It All Begins with the Mat Assessment
We spoke last week about 24-hour positioning and its importance for the client, but how do we know what products to use and how to position our client? This all begins with the mat assessment. The mat assessment is where we will be able to determine any postural asymmetries, decreased range of motion, contractures, muscle tone, and so much more for the client’s seated position. Although the mat assessment typically will be utilised for the seated posture in the wheelchair, it can be beneficial for any surface the client may be on throughout their day. If you have never completed a mat assessment or are still new to the process – the most important piece of advice is to remember to breathe, get hands-on, and write down what you feel/see. Mat assessments can be scary when you first start, but ultimately it will provide you with the information you need to provide the best care to your client. So where do you begin?
Begin first by trying to find a hard surface for your client. Not every therapist will have access to a mat and that’s okay. It is important to try to find a firm surface so that you’re not getting false information back. The client’s safety and well-being are most important, so be sure to make sure your client is safe on the surface you choose.
You want to assess the client in both supine and sitting. The assessment in supine will allow you to not only assess the client without the effect of gravity, but it will also allow you to safely assess the client’s range of motion. I have included a few great resources below on mat assessments and a few helpful forms you can utilise. It is important to either have a form to fill out, or to write down what you see and feel as you go along. The last thing you want to do is finish the mat assessment and then forget what you have just done! Once the supine examination is over then you can complete the sitting examination.
For the sitting examination, be sure your client is safe at all times! You may have to provide support by sitting behind your client or having a second person for safety. The seated examination will give you feedback on the client’s position with gravity, position of their head and trunk, their balance, and so much more. Here is where you can really get hands on and determine how much support the client will need in their wheelchair. I like to use my hands as laterals, chest straps, or as whatever positioning items I am thinking of to mimic their effects. Remember to give your client proper foot support during the sitting examination.
If I can give one piece of advice when learning mat assessments is to PRACTICE! Practice on your family and friends. Practice on other therapists. Feel comfortable with your process before you try to just jump two feet into a complicated mat assessment. The best way we can learn is through practice. Take a look at these great resources below and as always feel free to email/call with any clinical questions! I am here to help you.
Spinal Seating Modules
Permobil Seating and Positioning Guide