In this article, we review wheelchairs for scoliosis. You can look at the quick snapshot below or scroll down for in-depth reviews.
There are multiple conditions and diseases which may lead you to use a wheelchair. However, some of these conditions require a specialized wheelchair or at least some bit of improvisation for better comfort. Scoliosis is one such condition in which you will have to work towards a more comfortable life in your wheelchair.
What is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis disease is a condition in which the human backbone is curved sideways – usually in the shape of the letter ‘C’ or ‘S’. If the patient’s condition is stable, the curve will stay the same and she may not even be required to sit on a wheelchair; in case of deterioration in sclerosis, the degree of the curve increases over time.
Scoliosis can develop in children in their growth phase, while adults may suffer from the condition in their later life. It impacts six to nine million people in the US alone.
Scoliosis is often a secondary problem and a byproduct of a muscle or neurological disease. It can often be caused by muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, or severe brain injury. However, in the majority of cases, the cause of scoliosis is unknown.
Here we have a video that explains more what is scoliosis.
Symptoms of Scoliosis
Scoliosis can cause visible deformities like uneven shoulders or uneven hips or a bump in the lower back, depending upon the stage and severity of scoliosis.
As the spine curves, it can brush against nearby nerves and cause pain or a numb feeling in the back or the legs. Feelings of tiredness, weakness, breathlessness, and trouble in walking are also often reported as symptoms of scoliosis.
Patients with scoliosis have to be wheelchair-bound, only if the pain is too much to bear and maintaining a correct posture standing up is not possible.
That being said, since scoliosis is often a secondary problem, depending on the severity and nature of your primary problem, you may need to use a wheelchair, even when you have mild case of scoliosis.
How to Maintain Good Posture if you have Scoliosis?
Maintaining the correct posture helps to prevent scoliosis from getting worse. Good posture includes the way you stand, walk, sit, and sleep.
While in this article, we are mainly going to discuss the best practices to be maintained while sitting in the wheelchair, you should take care to maintain good posture habits during the day and at night while sleeping.
Unfortunately, if you are suffering from scoliosis, you will find it difficult to maintain a good posture for long, but you must take up the challenge.
If you are maintaining good posture while standing, you are basically spreading out your entire body weight evenly across all joints. This means that your hips and shoulders should be level, your neck straight and not tilting to one side and your knees locked and straight.
While sleeping, you must ensure that your bed is not too low and is at least a couple of feet from the ground.
You should try and sleep on a side in a fetal position, with a pillow wedged between your legs, and under your ribs a rolled towel, the thickness of which will depend on the curvature of the spine and the severity of scoliosis.
Take a firm pillow which will not put stress on your shoulders.
If possible, limit your phone and screen time. The image below depicts the additional load that prolonged phone usage puts on your spine.
How to Sit in a Wheelchair with Scoliosis?
Finally, since we assume that you will be spending the majority of your waking hours sitting, a good sitting posture consumes a lot less energy and helps you recuperate faster from normal wear and tear, during your sleep. This, in turn, prevents scoliosis from turning more severe.
The idea is to evenly spread body weight as much as possible and relieve the neck and back from carrying extra weight. Ensure that the seat is firm (you should not sink into your cushion), and the depth of the seat is enough to rest your buttocks and the entire thigh muscles.
You should also see to it that you are not leaning forward while sitting. Try and bring your shoulders back and expand your chest muscles as far as comfortably possible, unless you are typing or holding and try and avoid a hunched-up posture.
This will automatically reduce stress on the spine and with good lumbar support your spine will get proper rest while sitting.
You should also support your feet on the footrest (mandatory for a wheelchair) and place your arms on the armrests, which further helps to spread out the bodyweight across your limbs.
Finally, you must always remember to have your neck straight and your head looking right in front. Prolonged tilting of neck or head leads to stressed-out neck muscles.
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What to Look for in a Wheelchair if you have Scoliosis?
If you or your loved one is suffering from scoliosis, your choice of a wheelchair should be driven by the ability of the user to maintain a good posture and being able to move around with minimal effort.
- Seat and seat cushions: These are important considerations. Your seat should be deep enough for your height, so that your entire body, from the buttocks to the knees, gets support from the seat. You must ensure that the cushions are firm, or else you will not be able to maintain the correct posture while sitting.
