This Education in Motion resource is also available as a printable PDF.
Before a wheelchair user starts using a manual wheelchair, these key points of rear wheel position should be considered. It is essential for wheelchairs to be set up correctly and for wheelchair users to learn proper propulsion techniques. This makes manual propulsion easy - and minimizes the risk of injury.
Wheelchair users ideally should be seated so that the tip of the middle finger can reach the center of the hub when the upper extremity is in a relaxed position. For most end-users, this will help to ensure that 70-80% of the user's weight is over the rear wheels. It is important to note, however, that each wheelchair set up should be as individual as each wheelchair user and take into account each person's center of mass. Having 70-80% of the user's mass over the rear wheels has a positive impact on:
Propulsion is broken down into two phases: the push phase and the recovery phase. The push phase refers to the time that the user's hand is physically pushing the chair, while the recovery phase (also known as the rest phase) is when the hand is waiting to make contact with the handrim again.
Ideally, the push phase duration = the recovery phase duration
Longer strokes = fewer strokes = less force = less chance of injury
Just like anything we do in life, the ideal push requires education followed by practice! The use of video feedback is a great way for the user to review their propelling technique and to help them implement longer and fewer strokes!
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