Choosing the Correct Cushion – Increasing Your Quality of Life

Choosing the Correct Cushion – Increasing Your Quality of Life

When it comes to buying a cushion for your wheelchair, car or home; comfort should be your first concern with price a close second. wholesale cushions uk More than ten name brand manufacturers and a large number of local custom shops combine to offer thousands of styles and sizes of cushions allowing the buyer nearly unlimited flexibility with pricing and fit.

The first aspects of buying a cushion the consumer should investigate are the necessary dimensions. There are three initial dimensions that will help narrow down ones choice; the width, depth and height/thickness. These dimensions are typically measured in inches; for example a standard size wheelchair cushion is 18 inches wide by 16 inches deep and 2 inches high – 18″ W x 16″ D x 2″ H. While cushions can be made any size by custom shops, they typically range from 16″ to 24″ wide, 16″ to 22″ deep and 1″ to 6″ high.

The surface in which the cushion will rest should be measured to help determine the width and depth of the cushion that should be ordered. If the cushion is to be used on multiple surfaces; for example in a car and on a wheelchair, the smaller surface of the two should be measured. To determine the height, or thickness, the consumer must consider several factors. If the cushion is to be used on a wheelchair and the individual typically uses their feet to propel themselves, they will want a lower profile cushion so they may still reach the ground with their feet. The drawback with a low profile cushion is less foam for cushioning. However, this can be offset by the use of specialty foams and gel; while a bit more expensive, they cushion more effectively than standard foam while reducing the overall height.

Once the dimensions of the cushion are determined, it is time to consider its ultimate function. Most will need a cushion to do basically just what its name implies, provide relief to one’s bottom-side. There are many more reasons why a cushion could be needed including: Coccyx (tailbone) relief, pressure sore prevention, stabilization and spinal relief to name a few.

The inner workings of a cushion determine its effectiveness for its intended purpose. Cushions will use foam, water, gel and air, or a combination thereof to serve their purpose. The most common and least expensive form of cushions is foam. There are three types of foam to consider when buying a cushion; convoluted (egg-crate), standard and memory (visco-elastic) foam. Convoluted foam cushions have the egg-crate look to them and typically do not have a cover; they are the least expensive form of cushion selling for roughly $5-$10. Standard foam cushions have been the norm for decades; standard foam comes in a variety of densities and priced reasonably in the $30-$40 range. The latest in foam technology is memory foam, otherwise known as visco-elastic foam. Memory foam supports all point of contact from the body versus just the significant pressure points as with standard foam. This dispersion of pressure, while a bit more expensive in the $75 to $190 range, has led to memory foams quick growth in popularity.

As previously mentioned, the standard foam cushion has been the choice for decades but as cushions have evolved, gel cushions have taken the lead. While not quite as effective as memory foam, gel cushions, with a price range of $30 to $55, outperform standard foam cushions for overall comfort and won’t hit the checkbook as hard as memory foam. When considering a gel cushion there are three options: foam encased gel, gel filled, and gel pockets. Foam encased gel cushions typically have different densities of foam encasing a gel bladder. One of the more popular gel cushions has a layer of firm foam, then a layer of gel and finally layer of soft foam; this gives the user flexibility in choosing to sit on the soft or firm side of the cushion. Gel filled cushions use gel only as a cushioning property. Gel pocket cushions offer pockets of gel on top of a foam cushion. These pockets are positioned at the pressure points to protect against shear and friction.

Water filled cushions are a less expensive alternative to gel cushions and offer the added benefit of using heated or cooled water for comfort and therapy.

Air cushions are the cushions of choice for long term use and pressure sore reduction. Individuals confined to a wheelchair benefit from a premium cushion as a jogger benefits from an excellent pair of shoes. As with any premium product, they come at a premium price ($250 to $300). However, air cushions make a strong argument for the statement “you get what you pay for” and are instrumental in increasing ones quality of life. Common features with air cushions are multiple zones and cell reduction for ultimate comfort and relief. Multiple zones allow for varied levels of pressure to contour to the body while cell reduction allows for coccyx relief and better alignment of the spine.

Depending on the style of cushion that is selected, there are a few other options to consider. They are: flat cushions, coccyx relief, contoured, wedge, abductor, solid base and no-slip. Most options are available or can be standard with many cushions. However, a custom cushion may be necessary to match the needs of the consumer.

Flat cushions are the most common, flat on top and flat on bottom. Coccyx relief cushions have a cutout ranging in size where your coccyx (tailbone) rests. Contoured cushions have a slightly rounded bottom from left to right; this allows the cushion to sit on a sling seat (slightly sags) of a wheelchair and the top of the cushion remains level. Wedge cushions are commonly used to keep the user from sliding forward out of their chair. The wedge is typically 2″ to 3″ from the lowest at the back of the cushion to tallest at the front. Abductor cushions utilize a sewn in abduction pad which protrudes up between the legs. The abductor prevents the user from sliding forward without the need of a wedge cushion. The last option to consider, and one of the most important, is the use of a no-slip base. Many cushions have ties at the back, and if the cushion is not meant to be transferred to a different location, that works well. However, a no-slip material sewn to the bottom of the cushion, or a cover made with no-slip material, keeps the cushion from sliding around and can still be easily transferred to another location.


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