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Pushing a Wheelchair: Simple Task—or Accomplished Skill?

Reprinted from PN March 2007

There's more to good wheeling than meets the eye. You don't just get in and go!

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The SmartWheel measurement device mounts to most manual wheelchairs to collect and report propulsion information.
At first glance, pushing a manual wheelchair appears quite simple. Almost anyone can figure out how a wheelchair works. There is an obvious space to sit, a place for your feet, and a large wheel on each side. Even a young child will rapidly figure out that if you push those wheels, the chair will move.

However, most people who use manual wheelchairs agree there is some skill involved. In addition to pushing forward to get from point A to point B, specific techniques are used for turning, maneuvering in tight spaces, crossing thresholds, and positioning the chair just right for reaching and transfers. Many accomplished wheelchair users have achieved advanced mobility skills where they can quickly pop a "wheelie" and move around, which is helpful for getting up and down curbs, descending inclines, and maneuvering over terrain.

While there is likely consensus that these advanced skills require training and practice, typically little attention is paid to the basic task of moving the wheelchair forward on all four wheels—that simple act of "getting from point A to point B." Even the most experienced wheelchair users don't give much thought to how they actually move their chairs, just as able-bodied people don't think about how they walk.

In hospital settings, where people sometimes learn to use a wheelchair for the first time, often little attention is paid to "how" they push the chair; the focus is on the basic achievement of moving it down the hall. However, we have learned there very well may be a better way to push a wheelchair.


Learn more about how technique can help minimize pain and injury to the upper limbs.

 

To read more about this, order the March 2007 PN, Click Here.
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Pushing a Wheelchair: Simple Task—or Accomplished Skill?

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