When determining how to size a wheelchair for yourself or a loved one, there are three key factors to consider: proper fit, correct placement, and overall comfort.
Begin the process by discussing your specific needs with your doctor or physical therapist who has hands-on experience with wheelchair selection and sizing.
Mobility expert Adrian Cristian, MD, shares in his book, Living with Spinal Cord Injury, the following criteria for a comfortable and healthy seated position in a manual or power wheelchair.
Dr. Cristian also points out that some conditions may require specially equipped chairs with features that include reclining and tilting capabilities for those who cannot shift their own weight or have poor arm strength.
A power wheelchair may be best suited for people who cannot push a manual wheelchair on their own with their hands and/or feet, have poor trunk or mid-section control, or significant curvatures of the spine.
A properly sized wheelchair must support and accommodate the entire body including the back, hips, legs, knees, ankles, and buttocks. The individual's weight should be evenly distributed and a quality seat cushion or pad is essential to help relieve pressure points from sitting that could potentially cause sores.
In addition, wheelchairs should always be comfortable, cool, and easy to propel. Before purchasing any type of manual wheelchair or power chair, always have the individual and caregivers "test drive" different models that have been sized appropriately to ensure comfort and satisfaction.
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