The Best Chairs for Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis affects 3 million people in the UK alone and develops over a long period of time. Finding the right specialist seating for someone with osteoporosis is important to maintaining their comfort and quality of life with what can be a very complex condition, but you also have to bear in mind other external factors like sitting on and getting off the chair with brittle bones.
Our seating assessors have thought of a few things to look out for in specialist seating for people with osteoporosis. For details on seating for more conditions, take a look at our seating eBook.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition that leads to bone weakness and more frequent fractures. Whilst a decrease in bone density is a normal part of ageing, osteoporosis causes some people to lose bone at a much faster rate, making their bones more brittle and susceptible to breaking from things like falls, or even just over-exertion.
Women tend to have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis than men, but other external factors like your family medical history, having a low BMI, and heavy drinking and smoking can make you more vulnerable to developing the condition.
When you stand up from a chair, you tend to push down on the armrests to propel yourself upwards. This increases the pressure (and body weight) that goes through the arm and up to the shoulders. If the person carrying out this action also has osteoporosis, they actually run the risk of fracturing bones in their shoulder.
A riser action on a chair can help to avoid this and provide more stability and support to your client as they come to a standing position. The elevation of the chair will help to reduce the amount of pressure that goes through your shoulder joint, as you won’t have to bear down as hard to become upright. Particularly with rise and recline chairs, we highly recommend that the rise function suits your client’s needs and gives them the right level of assistance.
With more advanced osteoporosis, you might find that your client has a noticeable curvature of the spine. This is because it’s fairly common for the vertebrae to break and it becomes more difficult for the spine to support the person’s body weight, therefore creating a stooped or hunched appearance.
Choosing the right backrest in a chair is vital to help with this. Adjustable waterfall backrests are usually our first choice when it comes to osteoporosis. Consisting of 3 cushions, the backrest can be adjusted in shape and size to suit the individual’s spine. They offer a good level of lumbar support, and wadding can be added and removed from the top cushion to provide extra comfort and support for the curvature of the spine. A rise and recline chair with a waterfall backrest is an ideal solution for this.
In conjunction with the waterfall backrest, we also suggest looking for a chair that offers a dual tilt-in-space action. We could go on for days about the benefits of tilt-in-space, but the dual option gives the user an extra backrest angle to accommodate their posture. This is also a great way to allow the client to tilt farther back and attain eye contact and conversation with the people around them. The Le Chair is also an excellent option for this, as the seat itself can dip down at the back whilst keeping the client’s feet on the floor. This opens up the hip angle a little more and gives the user the ability to look forward.
Pressure Relief and Additional Supports
Of course, we would always recommend looking at additional pressure relief and positioning supports with a chair. Particularly for those with osteoporosis, you want to make sure that they are safely positioned in a chair, so they are not at any risk of damage whilst sat down. Positioning supports can help the client to maintain a healthier overall position without increasing the chance of them fracturing something.
Our assessors often suggest extra lateral supports or curved cushions to use down the sides of the seat and the backrest, which will help to promote a better midline position of the spine. Foam cushions can also help to relieve pressure in the posterior or back, reducing the possibility of fractures in these areas.
Removing Trip Hazards
Falls are a massive problem for people with osteoporosis, and the NHS reports that they treat over half a million people a year who have suffered a bone fracture from standing height or less – this includes those with the condition.
Make sure that the area around the person (and their chair) is clear of trailing wires or objects that may cause them to trip and fall. Having an AccuPak battery system installed on the chair can help with this, as it means that there is no need to have wires going in and out of the chair to power it. Assess how the individual will come to a standing position from the chair and ensure that the area is tidy and risk-free.