Wheelchair Fatigue and Engineering Solutions



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Do your arms and shoulders ache after rolling around in a manual chair? Are there bumps, scrapes, and bruises on your hands and fingers from rolling that wheelchair?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, you may be experiencing “wheelchair fatigue.” This term refers to the physical strain and discomfort caused by prolonged use of a manual wheelchair.

It is a common issue faced by individuals who rely on manual wheelchairs for mobility and can have a significant impact on their overall health and well-being.

It is important to be aware of the symptoms of wheelchair fatigue and take steps to prevent and manage it in order to maintain a high quality of life.

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 must be charged up, are big and bulky in your house, and are hard to transport.

You would not be using your hands to propel with a power chair. The cost of a power chair may be unaffordable for you also, depending on whether you have Medicaid, Medicare, or some other funding source.

However, there are two other alternatives to discuss with your doctor and/or physical therapist.

OAD Wheelchairs

First, there are wheelchairs called one-arm-drive (OAD) wheelchairs. An OAD wheelchair has a lever or joystick on the front wheel linked to the chair’s back wheels by a chain.

The lever drive has three positions—forward, neutral, and reverse—and the chair moves in the selected direction when the user pumps the lever forward and back while in gear. One-arm-drive systems can be used on either the right or left side of the wheelchair.

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.

OAD Variations

There are variations of OAD wheelchairs, and there are mechanisms that operate the levers, which vary a little according to the brand of a chair.

Depending on your manual chair’s brand, it might be possible to modify it with an OAD mechanism instead of getting a completely new OAD wheelchair.

No battery is needed, and the wheelchair can be folded up and loaded like a manual wheelchair. It will be a little heavier, though.

 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. These all-mechanical wheelchair hubs use a 2-gear drive specifically designed for manual wheelchair wheels. Their purpose is to reduce strain on the user’s arms and shoulders.

MAGICWHEELS make wheeling through the 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. The VA makes the 2-wheel gears available to patients if you are a veteran.

No batteries, 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 eligibilities and use criteria questions. See the website for answers to questions.

Get some advice

Finally, I suggest 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. The therapist will evaluate your abilities and preferences and then see what wheelchair and accessories will best fit your needs.

Discuss your problem and check out what the therapist recommends. The therapist may even let you try out different 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!