When most clients sit in a chair for the first time, it’s natural for them to focus on how it feels on key areas such as the buttocks, thighs and back. After all, these areas take the majority of our weight when seated, so making sure they feel comfortable is essential.
But it’s important to pay attention to how much the footrest can affect comfort as well. When positioned correctly, a footrest can help distribute nearly a fifth of a patient’s weight.
This has several beneficial effects, including:
Reducing the chance of pressure injuries
With the weight more evenly distributed, there is less chance for pressure to build up in key areas such as the back, legs and buttocks.
Helping increase circulation
With the pressure reduced on the legs and buttocks, and the feet slightly raised, circulation is improved in the legs, helping prevent varicose veins and other circulatory conditions.
When a client’s feet are correctly positioned on a footrest, they feel more stable in the chair. This not only reduces the risk of them falling from the chair or sliding out of position, but allows them to feel more secure and comfortable in a seated position.
When a client’s feet are more secure, they are better able to assist in transfers or even make adjustments to their chair themselves.
We’ve put together this quick guide to show how to correctly position a footrest to help your patients get the maximum comfort from their chair.
Make sure the feet are ‘fully loaded’
This simply means that the feet are placed flat on the footrest, allowing them to take as much weight as possible. Three ways to do this are:
Adjust the seat depth until the feet are flat on the footplate. The back of the thighs, from the knee to the sacrum should all be supported on the chair, with no ‘overhang’ at the knees. If the depth is too short, it will increase the pressure on the feet; if it is too long it will put undue pressure on the calves and back of the knees.
Adjust the seat height until the feet are on the footplate. This involves examining the length from the back of the knee to the heel, ensuring that it allows the pressure to be distributed evenly through the feet. If the height is too long, the heels will be off the footplate. If it is too short, there could be excess pressure through the heels.
Make sure the back angle allows the feet to be fully loaded. This will be different for each patient, depending on their postural requirements. Adjust the angle until their feet are sitting naturally flat on the footrest.
Cater to a client’s individual needs. These may include:
Differing leg lengths. Some patients may have a variation in the length of their legs. In these situations it may be necessary for an OT to insert extra padding into one side of the footrest.
Involuntary movements. Some clients may need extra support around the calves and thighs to minimise movements which may prevent the feet from becoming fully loaded. Cushions can be added to the sides of the legs to assist with this.
Other Factors to Consider:
When you use the Tilt in Space feature on your client’s chair, making sure that their feet are in the correct position will aid their comfort when adjusting their position.
When seating bariatric clients, it is especially important to make sure that their feet are correctly positioned, due to the extra pressure being absorbed through their legs and buttocks.
Where possible, aim to adjust a client’s seating position fairly regularly. In some cases this may mean adjusting the height and angle of the footplate, to ensure the feet remain fully loaded.
Footboards on Recliners Chairs
Many of our models come with footrests as standard, making it easy for you as an OT to recommend them to your clients.
The Harmony Porta model has an independent, extending footrest which eliminates the need for manual adjustments, making it easier for you and your client to find the correct foot position.
The Eco Flex features a footboard that increases in size via two, easy to use dials, making it easy to ‘fully load’ the feet and ensure a client’s comfort.
These are just a couple of the great models in our range. To see the full selection, click here.