Properly Propel A Manual Wheelchair – For greater independence

There are a few ways that you can properly propel manual wheelchairs. By far the best and most common method is the semi-circular method. This method uses less joint stress and needs to be done less frequently compared to other methods because once you start propelling you can then take a few seconds rest before having to use the semicircular motion again. How to properly propel a manual wheelchair is not difficult and with a little practice, anyone can get efficient at doing so.

Mobility issues and other issues lead to millions of men, women, and children being forced to use wheelchairs for long-term use to gain movement.

Wheelchairs and other devices are excellent aids in gaining independence. Learning how self propel in a chair is important. let’s learn how to do this.

What is wheelchair propulsion?

Wheelchair propulsion is the act of moving the wheelchair by the wheelchair user sitting in the chair. The act of propulsion is when the user uses both the upper extremities as the primary way to maneuver the manual wheelchair.

The two wheelchair propulsion cycle phases:

Push phase: This is the propulsive phase when the user’s hands grab the push rim and then end with the stroke to propel the wheelchair.

Recovery phase: This is when the user’s hand is not on the push rim. It is the phase when the hand is swinging back to reengage the push rim again for the next push cycle.

Properly propelling yourself in a manual wheelchair

When propelling wheelchairs there is a correct way you should handle this. The length and frequency of pushes matter for the most efficient way to move around.

Wheelchair users should master or be very good at the following.

Getting around ramps, uneven ground, and curbs

When self propel yourself over curbs and uneven grounds there are some good tips and tricks to rely on.

Shifting weight is also important when going over terrain that is either on a slope upward or downward.

Simply put when you lean forward you are putting more weight on the front casters. leaning back puts more weight on the rear wheel.

Self-propelling up slopes

When moving up a slope you can lean forward to add more weight to the front casters so you minimize the chance of tipping backward.

The same holds true for going down a slope. You will want to lean back to adust the weight to the rear wheel so you can minimize the chance of tipping forward.

Self-propel up curbs

Self-propelling yourself up curbs can be a little more difficult. for those that need to get up a curb, you will need to be able to lift the front casters off the floor and high enough to get them over the curb.

A wheelie technique is used for this. Before this is used you should practice this technique while someone is behind you so tipping can be stopped if you move too far back.

Another option and we suggest must people install anti-tips that avoid flipping backward.

Moving downhill in wheelchairs

There are times you will need to move downhill in your wheelchair. We recommend that if you have help from someone it’s a good idea to have them behind you holding on to the chair to help with limiting the speed going down the hill.

However, if you are alone and need to do this a good pair of wheelchair gloves should be worn to help with grip on the push rim.

Keep a grip on your push rims and slowly allow them to move through your hands to slowly get to the downhill slope.

Toe propelling a manual wheelchair

Using your hands to move is not the only way to get manual wheelchairs to move. Toe propelling is another method that involves the user’s toes or foot to propel the wheelchair users.

The method for this is to move forward in the wheelchair and remove the footplates so your feet can reach the ground.

Now you can move your feet in the walking motion to start the chair to propel. This can be done indoors and out and is okay for short distances to get your chair from one place to another.

Getting up a ramp is another benefit when using your toes. This is because you are naturally sitting forward making tipping backward harder and less likely.

Wheel size can affect wheelchair propulsion

Diameter affects the force needed to propel the wheelchair. The larger the diameter back wheel is the more force is needed to move that wheelchair forward. The same holds true for how wide or narrower the tires are.

The narrower the less friction takes place with the ground. Making the wheelchair easier to move forward.

It is not only the rear wheels that make pushing easier it can also be the front wheels as well. Smaller, narrow wheels can make pushing and propelling the wheelchair forward much easier.

Wheelchairs accessories

Wheelchair add-ons are available that help manual wheelchair users to get uphill or move long distances.

These are called power packs and can be used and fitted to help wheelchairs users move more independently. This power packs covert self-propelled chairs from manual to powered

Anti-tippers are used to help wheelchairs not tip backward when going up slopes or wheelchair ramps. These are lightweight add-ons that are used on the back of the chair.

Sitting correctly can help you effectively propel the manual wheelchair

sitting properly in the wheelchair allows for a few things to happen. Once you can gain better overall leverage when you start to propel yourself using the push rim.

Also, sitting properly in a wheelchair seat can reduce friction, pain, pressure, discomfort and prolong the length you can comfortably sit and properly yourself using a manual chair.

Final thoughts on propelling a manual wheelchair

Propelling a manual wheelchair is not complicated but learning the methods to do so is extremely important for chair users to gain independence and move on their own.

These methods can be learned with a little training and over time you can find yourself much more comfortable going over curbs, slopes, and downward slopes much easier on your own.

Related questions

Can you push a power wheelchair? Yes, most electric wheelchairs have a manual freewheel lever that is mounted on each of the motors. Because of these levers, you can disengage the drive motors and it will allow you to manually push the chair.

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About ASmith

Adam Smith is the main researcher and contributor at Mobility Medical Supply. Adam has many years of research in public data, and software security. With Mobility issues within Adam's family, he decided to dedicate in-depth guides on mobility products to anyone looking to improve movement and gain independence.