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PTA Blog Talk

Pillow Props

Published September 2, 2010 6:47 PM by Jason Marketti

Recently I was seeing a patient who had a CVA. He had a small pillow placed on his uninvolved side to rest his elbow while in his wheelchair. There was no listing noted while he was seated and he really wanted the pillow placed under his elbow. So I assisted him in placing it.

Then I thought about it. Are placing pillows around patients to prop them up detrimental to their treatment? Some will argue that it causes them to receive negative input and lean in that direction; others will argue it can assist with posture while sitting in a chair or on the plinth.

Over the course of my years in therapy and trying out ways to position people, I have found pillows useful. I have worked at places that only had large wheelchairs for patients and the only way to position some of the people in the chair was to place pillows around them so they could sit up and eat lunch.

I have had to make choices such as, do I place a pillow to prop a patient up so he can enjoy a visit with his family or deny him that opportunity because the pillows will potentially make the patient lean into them? Which is worse for the patient?

One thing I don't like is when a patient leans so far over in his chair that the armrest is right against his ribcage. Would a pillow help? Yes, but so would a different chair that can accommodate the patient. Unfortunately not every facility has tilt-in-space chairs for these patients. So how about you, do you endorse the pillow-propping or use it sparingly?

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About this Blog


    Jason J. Marketti
    Occupation: Physical Therapist Assistant
    Setting: San Jacinto, CA
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