Finding the best wheelchair to suit your mobile needs is a huge decision that will impact your entire lifestyle going forward. There is one more decision that affects your wheelchair seating position, proper body alignment and assurance of a completely comfortable riding and sitting experience that should be carefully considered.
It is so important to choose the right wheelchair leg rest to complete your wheeled transportation and seating needs while adhering to current physical limitations issues related to movement. The wrong selection of this all important leg/foot rest for your specific wheelchair can actually increase the potential for discomfort while in the chair and possibly increase spasticity including painful muscle spasms common with some types of paralysis and other health-related conditions that can affect the ability to move.
Additionally, not ensuring that your body is aligned properly with the necessary considerations to prevent muscle/bone/joint/ligament strain and undue pressure on bony prominence body areas like the coccyx, hip bones, spine, knees and ankles can cause even more serious concerns like pressure sores. Pressure sores can lead to severe infections sometimes progressing down to the bone.
Along with an increase in discomfort, detrimental misalignment of the musculoskeletal structures can lead to muscle atrophy and other adverse conditions.
Wheelchair Leg Rest Extensions
To get a better idea of the kinds of wheelchair leg extension styles in elevating or articulating designs, read through the below commonly listed product descriptions. These devices were all found on Amazon.
Types of Wheelchair Leg Rest Extensions
There are basically two main varieties of available leg rests for use with wheelchairs. These are commonly referred to as traditional elevated leg rests or articulated ones.
Both elevate the legs and feet, and these rests for the legs help to redistribute the pressure of the person’s body by careful adjustments to their position in order to spread out the weight load over a wider area. This can increase circulation to and from the legs and feet while also preventing swelling that can compromise circulation and healing.
The exact angle that these leg rests attach to the wheelchairs can affect the person’s pelvic position in the wheelchair seat. This in turn will impact the person’s actual sitting position and can cause discomfort if the pelvis is not properly aligned to provide the appropriate seating pressure for the body. Generally, these leg rests will be set at angles from the body of 70, 80 or 90 degrees.
A person must also remember that this leg rest angle can also impact the wheelchair bound person’s ability to move around especially in smaller spaces like many home bathrooms, hallways and other closed-in type spots.
This selection that elevates the leg is primarily used for people who desire or need to keep their leg in one position in line with their seat for the most part. These can be adjusted, however, the person must also manually shorten or lengthen the leg with each adjustment to maintain the correct alignment.
This type of leg rest can be set at 70 to 180 degrees. When the person’s legs are stretched straight out and remain at the same height as the wheelchair seat, this is to be considered 180 degrees for reference.
With the additional calf pad that provides extra cushioning under the knee and down the calf, this fantastic leg elevating rest offers the person a much more comfortable sitting experience while in the wheelchair.
Conditions that might do well with this leg rest are individuals recovering from broken leg bones, or those who are otherwise pretty immobile in one or both legs.
Those individuals who can or should move their lower limbs more are likely better suited for the articulating styles of wheelchair leg rests. These rests will automatically extend out and lengthen the leg as the supportive leg rest is raised higher.
These easy-to-adjust leg rests also provide the wheelchair user more position options for both their leg angle and their feet. Since the length adjustment occurs automatically, this leaves the person more freedom to move around and get that vital circulation pumping through the feet and lower legs.
Great for those with heart disease, blood pressure issues or other circulation problems. There is a nice selection of different styles, and these wheelchair accessory items come in motorized options for phenomenal ease-of-motion that just can’t be beat.
In addition to these two basic leg rests, there are other various options in available foot rests for use on wheelchairs. Some have thick padding and can cushion both feet at once, and others simply allow otherwise dangling feet to rest comfortably on sturdy platforms.
Look for ones with easy-to-access fold-up or swing footplate options, and be sure to have the proper wheelchair measurements, model numbers and other details to ensure the correct item is ordered or purchased.
How To Choose A Wheelchair Leg Extension
Before determining which leg and/or foot rest support is appropriate for use with your particular brand and type of wheelchair, be sure to consult with your doctor and/or your physical therapist first.
Each person will need to consider how mobile they are to get the best type of supportive leg and foot wheelchair accessory devices that will provide the proper amount of pressure padding, body support and movement options.