- Design of backrest: Consider buying a wheelchair that has good back support, especially ones with ergonomic design, to align with the natural curve of the human spine.
- Headrest: The presence of headrest enables you to rest your neck muscles from time to time.
- Manual or electric: If your wheelchair is manual you are going to have to hire a caregiver to move you around. It is not advisable to self-propel a wheelchair when you are suffering from scoliosis. Too much upper body workout may aggravate your situation. If you purchase a power wheelchair, you will be free to move around on your own
- Weight of your wheelchair: Having said the above, there may be instances where you have no choice but to self-propel your chair. Which is why it is advisable to buy as lightweight a wheelchair as possible. It will make your care-giver’s life easier as well.
- Laptop or book rest: Finally, if you are anticipating that you would have to work for long on your laptop while sitting in the wheelchair, you should consider getting a laptop tray affixed to your wheelchair so that you do not end up keeping the device on your lap and being hunched up over it. Very few wheelchairs come with a pre-fit laptop or food tray and you may want to attach one separately to your wheelchair.
While we have reviewed some power and some self-propelled wheelchairs below, we recommend that you hire a caregiver to move your wheelchair. You may also want to consult your physician to understand the risks of self-propelling a manual wheelchair.
#1 Karman Ergonomic Ultra Lightweight Wheelchair
This manual wheelchair is extremely light at slightly under 20 lbs and has a maximum weight carrying capacity of 220 lbs. The model comes with hand brakes for the companion and its ergonomic design is expected to reduce the chances of pressure sores from long use.
- Attendant brakes make it easier for a caregiver to stop the chair
- Ergonomically designed seat and backrest to provide greater comfort to scoliosis patients
- Easy to fold and carry around as also to store in the back of a car
- Comes fully assembled and you just have to install the footrests
- Sufficient seat depth to support your entire lower body till the knees
- Available in two seat sizes of 16 (D) x 17 (W) inches and 17 (D) x 18 (W) inches
- No model available for seat width of more than 18 inches. You may want to get in touch with customer care to find out whether they can get you a larger model
- Not suitable for heavy users; weight capacity is up to 220 lbs
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#2 Karman Healthcare S-115 Ergonomic Wheelchair
This is a self-propelled lightweight wheelchair, at just 25 lbs. The maximum weight carrying capacity of the chair is 250 lbs. The chair is designed ergonomically to align to natural body curves. This helps in better support and a comfortable ride.
- The model with seat width of 18 inches has seat depth of 17 inches, sufficient to support your entire lower body till knees
- The seat and back rest upholstery are easy to remove and clean
- Ergonomic design gives getter support to your back
- Full length armrests are densely padded, helping you to distribute body weight on elbows
- Available in three seat sizes of 16, 18 and 20 inches; overall width of wheelchair is narrow enough to pass through standard doorways
- No headrest; you may want to separately buy a headrest and attach it to the back handles
- Smaller front tires; If you lean forward to adjust the footrests, the chair may tip over till it gets supported by the footrests; Install a seat belt for better safety
- Not suitable for heavy users
#3 Forcemech Voyager R2 Power Wheelchair
The Forcemech Voyager R2 model is one of the most lightweight power wheelchairs available in the market. It weighs only 45 lbs including the batteries. The wheelchair is made to carry up to a maximum weight of 265 lbs.
The joystick control may be a bit sensitive, to begin with, but it can be adjusted from the panel. The device takes about 6 – 8 hours to fully charge its 2 rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. The batteries do not run together, when one runs low, the wheelchair has the option to switch to the second battery.
- Long battery life of up to 16 miles on full charge, including both batteries, suitable for traveling long distances
- Lightweight and easy to fold and travel with
- Durable wheelchair offering good ride quality
- Rear reflective lights for extra visibility during night-time
- Solid wheels with metal alloy rim lends good support to the entire structure
- Good 24×7 customer support
- Height of the wheelchair is comparably bit lower, and it may be inconvenient to get into the wheelchair for a scoliosis patient, depending upon the height of the user
- Might be slow to start and pick up pace with heavier weights
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#4 Invacare Tracer SX5 Recliner Wheelchair
This is a self-propelled wheelchair with full back support and headrest for better comfort. The wheelchair backrest can be reclined fully across a range of 90 to 180 degrees. The chair weighs 70 lbs and the maximum weight that it can carry is 250 lbs.
