THE MOST COMMON WHEELCHAIR INJURIES AND HOW YOU CAN AVOID THEM
From blisters to over-used shoulders, knowledge is your best weapon against injuries related to wheelchair use. To help keep you safe and sound, we’ve prepared a list of common injuries wheelchair users sustain and provided suggestions for how you can avoid falling victim to them.
The glenohumeral joint (shoulder) is the most mobile joint in the human body. Due to this mobility, it’s more vulnerable to injury when overworked. Unfortunately, as the shoulder is the main joint for propelling a device or transferring to/from a wheelchair, it’s a major pain point for many wheelchair users. When the shoulder joint becomes impaired it can greatly reduce your independence and mobility, so it’s important to keep your shoulders fit and flexible — and to reduce unnecessary strain or unnatural usage.
The most common issue wheelchair users face is a rotator cuff tear. Tears are caused by imbalances of the muscles in your shoulder. Doctors recommend strengthening external and internal rotation muscles as well as the adductors to prevent the risk of damage to your rotator cuff.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by swelling in your tendons, which compress your median nerve. Under stress, the median nerve produces tingling, numbness and paresthesia in your thumb, pointer finger, middle finger and palm. This syndrome can also cause so much pain that it affects your ability to grip.
Wheelchair users tend to put inordinate stress on their upper extremities, which increases the prevalence of carpal tunnel syndrome. Additionally, wheelchair transfers and propelling one’s chair can create the traumatic events which cause carpal tunnel syndrome. Luckily, treatment for carpal tunnel is pretty easygoing. Doctors usually recommend a brace and anti-inflammatory medicines. However, for a wheelchair user, the loss of independence can have negative effects on your wellbeing.
Some doctors believe proper biomechanics can prevent carpal tunnel, and studies have shown that wearing padded gloves can help. Furthermore, about every medical professional on the planet agrees that approved muscle conditioning will help prevent injury. If you’re starting to feel sensations that match up with carpal tunnel symptoms, visit your doctor for a full diagnosis and treatment plan, which will likely include exercises to increase wrist mobility and flexion.
Blisters, Abrasions and Lacerations
Blisters and abrasions affect around 18% of wheelchair users, which lead to considerable discomfort. Blisters can be caused by the continuous rubbing of your skin against a surface (like the pad of your wheelchair seat), and signs of blisters include: feeling heat in the affected area, pain and/or a burning sensation. Blisters can contain various types of fluids, but remember: never pop them. Abrasions are caused by the skin scraping against any rough surface. Similarly, lacerations are wounds where skin has been torn.
To prevent blisters, apply talcum powder or petroleum jelly to protect your skin from abnormal friction. It’s also never a bad idea to wear gloves to protect your hands from wheels and spokes.
PREVENTING INJURIES ON A WHEELCHAIR
Common injuries include soft tissue and nerve damage, sprains, abrasions and contusions. The most frequently injuries parts involve the shoulder, arm, elbow, forearm, and wrist.
Preventing any type of injury first involves identifying the cause of the injury in the first place. More often than not, wheelchair injuries are related to the design and selection of the wheelchair involved.
Preventing falls on a wheelchair
Falls Reduction Related to Wheelchair Use
Many wheelchair related falls have to do with relatively standard abstractions. Things such as unlocked brakes, tipping chairs, and unassisted transfers are all basic matters but result in over 50% of all injuries.
For safety reasons, always prevent over reaching and sliding as these are very dangerous as well and often result in injuries.
Most Common Causes of Falls from Wheelchairs
One of the most important features of a wheelchair is the design and fit of the chair. It is important to choose a wheelchair that suits you best. Wheelchair size and capacity are very important factors when it comes to safety. Poor quality wheelchairs are the offenders in this case.
A bad fit a chair can cause an overall lower seat which can lead to sliding. If a seat lacks depth, there is a much higher chance of tipping when leaning forward. Always remember to adjust a wheelchair before use. Tweaks such as dual axel and arm rest adjustments can be the difference between night and day.
Manual Wheelchair Safety & Comfort
Size is one of the most important things that should be considered when looking into a wheelchair. A mismatched size for an individual is the leading cause of injury. Wheelchair type is also very important.
Always make sure to purchase the right type of wheelchair for the right use. These factors are very important and should always be taken into consideration when it comes to avoiding injuries.
Training To Prevent Injury
Preventing injuries and other complications involves proper training. When training a caregiver make sure to demonstrate things such as: operating foot pedals, correct method of folding the chair and most importantly how to properly transfer to a car, bed, toilet or chair.
Also remember to correctly demonstrate how to operate on ramps. Always remember that for up ramps, the direction is forward and for down ramps, the direction is backwards. Remember to demonstrate the correct procedures for mobility over tough environments such as rough ground or gravel.
Fall Reduction Related to Wheelchair Use
As our environment is becomes more and more adapted to the needs of the handicapped, things like disabled assistance, ease of access pathways, and wheelchair ramps are becoming increasingly common throughout our cities and suburbs. Remember to always use the necessary instruction when it comes to operating any type of machinery.
Wheelchair lifts are a common method of transportation that doesn’t require a transfer. Make sure to secure everything in place before operating any type of lift as they can be quite dangerous.
You can tell a lot about the quality of a wheelchair by its cushions. For many, wheelchair cushions are probably one of the most important aspects of a wheelchair since it a great signifier of its quality. Wheelchair cushions come in different shapes and sizes.
Common types of wheelchair cushions include: open cell foam, memory foam, multiple density foam, wedge, anti-thrust, wedge, and gel. Each type of cushion has its strengths and weaknesses. Be sure to pick the type of cushions the suits your needs most.
Rolling back injuries are one of the leading causes of injury for individuals in wheelchairs. Thankfully, there is a simpler solution keeping a wheelchair still. Anti-rollback brakes exist solely to prevent movement when a situation arises that requires the wheelchair still. Anti-rollback brakes are a must have for independent transfers.
However, one must always make sure to adjust the brakes to prevent excess pressure on the ischial tuberosity. If you don’t know what that is, it could almost literally be defined as a pain in the butt. It’s pretty much swelling of a join in the pelvis.
Why do individuals attempt to get out of their chairs? Well the answer is actually quite simple. It’s a handful of factors that have to do with a person’s current condition. An individual may be uncomfortable or possibly fatigued and in pain. Or they might just be really bored due to the lack of engagement with others.
More often than not, a person in a wheelchair is left in front of a TV or simply just in their room. This can cause agitation which leads to a handicapped individual trying to self transfer when they clearly cannot.
Repositioning is very common amongst humans. We all do it. This is no different for people in wheelchairs. When we feel uncomfortable or irritated, we reposition ourselves to a more suited, comfortable position. When caring for an individual in a wheelchair, always make sure that they are comfortable.
If you seen them constantly shifting around or trying to make themselves comfortable, ask them if you can do anything to assist.