Wheelchair backs that support the spinal curves: Assessing postural and functional changes

Jessica Presperin Pedersen*, Cynthia Smith, Margaret Dahlin, Molly Henry, Janell Jones, Kelly McKenzie, Mitch Sevigny, Lindsey Yingling

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objective: To compare outcomes using a wheelchair back designed to support the natural seated spinal curves versus an upholstered back that promotes posterior pelvic tilt and thoracolumbar kyphosis. Design: Cross-over intervention. Setting: Two free-standing spinal cord injury (SCI) model system hospitals. Participants: Fifty adults with motor complete SCI C6-T4, between the ages of 18–60 years who use a manual wheelchair for mobility were recruited from a convenience sample. Intervention: Each participant’s wheelchair back support was removed and replaced by an upholstered back and a solid back in randomized order. Postural and functional outcomes, pain, and satisfaction were evaluated using each back. Outcome measures: Seated postural measurements included pelvic angle, spinal angle of kyphosis and linear measurement of spine. Functional outcomes included vertical forward reach, one stroke push, timed forward wheeling, ramp ascent and descent. Numerical pain rating and a satisfaction survey provided input pertaining to both backs. Results: The solid back demonstrated significance in seated postural measurements. Participants using the solid back trended to higher scores in functional outcome measures including vertical forward reach, one stroke push and timed ramp ascent. Participants reported increased satisfaction with comfort and stability with the solid back. Conclusions: This pilot study demonstrated that a wheelchair back, which supports the seated spinal curves improves upright posture, functional reach, and wheelchair propulsion skills. Further research is necessary to demonstrate statistical findings as well as to assess back height and lateral support.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)194-203
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Spinal Cord Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2022


  • Functional outcomes manual wheelchair
  • Manual wheelchair
  • Wheelchair back supports

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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