We can all agree that most seats are not as comfortable as they should be. Whether you’re at a sporting event or your workplace, seats seem to be designed by people who have little sympathy for those who must ensure long periods in a seated position. Sitting for months or years? That could cause distress and severely affect your quality of life according to recent studies.
Over the years, seat cushions have been proven essential to people of all ages. Whether you’re driving, watching a movie, traveling on a plane, or working at your desk, you’d surely appreciate a cushioned seat over a hard wood or steel chair.
Not surprisingly, cushioning is of paramount importance to those who have to move around in a wheelchair. Flat and hard surfaces, even those with padding, can put pressure on your buttocks, legs, tailbone, and spine. It is not uncommon for people who have to sit for several hours to experience neck pain, pinched nerves, tight muscles, back pain, and other orthopedic conditions. More seriously, you could suffer from improper spine alignment and decreased blood circulation.
THE REVIEW: Best Gel Cushions for Wheelchair 2019
If you spend most of your day in a wheelchair, you have to address two major concerns: comfort and skin integrity. Without the proper cushion, you could develop chronic pain from poor posture and pressure ulcers from skin tears.
Wheelchair cushions are specifically designed to help people sit comfortably with proper body positioning. These pads are available in a wide variety of materials, sizes, and shapes suited for different needs.
Here are 6 of the best gel cushions you can buy for your wheelchair in 2019!
Vive Wheelchair Cushion
This gel seat pad from Vive is designed for orthopedic back support as well as relief from sciatica and tailbone pain. Four layers of support and comfort prevent pressure sores and ulcers, with a waterproof cover that is easy to clean.
- Comfort and Relief
The Vive wheelchair cushion offers the perfect balance of foam support and contouring gel for all-day comfort while sitting long hours.
- Dynamic Fluid Core
Unlike standard foam cushions that merely provide a thin layer of padding, the dynamic liquid gel in the core allows the cushion to distribute pressure evenly across the contact surface. The Vive gel cushion for wheelchairs moves the pressure away from sensitive regions like the coccyx and tailbone.
- 4-Layer Support
The top layer is a soft, luxurious water-resistant cover that is machine-washable. Next is a waterproof seal that keeps moisture away from the foam. The third layer provides all-day comfort from support foam that will not flatten under your weight. The final layer at the bottom is a dynamic gel core that distributes pressure evenly.
- Easy Cleaning
With a removable cover, you can quickly clean spills as they happen. Just dump the zipped fabric into the washing machine and dry.
- Optimal Size
The Vive wheelchair cushion measures 18″ long, 16″ wide, and 2.5″ thick – perfect for standard wheelchairs. It is large enough to cover the entire chair yet small enough to carry from seat to seat.
FOMI Premium All Gel Orthopedic Seat Cushion
This orthopedic seat cushion from FOMI offers ultimate gel comfort that relieves pressure sores and prevents sweaty bottoms.
- Advanced Weight Dispersal Technology
The FOMI all-gel cushion provides ultimate support and pressure relief from advanced column-buckling technology that disperses your body weight evenly. This unique soft elastic gel structure also increases air circulation to help cool you down during hot weather.
- Relieves Pain from a Variety of Medical Conditions
Aside from making sitting comfortable, the FOMI seat cushion is designed to alleviate pain caused by a variety of issues – from coccyx bruising, to lumbar strain and sciatica, to degenerative spinal disc disorders.
- Lasts a Very Long Time
The FOMI wheelchair cushion is resilient and can last you a lifetime. Made of medical-grade gel, it won’t lose its shape even after prolonged use. It will continue to provide the same support even when used for long sitting periods.
- Highly Portable with Carry Handles
Each FOMI cushion has a pair of carry handles for easy transport between your wheelchair, car, office, airplane, ball game, and anywhere you want to take your FOMI with you. The nonslip friction bead grip at the bottom keeps the cushion in place.
- Easy to Clean
The zippered cover around the FOMI cushion is removable so you can easily wash away dust and dirt.
Kieba Coccyx Seat Cushion
This cool gel memory foam seat is the perfect protection for your tailbone, spine, lower back, and sciatic areas.
- Maximum Comfort and Relief from Superior Memory Foam
The Kieba coccyx seat cushion is made of orthopedic memory foam layered with soothing gel for maximum comfort and relief for any wheelchair. The gel-enhanced technology stabilizes temperature by dispersing trapped body heat and relieving pressure points. The unique U-shape of the Kieba relieves pain and tension in your lower back, tailbone, hip, and sciatic areas while promoting good posture, proper spine alignment, and healthy weight distribution.
