Choosing the right chair
An uncomfortable chair will make the pain you already have worse. You may even find that problems you thought were due to your condition are in fact caused by a badly designed armchair.
It’s really important you find a comfortable chair that suits your individual needs.
There are two main rules when it comes to shopping for a comfy chair:
- Don’t choose style over substance.
- Try it before you buy it.
Furniture shops and department stores should have a wide range. You can also arrange a visit at a specialist store that caters for people with disabilities. Some places may even let you borrow a chair to trial in your home. But don’t feel pressured into buying.
It’s a good idea to contact your nearest Disabled Living Centre and arrange a visit. They’ll have a range of suitable chairs that you can try out at your leisure. A qualified therapist will be there to give you advice.
Choose the highest chair you can, as this will make it easier for you to get up. But make sure you can place your feet flat on the floor while sitting in it, as this will stop your legs from dangling uncomfortably, which could cause pins and needles.
If you do find a chair you like, but it’s the wrong height, you may be able to have it altered. Ask the shop assistant about this.
If your chair isn’t high enough, think about getting a chair raiser.
Having good armrests can work just as well as having a higher chair. They should have good handgrip and plenty of padding for support and warmth.
You should check the armrests are at the right height. If you hunch your shoulders, the armrests are too high. If your elbows don’t reach, they’re too low.
Also make sure that the armrests don’t stick out too far beyond the front legs. This can sometimes tip the chair up when you put your weight on it.
You should look closely at the seat to make sure it will give you support, comfort and a firm base to push up from. Think about the following when you go chair shopping:
- Check the cushion is made from good quality foam that will be durable.
- Try to avoid seats that sag like a hammock when you sit in them – this can be uncomfortable as it can cause your bottom to press through and rest on the base of the seat. It may also make it difficult to get up.
- Avoid narrow seats – there should be enough room for you to easily change position.
- Check that the seat isn’t too deep. The seat should be just deep enough to fully support your thighs when you sit as far back as possible.
- Are the seat covers easy to remove and wash? If not, you might need to think about getting a suitable cover to protect it.
It’s important that your back is fully supported. A backrest that’s gently sloped to fit the curves of your back is helpful. But everybody’s back is different, so there are a few things you should consider:
- Check that the backrest isn’t at an awkward angle – if it slopes too far forward, you won’t be able to relax and if it slopes too far backwards, it’ll make it harder to get up.
- Check that the backrest is high enough to support all of your back, shoulders and head.
- If there’s a headrest, make sure it doesn’t protrude forward as this can cause neck ache.
- Some people like to use recliners as they can be very comfortable chairs that allow you to change your posture easily, but remain supported.
If you choose a chair that allows you to tuck your feet back underneath the chair, it’ll make it easier to get up. But, if you’re still experiencing great difficulty there are other options available, such as:
- motorised chairs – these use an electric mechanism to lift the seat and bring you to a standing position
- spring-assisted seats – these have to be adjusted to your own weight. This is fine if you alone use the chair but be careful if you’re using one that will also be used by other people.
You may have to consider having a different style of chair from what you’re used to. So, think about your needs carefully and you might be surprised by how comfortable a different type of chair can be.
You might also want to think about how difficult it is to move the chair and opt for a more lightweight one if necessary.