Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Chairs

A Guide to Seating Patients

Motor Neurone Disease (or MND) refers to a group of illnesses that gradually weaken muscles and have a drastic impact on an individual’s daily life, including their ability to move, speak, and even breathe. 

While there is sadly no cure for MND, clinical seating can help to manage symptoms and make life as comfortable as possible for those affected.

FAQs: MND & Clinical Seating

Motor Neurone Disease (or MND) refers to a group of progressive neurological disorders that primarily affect cells in the central nervous system, which is responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement. Motor neurones are responsible for transmitting signals from the brain and spinal cord to the muscles, enabling movements like walking, talking and breathing.

There are several types of motor neuron diseases, with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) being the most well-known and common. ALS specifically affects both the upper and lower motor neurons, leading to muscle weakness, difficulty in speaking, swallowing, and eventually breathing.

MND can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to sit comfortably.

As the disease progresses, the muscles responsible for posture and balance can weaken. This means that individuals with MND may struggle to sit up straight without support.

As muscle strength diminishes, transferring from one seat to another, or transitioning to standing, can become challenging. Muscle twitching and spasms can cause further unintended movements that impact comfort, posture and stability.

Limited mobility can increase the risk of pressure injuries and have a negative impact on overall quality of life.

Finding a quality chair for an individual with MND requires careful consideration of their specific needs and profile. Head control and positioning is one of the biggest challenges. This starts from the pelvis, which needs to act as a stable base of support.

While there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, there are some key features of Seating Matters chairs that combat the symptoms associated with MND. These include:

  • Tilt in Space (45 degrees): When the entire chair shifts in position on its frame as one unit, while maintaining the angle of the individual’s hips, knees and ankles.
  • Independent Back Angle Recline: Adjustment in angle of the back of the chair, while the body remains stationary.
  • Adjustable Head, Neck & Shoulder Sections: Increasing support as required, in line with the degenerative nature of MND.
  • Adjustable Arm Rests, Seat Width, Seat Depth, Foot Plate Height & Back Height
  • Medium to High Pressure Management Cushion

The benefits of a Seating Matters chair for a patient with MND may include improved postural support, pressure relief and redistribution, improved breathing, increased mobility, heightened independence, fall prevention, reduced pain, and significantly improved overall quality of life.

The first step is to Book a Free Seating Assessment.

This individual assessment is always necessary. It involves testing the range of motion of an patient’s joints, understanding their specific symptoms, and assessing the standards and impact of their current bed or chair.

On the basis of this assessment and any personal goals of the patient, their family and their care team, a specific Seating Matters chair will be recommended to meet their needs.

The symptoms of MND can vary greatly from person to person. This means that each individual will have very different requirements and needs.

Some of the most frequent signs of early stage MND include:

  • Muscle weakness, which may be noticed in a specific area, like a hand or foot.
  • Muscle twitching and cramping
  • Fatigue, even after light activities
  • Changes in speech, such as slurring of words
  • Challenges with fine motor skills like handwriting
  • Minor problems with balance, coordination or even walking
  • Weight loss

MND is a progressive disease, meaning symptoms tends to worsen over time. While the rate at which this happens will vary, later stage symptoms of MND typically include:

  • Severe muscle weakness, which makes it difficult to perform even basic movement
  • Severe difficulty swallowing (Dysphagia)
  • Difficulty breathing, often resulting in a requirement for ventilation or respiratory support
  • Difficulty eating and drinking, which can lead to weight loss and malnutrition
  • Pain and discomfort as a result of muscle cramps and immobility
  • Difficulty speaking (Dysarthria) due to muscle weakness
  • Complete paralysis
  • Respiratory failure

In most cases, the cause of MND in unknown, though it is believed to result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Familial MND: Up to 15% of cases are the result of genetic mutations. If an MND gene is present, there is a 50% chance that the individual’s children, siblings and parents will also have the gene. In these cases, there may be individuals who carry the MND gene, but never actually develop the disease.

Yes, our MND chairs are available to trial.

The first step is to organise a Free Seating Assessment, conducted by a clinically trained Seating Matters Specialist. This Assessment takes approximately 60 minutes and can be completed at home or hospital.