- Firm Density Keeps the Cushion in Shape
Made of 100% premium therapeutic grade memory foam combined with gel, the Kieba coccyx seat cushion will not flatten out from prolonged use like other cushions. The nonslip bottom keeps the cushion in place, so it does not shift or slide on any surface.
- Easy to Clean
Protecting the cushion is a breathable, machine-washable velour cover that can be removed from the rear zipper for easy cleaning.
Xtreme Comforts Large Seat Cushion
The XF extra-large seat cushion provides more coverage for dissipating pressure while conforming to the shape of your body. It is firm enough for ample support but soft enough for comfortable sitting for long hours.
- 2-Layer Foam System
The Xtreme Comforts wheelchair cushion does not create pressure on your tailbone like many hard seat pads do. Designed with a two-layer foam system, the cushion will never go flat. The density remains uniform and conforms to your body shape for the relief of lower back pain, numbness, and tailbone pressure due to prolonged sitting.
- Extra Large Space
Measuring 19″ long, 17.5″ wide, and 3.5″ thick, the Xtreme cushion provides plenty of room and fits almost any seating surface.
- Breathable and Easy to Wash
Around the cushion is a zippered mesh cover that is removable and machine washable. The fabric delivers superior breathability to keep you cool while you sit while standing sturdy against everyday abuse.
- Nonslip Bottom and Carry Handles
The non-skid bottom holds the cushion in place even on slippery seating surfaces. With special carry handles, the Xtreme cushion is convenient to carry from your wheelchair to the dining room, couch, patio, or computer desk. You can even take it with you to sporting events for sitting on hard benches and the bleachers.
Tektrum Thick Orthopedic Cool Gel Seat Cushion
This orthopedic cool gel seat cushion reduces pressure from sitting for long hours in a wheelchair. It can also help relieve back pain, sciatica, and post-operative pain. The premium foam and gel material provide pressure relief and support for years.
- Ergonomic Design
High-density foam is layered with soft gel on top to effectively distribute body pressure and provide excellent support in the spine and tailbone areas. The gel core keeps its shape and never deforms even after prolonged sitting. The cover material made of breathable, low shear neoprene combined with cooling vents keeps you comfortable in your seat all day.
- Pain Relief
The Tektrum orthopedic seat cushion helps eliminate pressure in the tailbone area for relief of back pain, sciatica, tailbone injuries, pelvic pain, and hemorrhoids.
- Easy to Clean
The cover of the Tektrum orthopedic seat cushion is water-resistant and anti-microbial. To clean the seat pad, just wipe with a damp cloth.
ComfiLife Gel Enhanced Seat Cushion
The ComfiLife gel-enhanced orthopedic seat cushion is a great way to prevent back pain when sitting all day. It reduces pressure on the tailbone with its cut-out rear design. The ergonomic contour also promotes proper spinal alignment and good posture while helping you recover from spinal problems, herniated discs, sciatica, and other back injuries.
- Turn your wheelchair into a premium seat
The ComfiLife coccyx cushion is made of premium quality high-density memory foam topped with a cooling gel layer for superior comfort. Designed with your ultimate comfort in mind, this seat pad has a non-slip rubber bottom to ensure minimal to no movement.
- Portable and easy to clean
The soft zippered velour cover is machine-washable for easy cleaning of spills and sweat. With a built-in handle, the lightweight ComfiLife cushion is ready for transport anytime.
Types of Wheelchair Cushions
There are four basic types of wheelchair cushions.
The most common type of wheelchair cushions is made of foam. They provide a stable seating surface and are lightweight, affordable, and easy to maintain. Foam cushions often come in custom shapes for added comfort when sitting in a mobility chair.
The main issue with foam cushions is that they tend to compress rather easily. As a result, they lose their shape and wear out more quickly than other types of wheelchair cushions. You probably have to replace your foam cushions around two to three times each year.
Gel-type cushions are typically built with a foam base and a top layer filled with gel fluid. When placed on a wheelchair, gel cushions evenly distribute your body pressure, so they provide excellent comfort, support, and flexibility.
There are three disadvantages of gel cushions:
- They are not very effective at absorbing shock
- They are heavier than other types of cushions
- They are prone to bottoming out as the gel is pushed aside by your weight
Knead the cushion once a day to spread the gel evenly and prevent it from bottoming out.
Air cushions have small interconnected balloons arranged in rows that are designed to spread body pressure for maximum relief. These wheelchair cushions support your weight entirely by air.
