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What Is a Therapeutic Cushion?

By Sandra Koehler
Updated May 17, 2024
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For the body to perform at its best, all of its different systems — including things like proper alignment and muscle control — must work in unison. When deviations in posture are present, muscular tightness and pain issues can obstruct normal, pain-free positioning and movement. Therapeutic cushions are assistive devices utilized to help the body attain and maintain optimal body alignment. They can range from a generic pad used to combat poor posture and muscle fatigue when sitting for prolonged periods to customized systems designed to improve sitting tolerance and positioning for individuals with physical deformities.

The most common form of therapeutic cushion is placed in a chair to support the hips and evenly distribute weight while sitting. This can range from a simple padded or pillow-like inset to individualized conforming cushion with gel or raised air-filled pockets designed to relieve pressure areas. Lumbar or low back additions help maintain the normal curvature of the low back area and can aid in relieving some types of back pain including stress-related symptoms commonly caused by slouching.

When serious postural irregularities are present in the spine or hips, such as severe lateral curvatures in the spinal bones, the therapeutic cushion can expand to include additions to provide more stabilization to the hips and trunk area. This is commonly achieved through the use of raised sides or actual supplemental padded pieces in key locations along the sides of the body that cup the trunk and coax the spine into a straighter position. However, since this system — which relies on several individual therapeutic cushions — can produce pressure points in patients suffering from extreme or constant muscular contractions or contractures, a permanent shortening of the muscles, another option is a full trunk therapeutic cushion or a combination insert for the seat and back.

Typically, this type of specialized therapeutic cushion, or seating systems, maintain optimal positioning and comfort of individuals requiring the use of a wheelchair at all times. Though unable to correct posture back to normal in most instances, these customized seating systems prevent further deformity. Most often since these complex inserts are utilized for several hours every day, they come equip with gel or air tubules to relieve pressure areas throughout the seat and trunk area. Therapeutic cushions with large raised air tubules can offer pressure relief or positional changes simply by the addition or subtraction of the amount of air in the individual pockets for individuals with limited ability to shift weight.

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