Based on this Assessment, the most suitable Seating Matters chair will be provided for the patient to trial. This will be adjusted to fit them correctly, taking into consideration things like seat depth, seat width and chair height. Postural supports and further customisations can also be added. 

Chair for Motor Neuron Disease (MND) Phoenix Seating Matters
Quick Facts About Motor Neurone Disease

More than 2300 Australians are thought to be living with MND at any one time.1

Every day in Australia, 2 people are diagnosed and 2 people die from MND.1

The average survival time after diagnosis of MND is 27 months.2

Approximately 58% of people with MND are under the age of 65.2

The total economic cost of MND in Australia was $2.37 billion in 2015. This equates to about $1.1 million per person, a number which has likely increased over the past decade.2

Seating Recommendations: MND Chairs

Seating recommendations for an individual with MND can vary significantly based on their symptoms and preferences. The key requirements are adjustability, tilt in space, and independent back angle recline.

An Orlando recliner chair is often the most appropriate for those with early stages of MND. It has a less clinical appearance, making it more comfortable and less intimidating for those who have recently received a diagnosis.

As MND is a rapidly progressing disease, a patient’s needs may change over time.

The Phoenix 2 or Sorrento 2 are typically best for those with more advanced symptoms.

It is always best to conduct an individual seating assessment. This can be followed by an extended trial or hire of a Seating Matters chair, which can be modified and upgraded as symptoms progress. Our Seating Specialists will support you through this process.

The Orlando is a tilt in space riser recliner that is designed to help patients from sitting to standing. It can enable those with MND to maintain independence and mobility, improving comfort and helping to prevent pressure injuries. The Orlando has dual motors, providing leg elevation and tilt in space positioning, as well as an adjustable back angle recline. 

The Sorrento was designed for more highly dependent patients. Its adjustable back recline and tilt in space features can improve posture, reduce discomfort, prevent falling and sliding, improve breathing, and help conserve energy.  Being completely mobile and adjustable, the Sorrento can be modified when the needs of an MND patient change.

The Phoenix is specifically recommended for people with complex or changing needs who require high levels of postural support. This makes it a good choice for the progressive symptoms of MND. It is easily adjustable and completely mobile, with clinical features including a 45 degree tilt in space,  and adjustable head, neck and shoulder supports.

Case Studies & Additional Resources

Considerations When Seating a Client With MND

In this article, Seating Matters Clinical Training Manager, Kirsty O'Connor, explores the symptoms of Motor Neurone Disease and the various seating challenges associated with this degenerative condition - including difficulties with mobility, postural changes, head control, and cognitive and behavioural changes.

From the perspective of a specialist Occupational Therapist, she explores the critical features of Seating Matters' Phoenix 2 and Sorrento 2 chairs, considering the significant impact that quality therapeutic seating may have on the lives of individuals with MND.

Read More

Free Webinars: MND & Therapeutic Seating

Finding a Chair for an Individual with Motor Neurone Disease (MND)

In this digital training session, Seating Matters Founder & Clinical Director, Martina Tierney, explores the symptoms and requirements of individuals with Motor Neurone Disease.

Martina highlights the challenges involved in seating individuals with MND, and provides some clear advice on how to find a quality, therapeutic chair that will combat symptoms and improve your client’s overall quality of life. 

Seating a client with MND webinar
A Discussion with MND Specialist OT, Sarah Solomon

Senior Melbourne-based OT, Sarah Solomon is a specialist in Motor Neurone Disease and winner of the 2021 International Alliance of ALS/MND Associations’ Allied Health Professionals Award. She was also a full-time carer for her mother, who was diagnosed with MND in 2012.

In this webinar, Sarah speaks to Seating Matters Clinical Director, Martina Tierney about her personal experiences, how to support clients with MND, the key considerations and challenges associated with seating patients, and the impact that OTs can have on overall quality of life.

Download Your Copy Of 'The Clinician's Seating Handbook'

This practical guide by world-renowned OT, Martina Tierney will assist you in the prescription and use of therapeutic seating for patients with various conditions. It’s the best place to start.

Download your free copy now.