When my wheelchair technician years ago suggested I try an air cushion for the first time, I wasn’t sure what to think. I wanted to try it as I was disappointed with my other cushions in terms of comfort and positioning.
He managed to convince me and then mentioned a brand called Vicair. I had never heard of them before and knew that he had well-known brands and was looking to incorporate different brands into what he sold.
I spoke to him in depth about my uneven pelvis, half-dislocated hips and bad sitting balance (that’s sitting still, but you just wait until I’m moving in my wheelchair, then things get worse).
He noticed I have scoliosis (an enhanced spinal curve) kyphosis (a slumped posture) and lordosis (a larger than normal inwards curve on my lumbar spine). All this means I can’t sit straight or sit back in my wheelchair.
He immediately explained that I needed a cushion with at least 2 compartments to provide support to each side of my body and that air would be good as it would surround (and hopefully relax) my body better instead of fluid which was not going to provide enough support.
Air sacs called “SmartCells” make up the cushion and they are triangle shaped to rub against each other and therefore provide support.
2 different covers: mesh and incontinence proof
2 heights: 6 and 10cm.
My thoughts on the Vicair Twin:
I bought this cushion in 2010 and at the time did not realise there were two cover options.
Mine had the mesh cover and I found the cover too slippery. I slipped off it and had to be re-positioned a couple of times as soon as I was in my wheelchair at the beginning of the day without having moved anywhere and I was not very stable on it (sliding and repositioning caused leg and trunk spasms but I noticed my leg spasms were especially bad with this cushion).
I was not able to try it before I bought it and had no idea about other air cushions (but I am more informed now and have one from a different brand of cushion that I love). In total, I had the Vicair Twin for three years.
I had the cushion that is 6cm high and was thinking that maybe the 10cm high cushion may have been better but now I know that that would not have made things better for me as my main issue with the cushion was me slipping and instability although the SmartCells were meant to prevent that. They didn’t for me.
The cushion structure seemed to me to be almost like a beanbag and that was the sensation I had while using it. I did not feel it was supportive enough in terms of posture support because of this although it is supposed to provide a medium level of postural support.
The feeling of air versus foam or foam and fluid was one that I liked because, as the technician explained, air would surround my pelvis better and I would be sat “in” the cushion rather than “on” it as I would be if I had a fluid, foam or fluid-foam combination cushion.
The cushion is light which is good for those who are going to wash the cushion but as I can’t lift or position the cushion, this is not a great concern for me. Those who did this for me valued the lightweight cushion. The cushion is very low maintenance and does not need air pumps. The cushion can be slightly massaged to get the best position for sitting before the user is placed (or sits themselves) on it.
I did feel I needed more postural support as the cushion is the same material all over and is smooth, so I had the feeling of “sinking” that I had with foam and fluid cushions but to a lesser extent as this is air. The air felt slightly more supportive.
I felt the 6cm cushion was too low and there was no way of positioning my legs better like on some cushions, so after a short while my body and legs started to slide like they were on a slope as they do when the cushion is too low or not supportive enough and were not in the best position. I was being repositioned a lot. This meant my husband, or whoever I was with, constantly stopping to reposition me and I was concerned about slipping all the time. I don’t find the cushion the best for vibration dampening from wheelchair movement either (at least for me). I am very sensitive to vibrations from the wheelchair moving as they lead to increased pain and spasms and I can be bumped around because of my bad trunk control.
With this cushion, falling out of my wheelchair is a danger in spite of having a hip belt that is well fastened.
I now know this was because of the cushion not being the best for me as I have better posture with other cushions that have a hard base and edges for stability and positioning.
The Vicair Twin cushion is considered an “entry level” air cushion in the Vicair range and there is a “lifetime warranty” on the SmartCells. They can be removed or added to the cushion as needed (more can be ordered). In the years I had the cushion, only one cell deflated.
**At the time of this post, the Vicair Twin cushion as the model I had has been discontinued but there is a product called the Vicair Twin 02 cushion**
https://www.vicair.com is where you can find the full range of products. Invacare UK also stock the range: https://www.invacare.co.uk/pressure-care-seating/vicair-cushions.
Check your Invacare website wherever you are in the world.
For those of you in the US, The Comfort Company website has it: https://www.comfortcompany.com/wheelchair_cushions/vicair
To sum up, I think the cushion is better suited to someone with very good trunk control (an active wheelchair user who can easily self propel and reposition themselves).
I’m glad I tried this brand as the concept of the cells is interesting but it does not help me enough with positioning or comfort and I had backache and bad spasms after having used it because it was tiring for me to try to sit on.