Gravity – Tools to help mitigate the effects of

by tim1bgdpo

The rumor that we have invented an anti-gravity lift chair is, sadly, just that … a rumor.  Sorry to get your hopes up.  We are still working on it and also the knee scooter teleportation chamber.  In the mean time …

… we have some tips to make elevating your leg easier and more comfortable.

My doc prescribed “toes above my nose” for weeks during my recovery, including when I’m in bed at night and during the day when I spend most of my time in a lift chair.  My Wife received similar directions from her surgeon, except she is supposed to keep as much of her leg as possible above her heart.  In both situations, the purpose is to make gravity work in your favor to reduce swelling and pain in the elevated limb.

So, what’s the big deal?  Get some pillows and rolled up blankets and stuff them under your leg.  We tried this initially and decided that it was not a particularly comfortable or convenient solution for a weeks-long recovery.  It takes lots pillows to reach the necessary height.  I set up the stack but due to the shape of the pillows and lack of friction between the pillows, my foot always slid off the stack before too long.

My Wife came up with this solution:

Memory foam

  • Buy a 4″ thick memory foam mattress topper.
  • Cut multiple pads from the topper to build up the necessary height
  • Stack the pads, foam on foam, at the recovery venue
  • Cover the stack with a sheet, towel, or blanket so your skin will not be in contact with the foam.  I recommend a high thread count sheet.  They feel good on the skin and you will be spending many hours on it.
  • Rinse, repeat:   Cut a set of foam pads for each venue so you don’t have to move them from place to place during the day.

Where to get it

You have multiple options, both locally and online.  We purchased a 2″ pad (for a different application) at the local Walmart.  At the time, I noted that they did not have 4″ pads available.  We bought our 4″ pad here.  The price is the same for twin, full, queen and king!  Get the king to give yourself more raw material.

As you shop around, you will see other options.  You want the high density memory foam material.

  • I don’t recommend the multilayer products;  they have a thin layer of memory foam (the stuff you want) and another layer of a cheaper foam.  It’s the compliant, memory foam that makes these pads comfortable.
  • I don’t recommend a pad that is molded in a waffle pattern.  You want a full 4″ of memory foam material, not half foam and half air pockets.
  • I don’t recommend pads that have a gel layer.  I’ll bet they are comfortable, but I suspect you will get a nasty surprise when you cut it.

How to handle it

  • Get someone to help you.  Memory foam is heavy and a king-sized pad contains a lot of foam.
  • The pad will be shipped highly compressed and rolled up in a cardboard box.  Remove the pad from the box (or carefully cut the box away from the pad).  The pad will still be compressed because the foam is rolled up and contained by industrial strength clear plastic film.
  • Now is the time to move the pad to a location where it can expand for a few days and where you will be able to cut it after it has expanded.  Once the foam is released and starts to expand, it will still be heavy, but now it will be huge and floppy.  It’s much easier to move while still rolled up.
  • Release the foam pad by unwrapping or carefully cutting off the clear plastic film.
  • This foam will not spring open violently, it will slowly ooze and grow to its final size over a couple days.  You can gently help it, but the compressed foam tends to stick to itself.  If you pull too hard to get the layers apart, you can tear the pad.  Be patient.  Walk out of the room, close the door, and don’t return for two days until the monster is fully grown.

How to cut it

An electric knife seemed like a good idea to me (think carving the Thanksgiving turkey), but it was worthless.  The foam is too compliant so the oscillating blades can’t effectively cut the foam.

The best tool to use was my Wife’s largest chef’s knife from the kitchen.  A chef’s knife has a broad blade so it’s easy to handle and control, but any straight-edged, very sharp knife should work well.  Notice, I recommend a straight-edged knife, not a serrated edge.  You don’t need to saw the foam, just slice it.

Mark the foam for the pad you want to cut.  A marker works well.

Enlist your helper to hold the foam up (to give yourself room to use the knife) and apply a little tension to the foam as if to be gently pulling the foam apart across the cut line.  You should get a nice clean cut if you work together and keep the gentle tension on the cut line as the knife advances.


Cutting the foam to precise size is not critical, but here are the sizes I use.

For the reclining lift chair, I have three pads that are 16″ by 26″.  The 26″ dimension is the width of the chair and I stack them on the leg rest.

For the bed, I have one 16″ by 26″, one 26″ by 26″ and one 36″ by 26″.  I place the biggest pad’s short side even with the foot of the mattress.  I stack the middle sized pad on top of the big one with its edge even with the foot of the bed.  The smallest pad goes on top with its 26″-long edge even with the foot of the bed.  The whole thing looks like a crude ramp, with the highest part at the foot of the bed, and the “ramp” surface has three steps down to the mattress surface about half way between the head and foot of the bed.  I lie on this with my lower legs on the top level of the stack and my thighs are supported by the stepped-ramp part of the stack.

How to use

We just stack the foam pads to the required height at each location and drape a sheet over them for comfort.  The rectangular shape of the pads keep my leg from rolling off like it did with the pillows, and the natural affinity of the foam to stick to itself does a great job of keeping that stack intact.  We have found no need to tape or strap the pads together.

When you cut the foam to usable pad sizes, you do not need to worry about shaping the foam to avoid sharp corners or to make the pad fit your body.  That’s what compliance is all about, you will never feel any sharp corners!