath it. The softer foam helps the cushion feel comfortable and supports the client, while the more dense foam decreases the risk of bottoming out. This type of cushion may be appropriate for some individuals with decreased sensation and who move themselves less frequently. Foam comes in a range of densities and with varying degrees of "memory," holding its shape as you sit, contributing to your stability. The new foams can adapt to any shape, and still provide even support, spreading pressure across the sitting surface. Different types of foams are often used in combination, layered for their various properties of softness, even support, and memory.
  • Gel Cushion
    Most gel or fluid cushions are constructed in combination with foam. People who have poor sensation and do not move themselves frequently may be appropriate users of gel and fluid cushions. Because these cushions contain a substance that can move, over time the gel or fluid can shift away from the areas of increased pressure so that the client bottoms out and has increased weight bearing. Gel cushion designs attempt, in effect, to replace the consistency and support of atrophied muscle tissue. Highly engineered gel fluids are placed in pouches and usually attached to a foam base, so that the cushion conforms to the pressures placed on it. As a result, gel cushions provide excellent pressure distribution and are very comfortable. Many gel products also offer supplemental inserts to stabilize your legs.
  • Honeycomb Cushions
    Thermoplastic urethane honeycomb cushions are the most recent development in the world of cushions. Because there are many individual cells similar to a beehive they are able to distribute weight evenly without any risk of leaking or puncturing. The honeycomb cushions can be cleaned using the washing machine and dryer, ideal for people with incontinence problems. There are multiple layers of varying stiffness to allow the sit bones to sink into the cushion while deeper layers provide overall support and weight distribution.
  • Hybrid Cushions
    Hybrid or Cushions can be seen in a variety of configurations combining all the positive attributes of each cushion medium. The goals remain the same, protect skin, enhance comfort, improve posture, create stability and correct or accommodate deformities.
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