The backrest supports the spine and can extend to include support of the head if needed. The height will depend on the person’s needs, but a proper back should support normal posture, prevent pain and fatigue, and allow maximal mobility. The hammock or sling back, like the sling seat, folds easily with the chair but does not provide a great deal of back support. More rigid backs provide increased support and there is a wide range of shapes and styles depending on what is needed. Those who are able to propel their own chairs using their arms benefit most from a backrest that ideally should not extend higher than about two inches below the lower angle of the shoulder blade. This allows easy propulsion and avoids rubbing or irritation of the arms during wheeling. A higher back rest may be needed for proper support by someone who does not propel themselves, has weaker trunk support, or uses a power wheelchair negating the need to propel themselves. A high backrest or headrest may be needed if a tilting or reclining feature is being used on the chair. These features are often used in the more physically impaired person for repositioning and pressure relief to protect the skin.
Push handles can be part of the frame or the back rest and are generally added if the individual will need someone to assist them in propelling the chair all or part of the time.