.. On The Importance of Good Seating
Is seating important?
If an individual is fully mobile and active, then no, their seating is probably not very important. The longer a person is sitting for, however, the more important their seating and seated posture becomes.
Generally, it does no-one any harm to sit badly for a few minutes. Indeed, as I type I am sitting in a typically poor posture,spine in a C curve, sitting on my sacrum, core not engaged at all. But if I maintained this posture all day? Personally, I wouldn’t. First of all, I would become uncomfortable, I would shift my weight, perhaps stand up and walk around a little, at least re-position myself in the chair.But what if I wasn’t able to do that? Or had poor sensation, or poor cognitive function?
When someone is less mobile, less aware or perhaps not able to re-position themselves, poor sitting posture can become a problem. Over prolonged periods of time, this can lead to all kinds of complications: at least,pain and discomfort; at worst,respiratory problems, contractures, skin breakdown and infections. I have seen examples of poor posture: individuals on the verge of falling out of chairs, with no trunk control, poorly positioned and uncomfortable, using every ounce of their energy to remain upright. Sometimes, unable to support their heads, I see people unable to interact with others, or even see what is going on around them.
“It is a situation in which health, well-being and dignity are compromised and form of meaningful engagement with the world is impossible.“
To resolve seating issues a seating assessment can be carried out and recommendations on suitable seating made. In my view, a good seating assessment involves; spending time observing the situation, working out what the goals of the assessment are (increased comfort/reduced pain, correcting posture – and if so, why? To what end?), and attempting to find solutions. These solutions may not be perfect, sometimes compromises must be reached between comfort and symmetry, support and function, correction and accommodation. Nonetheless, it is usually clear when improvements are made, often simply getting an individual into a more functional seated position. Whether that person is now able to eat and drink more safely, engage in activities or simply sit comfortably with less pain or effort, strain or discomfort, I feel that my time and energy is well spent.
A good seating assessment, followed by the provision of a suitable seating system, can be the most important thing you can do to improve a person’s health and quality of life. For me, personally and professionally, there is little more satisfying than knowing I have been an integral part in the process of finding a good seating solution for someone, and in doing so, increasing their level of comfort, well-being and, perhaps, overall health.I also hope that, when it is my turn, someone takes the same time and care over me.
Seating isn’t everything, not by a long shot, but, (as that well-known shampoo company says) it’s a good place to start!
Written by Emma Douglas, Occupational Therapist
Emma qualified in Occupational Therapy from Glasgow Caledonian University and went on to work in Rehabilitation and Medicine of the Elderly in Scotland. Since 2010 Emma has worked in Primary Care with the HSE, developing her skills in housing and seating as well as in treating clients of all ages with a range of medical conditions and varying levels of ability/disability.
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