Wheelchair Fatigue and Engineering Solutions
Do you have “wheelchair fatigue”? Do your arms and shoulders ache after rolling yourself around in a manual chair? Are there bumps, scrapes, and bruises on your hands and fingers from rolling that wheelchair? You have a problem that many long-time wheelchair users have experienced. The stress and wheeling may eventually cause pain in your thumbs, fingers, hands, wrists, arms and shoulders. Your hunched posture could become unhealthy for you. There are some engineering solutions for those who are wheelchair-weary fortunately.
To solve your problem, you could get a power chair. However, power chairs have to be charged up, are big and bulky in your house, and are hard to transport. The cost of a power chair may be unaffordable for you also, depending on whether you have Medicaid or Medicare or some other funding source. You would not be using your hands to propel with a power chair.
However, there are two other alternatives to discuss with your doctor and/or physical therapist.
First, there are wheelchairs called one-arm-drive (OAD) wheelchairs. One-arm-drive systems can be used on either the right or left side of the wheelchair. On an OAD wheelchair, there is a lever or joystick mounted to the front caster area of the wheelchair with linkages back to the rear wheel of the chair. The lever drive has a forward setting, neutral setting, and reverse setting, and when the lever is “pumped” forward and back while in gear the chair moves in the direction chosen, helping prevent wheelchair fatigue.
A caregiver can also push the wheelchair when the neutral setting is on. To steer a lever-style one- arm drive, the user turns the lever or joystick in the desired direction, and the caster steers the chair in that direction. It’s the lever that is manipulated by the user which turns the casters.
There are variations of OAD wheelchairs, and there are mechanisms that operate the levers which vary a little according to the brand of chair. No battery is needed, and the wheelchair can be folded up and loaded like a manual wheelchair. It will be a little heavier, though. Depending on what brand your manual chair is, it might be possible to modify your chair with an OAD mechanism, instead of getting a completely new OAD wheelchair.
Learn about ramps – Wheelchair Ramp Considerations
A Second Alternative
Another alternative is to look into what could be quickly added to your present manual chair to make propulsion easier. I suggest that you look into MAGICWHEELS Geared Wheelchair Wheels. These wheelchair wheels can be added to most common models of manual wheelchairs. Their purpose is to reduce strain on the user’s arms and shoulders. These all-mechanical wheelchair hubs use a 2-gear drive specifically designed for manual wheelchair wheels.
MAGICWHEELS make wheeling through thick carpet, going over curb cuts, and even rolling on outdoor terrain easier. Each wheel has an easy-to-use shifting mechanism that allows users to switch gears with little effort. No batteries, and no transport, or folding problems with these! Medicare may pay for these to be added to your wheelchair with a doctor’s statement and answers to a few eligibility and use criteria questions. Call MAGICWHEELS at (1-866-624-4294) to see if these can be fitted to your particular wheelchair, the cost and insurance funding procedure, and see if you need help putting them on. If you are a veteran, the VA makes the 2-wheel gears available to patients. See the website for answers to questions.
Get some advice
Finally, I suggest that you contact a physical therapist who has experience in wheelchair- fitting and is knowledgeable about wheelchair accessories and adaptations. You might find such a physical therapist at a university medical center or a hospital. Discuss your problem and check out what the therapist recommends. The therapist will evaluate you and your abilities and preferences and then see what wheelchair and accessories will best fit your needs. The therapist may even let you try out some different kinds of adapted wheelchairs for a few days.
When you are wheelchair weary, see what can be done to ease your use of a wheelchair. Get some advice, and check out these engineering solutions to “wheelchair fatigue”.
Stay safe and healthy wherever you use your wheelchair!