Finding the Perfect Wheelchair: Tips for a Comfortable and Safe Fit



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How to Get a Best-Fit Wheelchair

Wheelchairs today come in many different sizes with as many various features. The challenge is picking the one that bests fit your size and needs. 

At best, a mismatched wheelchair is just inconvenient. The wrong chair can delay recovery or even cause further personal injury.

A person who needs a wheelchair obviously has medical issues, for example, pelvic and hip problems, back trouble, respiratory problems, or pressure sores. 

Whatever the situation, you do not want to choose a chair that will exacerbate those problems or cause others. Where you plan to use the wheelchair can also affect your decision. Indoors, outdoors, or both.

Some wheelchair manufacturers will provide tech support to help you choose the right chair. You can always ask a physical or occupational therapist to measure the user and give advice about your choices.

To begin with, many decisions can be answered with a tape measure.

Here is a list of 7 essential measurements to guide you in your search for the Best-Fit Wheelchair.

 #1 – Select the Seat Size.

  • The seat width of a wheelchair is determined by measuring across from hip to hip in a straight line, then add 2 inches to that measurement. Don’t get a wheelchair that is too tight to sit in comfortably.
  • The seat depth is also necessary. Seat depth should be indicated by measuring from the back of the hip to the back of the knee of the user when seated. Subtract one inch from this measurement.

#2 – Determine Arm Height and Type.

  • If the wheelchair user might stand up to do transfers, he will require a full-length arm on the chair to help support him as he pushes off to stand. Choose a standard full-length arm for this.
  • If the user would like to sit at tables and desks while seated in his wheelchair, then use the shorter desk-length arms on the wheelchair.
  • Determine the height of the wheelchair’s arm by measuring from the elbow to the chair’s seat. The height of the arm on most wheelchairs can be adjusted. At the same time, the user holds their arms up with their elbows bent at a ninety-degree angle.

#3 – Choose a Footrest Style.              

  • Some users will want to elevate their legs if they have swelling or wear a brace or cast. Determine the footrest length by measuring from the back of the knee to the foot’s heel. For a tall user, consider using articulating leg rests, extending as the leg rest’s elevating portion rises.

#4 – Select the Back Height.

  • A taller back will be needed if the patient needs extra support for his trunk. Determine the measurement from the patient’s collarbone down to the seat while the user sits in a chair. Caregiver-Aid offers several lightweight wheelchair ramps and articles on choosing your new ramp.

#5 – Decide Your Floor to Seat Height.

  • Will the user be using his feet to propel himself or move? Measure the distance between the back of the knee to the heel to determine the seat-to-floor height.

#6 – Wheelchair Weight Limit.

  • Every wheelchair will have a “weight capacity” listed in the product description. Make sure the chair you choose has adequate capacity for the person who intends to use it.

#7 – Determine Wheelchair Weight.

  • Consider the level of upper body strength of the user. Weaker patients require lighter wheelchairs. The user must be able to propel the wheelchair without straining.

After you’ve acquired your best-fit wheelchair, you may find that a cushion could help with the user’s position.

If you are still unsure about certain options or question what is best for the user, seek help from a medical professional. A physical therapist or an occupational therapist would be able to evaluate the user to help obtain the best-fit wheelchair.

In summary

For optimal wheelchair selection, it’s critical to consider the medical condition of the user, where the chair will be utilized and their individual preferences. 

Vital details like seat size, arm height and type, footrest style, back height, floor-seat height and weight capacity would require a tape measure. 

It’s also essential to evaluate the upper body strength of the person and in some cases, consult a healthcare expert to guarantee the perfect fit. For additional comfort once acquired, don’t forget to purchase a cushion.