To prevent an injury when using a wheelchair, you must be able to identify the cause of the injury in the first place.
The most common injuries from wheelchair use will involve the shoulder, arm, elbow, forearm, and wrist.
Injuries can include soft tissue, nerve damage, sprains, abrasions, and contusions.
Below is a brief overview of some of the most common injuries and how to prevent them.
Wheelchair falls can be caused by things such as unlocked brakes, tipping chairs, and unassisted transfers.
Falls affect both power and manual wheelchair users.
The best way to prevent falls is not to overreach, and be sure to choose a wheelchair that suits you the best in terms of size and capacity.
The shoulder is one of the most mobile joints in the body.
Because of this, it is also more susceptible to injury when it’s overworked.
Your shoulder is the main joint used when propelling a manual wheelchair.
When you injure your shoulder, your mobility will be severely impaired.
Overuse can cause muscle strain, rotator cuff tears, and impingement.
It is recommended to strengthen both external and internal rotation muscles.
Exercising these muscles is relatively easy to do.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:
40-66% of manual wheelchair users experience carpal tunnel.
This is caused by swelling in your tendons which compress the median nerve, which may cause tingling, numbness, and paresthesia.
Carpal Tunnel can cause pain affecting specifically your grips.
Wearing padded gloves can reduce the pressure put on your hands.
Also, strengthening your muscles and maintaining your wheelchair equipment can help prevent or ease carpal tunnel.
You can also try icing your wrists for 20 minutes at the end of the day.
Blisters and Abrasions:
Affecting about 18% of wheelchair users, blisters and abrasions can lead to serious discomfort.
Blisters can be caused by your skin rubbing against a surface and can have a burning sensation.
Abrasions, on the other hand, are caused by the skin scraping a rough surface.
Blisters can be prevented by selecting a chair with material that won’t cause chaffing.
Also, applying talcum powder or petroleum jelly can protect your skin from too much friction.
Be sure also to wear properly fitting clothing.
Gloves and using wheel guard covers can help prevent blisters and abrasions on your hands.