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The Difference Between Tilt-In-Space & Reclining Power Wheelchairs

February 18, 2013

Tilt-in-space and power recline are two seating and positioning systems available on power wheelchairs.1 Changing the seating position of the power chair user can benefit seating tolerance, improve general health and help with pressure management for individuals with more advanced mobility issues.

Although a tilt-in-space power chair may seem similar to one that fully reclines (i.e., both help with independent weight redistribution and pressure relief), their positioning systems are not the same.

Differences in Power Recline & Power Tilting Wheelchairs

The differences between tilt-in-space and power recline seating are quite specific. Each type generally operates in the following manner:

Tilt-in-space power chair
Tilt-in-Space Positioning System
  • the entire seating apparatus tilts at once, stably shifting the patient's body
  • gravity helps to re-distribute pressure from one area of the body to another (eg., from lower body to upper)
  • hips, knees stay in position and seat-to-leg angles remain constant
Recline Seating Option
Recline Seat
  • the seat back of the power recline chair moves independently of other parts
  • as the back reclines, the patient expands horizontally to the desired angle
  • high back seat and elevating leg rests may be added to maximize comfort2

Health Benefits of Seating and Positioning Aids

In addition to enhancing daily mobility, these special components offer other health benefits, such as:

  • improving postural alignment and torso stabilization
  • relieving pressure at the point of contact (reducing the risk for pressure sores)
  • enabling independent weight shifts and transfers without assistance
  • encouraging better respiration, circulation and digestion

Reclining and tilt-in-space seating systems are not necessary for every power wheelchair user. A clinician may recommend and/or prescribe these positioning aids on the basis of medical necessity. However, the need for either type of seating system can only be determined during a required face-to-face mobility examination.

If you, or someone you know, struggles with daily mobility and is looking to explore solutions, please call Hoveround at 800-542-7236. A Mobility Specialist will gladly answer questions, conduct a free mobility consultation by phone, and help you, or your loved one, regain personal mobility.


1Tilt and recline may be prescribed separately, or in combination, depending on the patient's medical need.
2 Reclining power chairs may be prescribed with elevating legrests to improve patient stability and comfort. When the seat back of the chair reclines, it flattens out the back in a horizontal position. If the legs are not elevated, the position can become uncomfortable. Consult a physician, physical therapist or mobility supplier for more information.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical advice.

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