Before making a final decision on any type of wheelchair accessory device, there are some recommended buyer considerations that all first time buyers should take note of.
- What are your goals in selecting a wheelchair leg rest extension?
Will you need the leg support just to stay more comfortable with your feet raised? Perhaps your doctor or physical therapist recommends moving your legs more while seated in your wheelchair. Is your wheelchair just used while being transported to one location or another, or do you remain in your chair for the better portion of most days?
- Are there specific health considerations in choosing a certain type of a wheelchair elevated leg support option?
Do you need to reduce swelling from a surgical site? Does the person in the wheelchair suffer from frequent muscle spasms due to MS or other disorder? Is there chronic pain to contend with that affects the legs or feet especially?
- What are your preferences in wheelchair leg rest extensions – Manually adjustable or automatic adjustable?
Those with severe weakness might prefer motorized accessory devices to make it easier to remain as independent as possible. Others might not have the mental capacity or desire to operate something by way of a motor. Would you prefer an automatic wheelchair with leg extender, or is a simple wheelchair leg extender with manual operation capabilities sufficient for your leg position adjustment needs?
- Are there specific transport needs to consider?
Some individuals need to ride public transportation or use a senior shared ride service. Make sure to find out the specifics of these transportation situations.
Space limitations might necessitate the need for certain leg rests during crowded trips, while others simply need to know the special transportation related wheelchair information in advance to provide the necessary accommodations.
Remember to consider the possibility of accidental jarring or other incident that might damage a less sturdy leg rest selection.
- What are common additional medical considerations to assess before purchasing any wheelchair leg extension device?
Remember to think about any other health-related issues like whether the person has a catheter that will need room and protection. Other factors include feeding tubes, use of oxygen or if the person requires special seating or orthopedic devices to maintain the proper position in the chair.
- What positioning requirements and/or limitations does the patient have?
Do the legs have to remain bent at an awkward angle? Has a stroke caused paralysis of one side of the body affecting sitting? Does the person have extremely frail skin that will need a wider surrounding area of protection space?
- Does wheelchair leg rest extension material choice really make a difference?
What the wheelchair accessory is made of can make a huge difference. Consider how long the person will remain in one position. Take into account the person’s sensitivity to rough, hard or cold surfaces. Consider how often the device will need cleaned.
Vinyl can be a good selection for easy-cleaning options. However, this can become too hot for some individuals sitting long periods by causing the person to become sweaty because vinyl isn’t normally breathable.
Consider covering with a naturally absorbent fabric like cotton, or look for mesh or vented padding choices for longer use. There are many nice washable coverings that can also be found or made such as fleecy fabrics or other sheep-like backings. Leathers are another choice that might
be preferable to some.
- How often will the wheelchair leg rest accessories need adjusted over the course of a day?
If the person will need to constantly adjust their leg/foot type of wheelchair attached accessory, it might be better to invest in one that will automatically lengthen/shorten the leg with each change. Motorized varieties are often desired by those that would tire quickly from all of this adjustment activity.
- Are there lightweight wheelchair leg extension design options easily attached/detached selections?
There are some very convenient and lighter weight design styles that many buyers will find delightful. These are nice for smaller wheelchairs often used in shopping malls and other places. Some have fold-up features as well, and these selections can make travel easy for those that love to be on-the-go in a moment’s notice. Look for spring loaded or other easy-to-attach-and-detach foot/leg rest models for added speed and ease-of-use.
- Can I pick leg rest wheelchair accessory devices based on where they will be used?
Today, wheelchair users can find styles to suit just about any type of location. There are heavier-duty varieties perfect for outdoor use, for larger individuals and for those that need a rough-and-tumble riding option that will hold up over time.
Many individuals that use wheelchairs go to an office or other job site that might make a difference on the types of accessory items that the person should purchase. Consider front-loading leg rests for fitting nicely under a desk.
If the wheelchair is used in a hospital, school or nursing care facility, it makes sense to purchase sturdier designs that won’t break so easy with other people changing out the parts that might be unfamiliar with that particular brand.
For use at home, consider the width of the doorways and narrow areas like halls, bathrooms and smaller bedroom spaces. Many individuals that must use a wheelchair on a pretty regular basis often have several wheelchair styles and related accessory items and devices to meet the majority of their various activity needs.