As you become accustomed to your wheelchair, over a period, you start spending more and more time on it. This is particularly true if you would need help from your caregiver to transfer you from the wheelchair to the bed or the sofa and then vice versa.
After a while, you may feel more comfortable in your wheelchair and you would not mind spending more time on it. After all, you stay mobile as long as you stay on a wheelchair.
But longer wheelchair use requires you to invest in some accessories as well which will make your life more comfortable – like a wheelchair headrest.
Wheelchair Headrests and their Utility
While the type of such accessories greatly depends on the wheelchair that you have purchased, a few examples include better cushions for your seat and back, seat covers, extra padding for armrests, a glass or cup holder, a bag to carry the items of your necessity or a headrest, which is the subject of this article.
Your wheelchair should mandatorily have a headrest if you are progressively spending more time on it. It is important to maintain a proper physical gait or posture on the wheelchair and an effective headrest goes a long way to help you achieve that.
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Do You Need a Wheelchair Headrest?
The average weight of the human head is 10 – 11 lbs and that is a lot of weight for your neck muscles to constantly bear during the day. This is all the more true if you are suffering from a disability that leads to paralysis (partial or full) or muscle weakness.
The head exerts pressure on the vertebral column and decompresses it during your waking hours. Therefore, it is beneficial to attach a headrest to your wheelchair, so that you can rest your head for a while and reduce the stress on your neck muscles and spine.
Further, if you are in the habit of taking short naps on your wheelchair, you cannot do without a headrest, even if your wheelchair has long back support that stretches and covers your head as well.
Headrests are often curved and provide a cradle for your head, preventing your head from rolling off in your sleep or if you suffer from muscle weakness.
On the other hand, if you use your wheelchair sparingly and do not anticipate longer use in the future, you may very well stay without a headrest.
Your wheelchair may have come with a headrest in which case you may be already enjoying the extra comfort that a headrest provides.
However, if you are looking to buy one separately, below are some of the considerations that you need to keep in mind before making a buying decision.
The video below shows how to adjust a headrest pad.
What Do You Need to Look at While Buying a Headrest?
- Height adjustability: Your head position will depend a lot on your height and it is important for you to be able to adjust the height of your headrest to make it as comfortable for you as possible. Some headrests can be readily adjusted by a nut and bolt mechanism. Others, which are not adjustable, need to be installed the first time, keeping in mind the height of the user. Some models will allow you to adjust the depth and angle of the headrest as well for greater flexibility and comfort.
- Ease of installation: Your headrest should be easy to install. Preferably, it should be one that can fit a wide range of wheelchairs. And, you ideally should not be doing more than just affixing a few nuts and bolts to attach it to your wheelchair. In some cases, headrests also come with a strap and buckle, but generally their adjustment capabilities are less.
- Cushion on the headrest: This is important for your comfort and the cushion should not be too firm or too soft, which may cause you discomfort.
- Curve of headrest: Often the curve of the headrest is adjustable so that all you can quickly find a comfortable shape, as per your head size and the posture that you would want to maintain. A curve is not adjustable, you must carefully select the size of the headrest so that it is not too large for your head. A headrest which is too large may not be able to do a good job of supporting your head.
- Compatibility with your wheelchair: You would not want to be in a position where your ordered item does not fit your wheelchair. And therefore, it is essential that you double check that your headrest will be compatible with your wheelchair. If possible, you can also call the customer care of the selling company to make sure.
Below we have reviewed a few headrests which are available in the market.
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#1 Drive Medical Multi Axis Headrest
The product attaches to the wheelchair with screws and can be adjusted for height, depth, and angle. The depth adjustment is flexibility that not many headrests provide. The product is lightweight at just under 2 lbs and does not add significant weight to your wheelchair.
- Adjustable headrest – across height, depth, and angle, lets you adjust to the most comfortable setting for you
- Ball and socket adjustment allows for placement of headrest at any position
- Compatible with only solid back wheelchair; if you do not have a solid back wheelchair, installation will require some improvisation and work
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#2 Karman Universal Folding Headrest for Wheelchair
The headrest, made of aluminum alloy, fits most wheelchairs and is curved for extra comfort. The fabric has a breathable texture and the product comes in different sizes that fit small, medium, and large wheelchairs. You should ideally check the size you require by benchmarking your wheelchair seat width.
- Depth of the support can be adjusted
- Easy to install and foldable when wheelchair is not in use
- Comfortable support for your head with curved rims to keep head in one position
- Lightweight device – you do not need to worry about extra weight and its effect on wheelchair performance
- May require a bit of improvisation to fit some smaller wheelchairs
#3 Wheelchair Headrest by Nachen
The headrest is made up of aluminum alloy to make it durable and can be attached to most wheelchairs. It can be used as neck support as well, by adjusting the height.
Once you screw in the loops through which the product fits, it is very easy to attach and remove the headrest when the wheelchair is not in use.
- Compatible with most power and manual wheelchairs
- Easy to install and can be removed when wheelchair is folded for travel
- Can be adjusted for height and angle
- Available in three sizes – small, medium and large
- Lightweight and do not add significant weight to wheelchair; does not reduce wheelchair battery performance
- Mesh fabric layer on top of headrest lets air flow between you and the headrest and makes it breathable
- No depth adjustment feature available
- Height adjustment range is limited up to 5 cm
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#4 Skil-care Wheelchair Headrest
This headrest is a basic product that comes as just a cushion with a strap and buckle.
The headrest needs to be strapped on to the back of the wheelchair and requires extended back support to work. If you are buying this product, make sure that it will fit your wheelchair
- Extra cushioning for greater comfort
- The headrest has higher curved edges that will keep your head in a single position
- Easy to attach and detach to and from your wheelchair
- The headrest may not remain in its position and may require regular adjustment
- Not suitable for if your wheelchair does not have an extended back support
#5 Wheelchair Headrest by Mybow
The headrest, made of aluminum alloy, attaches to the back handles of the wheelchair and can be used as neck support as well by adjusting the height.
The headrest is easy to install and will readily fit any wheelchair with seat sizes between 16 – 20 inches and has back handled.
- Angle of headrest and height can be adjusted
- Easy to install and can be removed quickly while folding the wheelchair
- Padding of the headrest is made of breathable fabric, which does not cause sweating and discomfort while using for a long period of time
- Very lightweight product
- Depth of the headrest cannot be adjusted
- Requires some improvisation to fit wheelchairs whose seat sizes are more than 20 inches
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In case you are a heavy user of the wheelchair, you must not waste more time before buying a headrest and give some much-needed rest to your neck muscles and spine.
A good quality headrest also helps you a lot by minimising head movements from travelling on rough roads, when you are on your wheelchair but travelling on a vehicle. Generally, the headrest is a good investment to make which enhances your comfort and reduces the chances of injury.