What Is the Best Pressure Relief Cushion?
I often get questions on my Youtube channel or my private practice about pressure relief in seating and specifically concerning the cushions for the elderly or wheelchair users. I know that not everyone has a lot of experience with this issue, so I wanted to write an article about the most important things you need to know and what’s out there.
As a general rule, the best pressure relief cushions prevent or relieve pain or pressure sores caused by long periods of sitting. You can choose between three types of cushions depending on whether your risk of developing pressure sores is low, medium or high.
I have a particular interest in this subject because my younger brother (Brian) spent most of his short life in a wheelchair. Because of Brian, I went into health care. Over the past 30 years, I have researched, tested, and designed various pressure relief cushions and found 5 items that you must have to be comfortable and to avoid any potential pressure points or pressure ulcers.
What Is a Pressure Relief Cushion?
The purpose of pressure reduction cushions is to distribute the user’s weight uniformly and relieve the pressure on the areas prone to pressure sores and skin breakdown. There are many types of pressure reduction cushions that allow the user to sink into them and disperse their weight.
When Would You Use a Pressure Cushion?
People at risk for pressure ulcers usually have access to a specially designed cushion or a therapeutic surface, like an air-alternating or low air loss seat cushion.
For non-risk people, a pressure cushion may be a comfortable option to relieve stress points and to ensure comfort.
5 Pressure Reduction Tips for Seat Cushions
Get the Seat Size Right
Pressure care involves a lot of things to remember. You must get the correct seat size. Where your buttocks and thighs touch is where the majority of your body mass is located. This means that it’s crucial not only to get the height just right, but also to give their legs enough room between footrests and armrests as well, or else they could end up with sore muscles.
Measure the Seat Size as Follows:
The length between your back and buttock to the edge of a chair should be about two fingers wide. The seat can slide out more than an inch for larger people who want extra space, or less for smaller folks that need help sitting down on their chairs without tipping over. There are many different seats you can get so everyone has what they need!
For reducing pressure points, proper posture is also crucial. Your occupational therapist should always be able to assess your posture while you are seated if you are in an unstable position. Sitting poorly will cause you to develop routines that will become complacent. So, it is important to maintain a posture in which your shoulders and hips converge directly over your head.
I always recommend good seat posture cushions to office workers who sit all day. The front edge of a seat with a seat angle between 8 and 13 degrees should be just below the ischial tuberosity and angled inward at about 45 degrees from vertical. It relieves tension in the muscles of people who sit for long periods. It reduces stress on spinal discs as well as relieving stress on the spine. Better alignment also means fewer muscle strains!
Distribute Your Seated Pressure as Widely as Possible
Did you discuss pressure in science class when learning about Robert Boyle’s research (from Waterford, Ireland)? He may have described the relationship of pressure as follows: Today is no different! In this case, reducing the force or expanding the area it is spread over will reduce the pressure. Your weight (force) cannot be lowered, but the surface area can be. Consequently, when selecting a chair, you want it to support the body as evenly as possible.
Alter Your Position Regularly
To maintain tissue integrity, it’s essential to change the pressure points of higher pressure regularly. Therefore, it will be possible for affected body parts that have had restricted blood flow to recover.
Incorporate Pressure Relieving Materials
There are many different seat cushions on the market, and as a general rule, we’d recommend some level of a pressure-relieving cushion.
The Best Pressure Cushions Tips:
- Comfort is essential! It is difficult to overemphasize the importance of comfort! Unaware of the importance of this until they’re sitting in an uncomfortable chair, many people ignore it. In the meantime, you will notice how uncomfortable it feels if your cushion is too thin, too firm, or the incorrect shape for your buttocks.
- Foam content is a crucial factor in how comfortable and durable a seat cushion is. Foam cushion lifespan is typically determined by the quality of the foam. Density (weight) is often considered an indicator of foam quality. A heavier foam usually performs better. Gel foams, memory foams, and natural latex foams are all types of foam that are used in seat cushions.
- Foam type. Natural Latex Foam (I believe) provides the ultimate comfort, resilience, and alignment.
- Cushions should contain foam layers. Under the seat cushion are typically two layers of material, one of which provides support, the other of which relieves pressure
- Design. Contour the person’s body as closely as possible to increase surface area and will help you maintain good posture when you sit.
- Anterior Tilt. Only for people who do not have balance issues! If you desire this feature, the best angle is 8-13 degrees.
- High-Density Base Foam.
- Comfort Top Soft Foam Layer.
- The cover. The non-slip bottom is paired with a stretchy fabric to avoid pressure sores!
- No, I don’t recommend memory foam! People with back problems should not use them since they are not ideal. It does not have resilient properties (springiness) such as natural latex, it bottoms out; traps heat, and makes use of toxic materials.
- It is not recommended to cover a pressure-relief cushion with PVC or nonstretch fabrics. The stretchable material is necessary for the cushion to conform perfectly to the user’s body shape, as pressure-reducing cushions are ineffective without it.
- I typically use a fabric for my designs called Dartex. Dartex is a vapour-permeable fabric that allows air circulation.
- If you are at very high risk for pressure sores, dynamic air cushions could aid by allowing pressure to build up in one area before it is transferred to another. However, we found these to be not as comfortable as other cushions.
How Do You Relieve Pressure When Sitting?
The act of reducing pressure is simply stepping, moving, or elevating yourself to allow blood to circulate to areas that are holding pressure, usually after sitting or lying in one position for too long. Do pressure reliefs every 20 minutes while seated.
The most important thing you need to know about pressure relief is that there are a lot of variables in the ergonomic equation. When it comes to wheelchair cushions, for example, they’re not all created equal and some may be better than others depending on your needs or preferences.
For more information on this subject matter, please visit our blog where we have an article about how to choose the best pressure relief cushion available. You can also subscribe to our mailing list so that you will receive updates when new articles come out!