- Full back reclining support and headrest provides better lumbar and neck muscle support
- Anti-tipper wheels add to wheelchair safety features and prevent it from tipping backward
- Full-length armrests can be flipped back for easier access to the wheelchair seat
- Calf muscle padding offers comfort during long rides
- Hand brakes at the back of the headrest help the caregiver to have more control over the wheelchair
- You may want to add a firm cushion to the wheelchair for better comfort; the wheelchair seat does not come with any cushioning
- Not a lightweight chair, at 70 lbs
- Not suitable for tall users, as seat depth is 16 inches
#5 Karman Healthcare Tilt Recliner Wheelchair
The tilt recliner manual wheelchair is very lightweight at just 38 lbs and is made of aircraft grade aluminum. It has full back support and a headrest. The chair can be tilted to 35 degree angle for weight redistribution to lower back to prevent pressure sores from developing during extended period of use. The maximum weight carrying capacity of the wheelchair is 250 lbs.
- The curve on the backrest and firm cushioning makes the wheelchair very comfortable for scoliosis patients
- The headrest is removable for better flexibility
- Anti-tipper anchors help support the weight of the wheelchair in the tilted position
- Hand brakes present at the back of the headrest helps attendant to have better control
- Full-length armrests allow distribution of weight across the body
- Armrests can be flipped backward to provide easy access to seat
- Wheelchair seat depth is 16 inches and is not suitable for taller users
- Cost is on the higher side for a manual wheelchair
- You may want to add to the seat cushioning; wheelchair comes with thin cushions
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#6 Electric Wheelchair with Headrest by A&DW
This is a power wheelchair with full back support and removable headrest, full armrests, adjustable foot supports, and calf muscle padding. The product is powered by dual-motor technology (2 x 250 W motors) and runs on 2 lithium-ion batteries
- Full back support which can be fully reclined to 180 degrees for better flexibility and support for scoliosis patients
- Removable headrest for relaxing your neck muscles
- Anti-tipper wheels will prevent the wheelchair from tipping over backward
- Hand brakes behind headrest lend better control to care giver
- Full-length armrests that can be flipped back up to provide easy access to the wheelchair seat
- Large rear tires provide better support to wheelchair structure
- Easy switching between manual and electronic modes
- Good cushioning available on seat and backrest for better comfort
- Suitable for heavy users with a maximum weight carrying capacity at 330 lbs
- No laptop tray for working on the wheelchair
- The Wheelchair is comparatively heavier at about 80 lbs with batteries
#7 Drive Medical Viper Plus GT Full Reclining Wheelchair
The wheelchair weighs under 49 lbs and has a seating weight limit of 300 lbs. The product has hand brakes for attendants. This is a full reclining self-propelled device that is at the higher end in terms of price.
The seat depth can be adjusted up to 2 inches to make room for taller users. The back height is also adjustable from 17 inches to 19 inches at 1 inch interval.
- Taller users can extend the seat depth by 2 inches to get a better fit on the wheelchair. Alternatively, if you do not need an extension you can still use the extra depth for some extra cushioning
- The armrests can be flipped back for easier access to the seat
- Durable upholstery and wheelchair material
- Hand brake gives greater control to the caregiver
- Wheel locks are conveniently located, so that you may reach them easily from your seat
- Height adjustable feature of backrest is beneficial if the wheelchair is being used by two people in the same household.
- Seat cushioning could have been thicker for greater comfort. You may want to add separate cushioning
- Footrests are not fully adjustable, may cause discomfort at some degrees of incline
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In our opinion, Karman Ergonomic Ultra Lightweight Wheelchair is the best wheelchair for scoliosis if you are looking for a manual option. If you are looking for electric wheelchairs, Forcemech Voyager R2 Power Wheelchair is our top wheelchair for scoliosis.
A wheelchair is a great investment if you are suffering from scoliosis pain and are not able to walk or stand maintaining a good posture. It lets you conserve a lot of energy and allows you to go about your work.
Once you have bought and gotten used to your wheelchair (may require a few improvised adjustments here and there), you are sure to find a new lease of life. Having said this, you must make sure to complete your physiotherapy sessions which are extremely important for you to be able to return to your normal life.