Styles Of Wheelchair Cushions

There are several styles of wheelchair cushions available. Be sure to consider the user so that you do not end up with an ill fitting cushion. The length of time a wheelchair user spends in the chair is a major factor to consider when choosing a cushion.

A properly sized, quality wheelchair cushion will fit seamlessly into the chair and hardly be noticed, yet play a vital role in your comfort and ability to complete your daily activities. If you are looking for yourself or for a client, the steps to a proper fit are the same. Before getting just any cushion you need to ask yourself some important questions.

Whether you are the wheelchair user yourself or not, you need to consider how much time is spent in the chair, lifestyle, and the size of the individual to use the cushion. These factors all have an impact on the cushion you will select.

Sit Outside The Box

Don't get caught up in the 90/90/90 position when choosing a chair or cushion. As a therapist it is all too easy to do. Think about what type of chair you sit on. Did you just now change position, lean forward, tilt your pelvis forward or backward for increased comfort?

Most individuals without any physical conditions can only maintain a 90/90/90 position for a short time. Why? Because it is not the most comfortable position to sit in! Sitting is a dynamic activity. We are frequently shifting our weight.

Take a look at the chairs in your home, school, office or therapy room, do they follow the 90/90 rule? Probably not. Are there others who drive your vehicle? Take a look at the seat position. Do you have to make some adjustments in order to drive comfortably? After all, you want to be able to reach the steering wheel, and see out the mirrors, look out the side windows and drive to your destination safely.

Keep in mind that the person in the wheelchair needs to be comfortable and able to complete their daily tasks from that position for at least a portion of their day. Some are in their chairs all day.

Therefore, it is important to consider the seat and back cushions that will be used. Decreased movement increases the risk for skin breakdown and discomfort. Fatigue can set in if the cushion doesn't meet the users needs. There are a variety of cushions to choose from and a little research will be well worth it before you buy.

Foam Wheelchair Cushions

Foam is the least expensive material for a cushion. It comes in a wide array of densities and can be shaped to conform to the user. An inexpensive, flat foam cushion may be all you need. The advantages are that they are generally less expensive than other cushions, are light weight, and don't deflate or leak.

On the other hand, they compress and need replaced on a more regular basis, so careful monitoring of its condition is important. Check this type of cushion every six to twelve months to ensure that it is providing good pressure relief.

Foam In Place Seating is the ultimate in memory foam seating for the needs of the severely disabled. The memory foam custom-contouring technology slows the progressive deformities, and decreases the fatigue and soreness associated with confined or prolonged seating.

This technology works well for clients with complex positioning needs such as fixed deformities or excessive tone problems. A contoured insert provides posture control by gently holding a person in position. By distributing sitting pressure evenly, this system improves blood circulation and aids in relieving pressure points.

Viscoelastic Foam Cushions

This memory foam is slow to spring back once pressure is relieved, conforms to the body, is an open cell foam to maximize air flow and reduces heat buildup. It absorbs up to 90% of normal use impact energy, thus reducing fatigue caused by sudden jolts or constant vibration.

There are various sizes and thicknesses available depending upon your specific need.

Gel Cushions

These wheelchair cushions are heavier, low maintenance cushions designed for the person at high risk for skin breakdown. They spread the weight out evenly providing good seating protection.

Gel Foam Cushions

Gel foam wheelchair cushions allow the user to stay in their chairs longer, and decrease the risk of skin breakdown. The life of the gel cells is limited, and as with any liquid cushion, do need replaced. The highest reviews for comfort and decreased skin breakdown are noted with this cushion.

Gel foam cushions are heavier, filled with gel pockets and usually feature a foam base for positioning. They bottom-out, meaning that the gel spreads out towards your hips, allowing the highest pressure points to be unprotected. They can leak, especially at the seams and are difficult to patch.

Air Cushions

Air flotation cushions work by supporting you on a bladder of air. The concept is to distribute pressure evenly, avoiding pressure points on your skin. They work very well at preventing pressure sores. They are easily adjustable to increase comfort, as some have sections for air control and are waterproof.

You need to keep them regularly inflated to maintain pressure. If you travel in elevations, the pressure changes, which affects performance and comfort. Air wheelchair cushions can puncture and leave you without any protection. Although most are made with heavy rubber, they do get leaks as well.

Cooling Wheelchair Cushions

These cushions are similar to what you can use for office chairs and car seats. They are specifically designed to reduce heat build up and moisture from underneath the legs and buttocks that occurs from prolonged sitting.

These pads provide comfort and pain relief for several hours, based on their design and construction.


Although there are several types of wheelchair cushions and seating systems, there is no single correct system. There is, however, one that is right for you. Do your homework and research your options. Ask questions. Try sitting on various cushions to see what is comfortable for you.

One more thought-make sure the weight capacity of the cushion is right for you. Consult with a therapist or seating specialist to help you make the best choice.

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