Daily Living

Are you sitting comfortably? Sitting techniques and accessories for disabled adults

If your current furniture doesn’t offer you the comfort that you want and need.  Or if you struggle to get up and down, then you may be considering buying new furniture. 
But STOP!  Before you do, please read this post, as you may find that there are some techniques and accessories which are a much more affordable and convenient option.

As someone with arthritis, I struggle to get both in and out of a chair, especially if it is too low, or too soft. 

I also find it difficult to get comfortable once I’m in the chair.  My back and neck ache if they aren’t supported properly.  And I suffer from pins and needles and pain in my legs if I sit at the wrong angle.

I have invested in a new suite for my sitting room.  See this post for further details.   But for other parts of the house, I have bought accessories to make my existing furniture more comfortable and usable. 

This has enabled me to keep furniture that I love.  And it means that I actually get to use it!

If you are struggling with your existing furniture, one of the first things you might like to try is a new sitting technique. 

Sequence when sitting down:

  • Back up to the chair until you can feel the seat behind your knees
  • Move your feet to distribute your weight evenly
  • Put both hands on the arm rests
  • Lower yourself into the seat by gradually bending your knees.  Then move your bottom right to the back of the seat. 
  • You can do this by shuffling, lifting or using a rocking motion

Sequence when standing up:

  • Firstly, put both hands on the arm rests
  • Move your bottom to the edge of the seat.  You can do this by shuffling, lifting or using a rocking motion
  • Put your feet the same distance apart as your hips, directly under your knees
  • If you feel unsteady, put one foot back towards the chair
  • Bend forward so that your head is over your knees.  But you need to keep your head upright, so you’re looking straight ahead
  • Then push up with your arms and at the same time, straighten your legs

Don’t use a walking frame, or walking stick when sitting down or getting up. They could fall over and you may follow!

Even though I have higher furniture, I still find this technique useful.  For further information, please see the RICA website.  

RICA = the Research Institute for Consumer Affairs, a UK charity providing independent research and information.

If you find that this isn’t enough help, then there are a range of accessories that you can buy to help make your furniture more comfortable and accessible.  They include:

Furniture raisers

A furniture raiser is basically a set of blocks which you attach to the legs of your furniture. This makes them higher, and therefore more accessible.

Furniture raisers are made of different materials, including wood or plastic.  And they come in different shapes and sizes.  This makes it possible to get something that will fit in with your existing furniture, and not be too obtrusive.

Raisers can be used on chairs, sofas, beds, desks and tables.   See a selection here. 

Seat Wedge Cushion to help your seating position

Seat Wedge

This is a wedge-shaped cushion which you place on your chair and then sit on.  This helps you maintain good posture and correct your seating position.  In turn this helps anyone with back ailments or injury, osteoporosis, arthritis, damaged discs, scoliosis, or injury or bruising to the coccyx.  It is also helpful in preventing pressure sores near the bottom of the spine.

There are extra thin versions available which may be more suitable for using in the car.

Foot rests and stools

Foot rests and foot stools are useful for both resting and supporting your legs and feet. There are a whole range of different options available, suitable for using with a chair, or in bed, or when seated in a wheelchair.

You can get adjustable, padded, inflatable and foldable versions.  This means that you can find the rest or stool that will best fit meet your needs. 

You can find one of the right height. 

Something portable that you can take with you when you travel. 

Or something that you can fold away when you’re not using it. 

A padded leg rest can adjust in both height and tilt, meaning you can adjust it to the most comfortable position for you.

A leg rest tuffet for use with a chair or wheelchair

Leg lifters

You might want to use a foot stool, but struggle to lift your leg up high enough.  I certainly have this problem with one of my legs.  A useful aid is a leg lifter strap. 

This is basically a long piece of webbing with a loop at each end.  You hook the larger loop over your foot, and holding the smaller loop, simply lift your leg up to where you want it to be. It’s also handy for lifting your foot onto the footrest of your wheelchair, or for getting in and out of the car.

Some versions have two ‘handle’ loops, meaning you can use both hands to lift your leg.  This is handy if you don’t have much grip or strength, or if your leg is particularly heavy.

Pressure cushions

You place a pressure cushion in your chair, car seat or wheelchair and sit on it.  It reduces pressure on the base of your spine, helping to relieve back ache.  For people who are confined to a chair for a long time, then they can also be helpful in preventing pressure ulcers.

They come in a range of materials and sizes.  Some have a honeycomb type construction, which moves flexibly to accommodate your shape. Others are made of memory foam, or gel, and some are inflatable.

There are square, round and donut-shaped cushions available.  And also revolving versions, which help you get in and out of seats without arms, such as in the car. See a range here. 

Seat raiser cushions

A seat raiser, or booster cushion is placed in your armchair (either on top or below the existing cushion), and it raises your seat. 

This makes it more accessible, and easier to sit down and stand up. Some have internal springs, which also give you an extra boost as you are getting up.

Powered seat lift

Another option to help you get up and down is a powered seat lift.  See one here. 

You place this on your armchair or sofa.  It comes with a hand control, and when you press this the lift raises you to a standing position. When you want to sit down, you just do the same, in reverse.

The cushion is designed to be comfortable, as it’s made from memory foam.  And it has a carrying handle, which means you can take it with you.  

Heel protectors

If you aren’t very mobile, you may spend a lot of time in bed, or with your feet up.

This increases the risk of developing pressure ulcers on your heels. 

Heel protectors, such as these ones, protect your heels and keep them comfortable and warm. They are adjustable, so should fit most feet, even if they are swollen.

Lumber roll or lumber cushion

You may be able to get up and down OK, but find that sitting gives you back pain.  If that is the case, a lumber roll or lumber cushion may be what you need.

The purpose of a lumber support is to promote normal alignment of the spine when you are sitting.  It prevents slumping, which causes the muscles in the lower back to stretch.  This can lead to back and neck pain. By reversing the slump, the muscles are held in a more natural position, alleviating pain.  You can see a range of options here. 


Grab rails for chairs

Another option to help you get up and down safely is a grab rail for use with an arm chair.

For example the one in the picture incorporates a steady grab rail with a handy tray.

When you want to get up or down, the tray swivels out of the way. 

The base fits under your chair, keeping it secure and steady.  

A grab rail with a handy attached tray
Many of these accessories are inexpensive, so are worth trying before you change your furniture.  If they don’t work and you decide to invest in an accessible chair, please read our post on the options available. 

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