Unfortunately, you need to inflate air cushions to keep pressure properly balanced regularly. They are also not recommended for active users.
Honeycomb cushions are made from thermoplastic urethane – a material that absorbs shock well and evenly distributes weight. It can also increase airflow to keep you cool and comfortable.
The main drawback to honeycomb cushions is the price. They typically cost more than the other three types of wheelchair cushions. Honeycomb cushions also tend to lose their shock absorption capability over time.
Why choose gel wheelchair cushions?
Gels are elastomeric polymers that are capable of stretching in all directions – great for pressure distribution.
Some of the benefits of choosing gel wheelchair cushions include:
- Superior comfort
- Distributes pressure evenly
- Capable of supporting loads up to 500 pounds – perfect for bariatric wheelchairs
- Conforms to the shape of your body
- Protects delicate skin
- Helps stabilize seating position
- Provides support to bones and joints when atrophied muscles are no longer able to
- Takes the pressure off the spine for good posture
- Can be customized with supplemental adduction or abduction inserts to stabilize and secure the legs
- Cools down body temperature
- Sturdy and durable
Benefits of adding a wheelchair cushion
Cushions are no longer considered a luxury item. It is an essential addition to any wheelchair!
Seat comfortably. Fold-up chairs, in particular, do not provide proper support from a sling style seat. If you had to move around in the hospital in one of these, you know how uncomfortable it is on your back and butt. With wheelchair cushions, there is less muscle strain and leg pain.
Prevent pressure sores. Bones pressing against muscle over a long period without any movement or change in position could lead to pressure sores. This condition is common when patients lie in bed for days – sores form on the thighs, tailbone, and buttocks. People who use wheelchairs are also at risk for pressure sores.
Improve posture. Wheelchair cushions can help keep your spine in proper alignment, so you do not develop bad posture from sciatic pain or chronic back pain.
Choosing the right wheelchair cushion
Wheelchair cushions are supposed to support your back and butt all day. Choosing the wrong one can lead to potential spinal cord injuries.
If you are looking for a wheelchair seat cushion, you need to pay attention to the following:
- Medical requirements
- Seat stability
- Pressure management
From the results of your medical examination, your doctor will be able to diagnose the current status of your health including body symmetry, balance and coordination, posture, cognition, and skin texture. Musculoskeletal analysis of your head and neck can determine what type of wheelchair cushion is best for you.
Another important consideration when choosing a wheelchair cushion is your daily activities. Are you going to spend the whole day sitting? Do you need a wheelchair cushion for traveling from Point A to Point B? Do you plan to stay active and participate in wheelchair basketball? The wheelchair cushion you choose should match the purpose it will serve.
Things to consider when purchasing gel wheelchair cushions
Not all gel cushions are created equal. Before you make a purchase, take into consideration the factors below.
Wheelchairs come in different sizes and so do seat cushions. Make sure you are not buying one that is too big or too small for you. To find the right size, measure the seat width of your wheelchair from the outside edge of the upholstery and then front to back along the side rail.
If you weigh 300 pounds, choose a gel cushion with the same weight capacity. Wheelchair cushions that are designed for lighter individuals may feel comfortable at first but are highly unlikely to last long. Bariatric wheelchairs must have gel cushions that are capable of holding up to a weight of 500 to 700 pounds.
Some gel cushions are flat while others have contoured surfaces. These are designed to fit specific mobility and positioning needs.
Flat gel cushions offer ample support for individuals who can freely move their body with minimal assistance. A contoured design can help maintain good posture for people who are unable to move unassisted.
- Safety features
Some gel cushions have straps while others have non-skid bottoms. Whatever you choose, the most important thing to consider is that your cushion is safe and secure in your wheelchair.
While the gel fluid inside the cushion is constant, the exterior can vary in material. Choose a wheelchair cushion that is easy to clean – preferably with a washable cover. If the patient has incontinence or excessive sweating issues, select a cushion top layer that is breathable and waterproof.
When shopping for wheelchair seat cushions, make sure they are able to:
- Provide maximum comfort and relief
- Prevent sores or bruises from pressure points
- Keep you cool all day
- Wick away moisture
- Reduce friction
- Absorb vibration and shock
Of the six products we listed above, we think that the Kieba Coccyx Seat Cushion meets these factors. With the user’s comfort and durability in mind, this wheelchair cushion was designed to be highly functional and to last for many years.
Nonetheless, there are plenty of wheelchair seat cushions on the market, each one offering distinct benefits and drawbacks. Consult your doctor to determine the best type of cushion for your needs.