High-Backed vs. Low-Backed Manual Wheelchairs

Wheelchair backs are designed differently to suit individual needs. An important aspect about backs that are used on manual wheelchairs is the height. You may have wheelchairs with the same back but in different heights. Clinicians will examine your wheelchair needs and determine what kind of back you need, for example, low, medium, or high. If you are wondering which height of back support for manual wheelchairs you need, then you may want to know how height relates to the function of the wheelchair . You also need to find out whether you should consider a low-backed or high-backed manual wheelchair.

Purposes of Backrest

A wheelchair backrest helps to support the pelvis and trunk and allows movement of an individual’s thoracic area. Backrest also provides lateral support as well as a mounting attachment area for the headrest. In addition, backrest allows for pressure distribution to prevent peak pressure within the spine. A backrest should be able to promote an individual’s upright posture and ensure proper respiration. It should also ensure the user is able to propel the wheelchair with ease. Backrest support cannot solely determine the seating posture, the seat cushion needs to be looked at too since the two jointly work to affect a person’s posture while seated on their wheelchair.

Back Height and Body Function

Manufacturers provide different heights for wheelchair backs so that they correspond to the varying needs among clients. Take for example, taller backs provide more support, but they can limit or interfere with the function of the trunk as well as upper extremity. Also, taller backs affect the ability of the manual wheelchair user to self propel efficiently. The height of the back of a manually operated wheelchair correlates to the amount of support a client needs. This therefore means that the back height of wheelchairs reflects the severity or level of the involvement of the client.

Low-Backed Wheelchairs

If, for instance, a patient has low-thoracic spine injury, the back may not go above the lumbar spine meaning the client needs low-backed wheelchair. A low backrest allows good range of motion for the upper extremity. It also allows some trunk rotation. Low-backed wheelchairs are preferred for patients who have low-thoracic spinal cord injuries because they have good balance in their trunk so they need less support.

Tall or High-Backed Wheelchairs

High or tall backs give a more intensive support, so they are a choice for people needing that kind of assistance. High backs can be as high as the shoulder of the client and they can accommodate additional support for the lateral trunk and headrests in patients who need these kinds of assistance.

Other Considerations for High vs. Low-Backed Wheelchairs

In addition to the functional and clinical considerations that determine the back height options, users need to look at other factors when determining the height to pick. For instance, transportation issues can help determine the height to go for. If a person will be using a wheelchair as a seat when in a vehicle, a higher backrest may work better because it accommodates a chest harness and other passenger-restrain system.

When choosing between high and low-backed wheelchairs, different things come into play. A doctor should provide clinical advise on which height of the backrest is appropriate for an individual. A patient should work closely with their therapy team to determine the right height for the backrest that meets their individual needs.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.