Sitting forces and wheelchair mechanics

P. Gilsdorf, R. Patterson, S. Fisher, N. Appel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


The effects of back angle and leg height on sitting forces in a wheelchair were studied, using a force plate mounted on a wheelchair seat. Readings of both normal force (perpendicular to the seat) and shear force were measured while the chair's back angle and footrest height were changed. Pressure under the ischial tuberosities was also measured during the footrest height adjustments. Five normal subjects sat directly on the plate as well as upon ROHO and Jay cushions placed on the force plate. Returning the back to the upright position after a recline caused the normal force (± SD) to increase 5.4 ± 2.5, 9.5 ± 4.0, and 10.0 ± 2.3 kg for the hard surface, Jay cushion, and ROHO cushion respectively, while shear at the plate increased to 5.1 ± 2.2, 11.6 ± 2.6, and 12.3 ± 2.7 kg for the hard surface, Jay cushion, and ROHO cushion respectively. Leaning forward (away from the back) caused all the forces to return to measurements close to the starting values. The results suggest that the wheelchair user should momentarily lean forward after a recline to reduce undesired forces. If a cushion with firm thigh support is used, ischial tuberosity pressure can be reduced by lowering the leg height as much as possible, which causes a levering action by lifting the pelvis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-246
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Rehabilitation Research and Development
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1990


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