The Practical Guide to Specialist Seating Assessments
Direct Healthcare Group’s essential handbook to aid and assist you in confidently assessing for and prescribing a specialist seat. With an introduction by Professor Michael Clark and essential guidance by OT ambassador Ellie Burcher, The Practical Guide to Specialist Seating Assessments will support the clinician in considering the practical aspects of the assessment process.
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Reading, chatting, working and watching television are usually done sitting down. A good sitting posture allows us to perform daily tasks without having to consider how we sit in terms of balance, stability or comfort.
Tiny movements in position allow us to correct discomfort and maintain our posture in response to how comfortable we are, what we are doing and what is going on around us. It is apparent that we rarely spend time only sitting and we very rarely sit absolutely still.
Looking at different types of chair we see that seat height and depth, arm support, even firmness of cushion can affect how much we alter our position for greater support or to relieve pressure in muscles and joints. It is important to match the features of the chair with the physical needs of the user, as well as considering where the chair will be used and what the user will be doing when sitting.
By doing this, we can hope to see the benefits of good sitting such as more active and constructive lifestyles, faster recuperation from illness, maintenance of body shape and prevention of pressure related problems. In turn, these benefits can lead to greater independence for the user, improved well being and happier lifestyles.
The Science of Good Seating
While we may all appreciate the importance of good seating, actually achieving the correct sitting position is sometimes a difficult task. There are a vast number of factors to be considered when providing specialist seating, but a few key elements will help ensure an accurate prescription is given:
- Seat height
- Armrest height
- Lumbar support
- Seat depth
- Seat angle
- Seat width
Problems associated with an incorrect sitting position
The majority of the population assume incorrect sitting positions and unfortunately it’s a natural occurrence for the body to slump and change its position regularly. Poor sitting postures and unsuitable seating can develop and/or exacerbate both physical and medical conditions with far reaching consequences on the quality of life and overall well being. Sitting requires more effort than you think.
Difficulty in getting up
It is often difficult to get up as a result of reduced muscular strength and impaired functioning of the joints. This may also be hindered by the chair you are sitting in having:
- a seat height too low and/or too soft;
- an inappropriate seat depth;
- a large backrest angle;
- armrests that are too short or absent altogether.
Blocking of veins and nerves
An excessively high sitting position with legs swinging can lead to veins and nerves becoming blocked causing varicose veins, sleeping legs and numbness.
An excessively low seat with an acute angle between the torso and upper legs can give rise to intestinal problems.
Back pain & poor posture
Inappropriate cushioning can result in sinking and slumping back into a convex shape contributing to back pain and other related joint and muscle ailments.
Irritated tissue & back pain
Incorrect seat height can cause pressure on the bottom. An excessive slant on the back, or too deep or too low a seat, can lead to irritated tissue, back pain and cause difficulty getting up.