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Pressure relief and guidance


Finding a comfortable armchair is a matter of personal taste, some prefer a soft seat and others a more upright supportive chair. If you are seated for long periods of time, then it is important to be seated on the right size chair and to make sure you can change your position frequently.

Pressure ulcers are caused when the person is in one position for too long. It is important to have a chair that is the right size so that weight can be spread evenly in the chair. If the chair is the wrong size, extra pressure can build up on bony or vulnerable parts of the body that are supporting too much weight.  It is also important to be able to move in the chair and get on and off the chair to reduce the risk of pressure damage and to keep active.

A pressure cushion won’t help to prevent the pressure ulcer if the chair is the wrong size for you, in fact sometimes it can increase the pressure on your bottom.

The pictures below show what can happen when a pressure cushion is placed in a chair. The person in the chair on the left, has their feet flat on the ground with support from the armrests and is sitting with even weight distribution. When a pressure cushion is added, the chair becomes too high and the armrests are too low, so the feet don’t reach the floor and so extra weight and pressure is added to the buttocks and thighs and loss of stability too, so it usually leads to a slump to the side or a slide down the chair, adding extra pressure.

sitting in a chair that is the right size                         sitting on a pressure cushion

If you visit our centre, the Occupational Therapists can assess you when sitting and show you how to recognise when you are seated well in your chair or wheelchair with even weight distribution. If the chair is the right size and a pressure cushion is needed for comfort or pressure relief we can show you the options for your chair or wheelchair, from a simple fleece with natural pressure relief properties, to visco foam, gel and air filled cushions.

Comfort in your chair isn’t just about pressure relief. It is also about how you are supported in the chair. A slumped position may seem a comfortable way to rest in your chair to have a nap but when slumped forwards or to the side this position can also lead to pressure damage and  problems with digestion and swallow. This slumped position will also compress your lungs may lead to breathlessness and lack of energy. Our team can assess you when seated and help you to discover ways to help you stay upright in your chair with a better sized chair or with support and positioning additions to the chair to keep you comfortable and healthy.

See our guidance on finding the right size chair  and equipment to assist getting up from a chair and also our notes of moving and exercising to reduce the risk of pressure ulcers when seated in a chair.