Does one-size-fits-all applicable to wheelchairs? Can someone with severe immobility get along with standard wheelchairs, or do they’ve to find a specially designed one? There are a lot of questions that you need an answer to.
One more question comes from the caregivers of the hemiplegic patients — can people with hemiplegia (partial or complete paralysis of one side of the body) rely on a standard wheelchair?
Although people with mild to moderate mobility issues can use a standard wheelchair, severely paralyzed patients on the left or right side require a specialized version known as the hemiplegic wheelchair. They aim to help patients move independently by having only one arm in operation.
Let’s find out more about Hemiplegic wheelchairs vs. Standard Wheelchair in this article.
Hemiplegic Disabilities Vs. Other Disabilities
Hemiplegia (aka hemiparesis) is a disability caused by neurological problems, most often as an aftermath of a stroke. One side of the brain is affected due to this condition which affects half of the body’s (opposite hemisphere of the affected brain part) mobility functions.
On the other hand, there are many disabilities where a patient can start functioning with conventional wheelchairs. Some of these disabilities include muscle weakness due to the aftermath of the stroke, spinal cord injuries, or other neuromuscular diseases like scoliosis, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and more.
However, some of these diseases are like hemiplegic illnesses, where a major portion of the body is paralyzed, and the patient can’t simply rely on the standard wheelchairs.
Overview of Hemiplegic Wheelchairs
Let’s take a better look at hemiplegic wheelchairs here.
Types of Hemiplegic Wheelchair
Let’s look at two of the specialized wheelchairs you can avail of for hemiplegia below.
The dual-rim chair is a specialized wheelchair that includes the following features:
- Operated using one hand
- One wheel has a normal rim
- Another wheel feeds the axle through the chair’s center to the other side and then attaches a second rim to its axle.
- Different diameters for two rims, and they’re offset from each other to allow manipulation.
- The newest versions allow propelling both wheels using one rim and performing pirouettes in place with the other
- Can be steered and maneuvered while moving
Hemiplegic Lever-arm Wheelchairs
The lever-arm wheelchairs have a lever attached to the wheel’s hub instead of the hand rim. Other features of these chairs include:
- It can be operated by pumping the lever
- The one-level arm drives only one wheel
- The steering is utilized by coupling a linkage from the lever to the same side’s front caster
- The user can activate it by twisting the lever arm handle.
- Brake is integrated into the liver and easy to pull
- It has a one-way clutch that uses a cranking operation while propelling the chair
Advantages of Using Hemiplegic Wheelchair
The advantages of a hemiplegic wheelchair include:
- Offer mechanism for operating the wheelchair with one hand
- Lever-arm hemiplegic wheelchairs can be operated by pumping the lever with less strength
- It comes with the added mechanical advantage that helps to ride up ramps
- Ergonomic operation
- Easy to pull brakes
Disadvantages of Using Hemiplegic Wheelchair
The drawbacks of the hemiplegic wheelchair include:
- Not suitable for uneven terrains
- It can result in undesired motion
- Dual-rim wheelchairs need require arm strength and can create an incidence of shoulder pain
Overview of Standard Wheelchair
If you put specialized wheelchairs like hemiplegic wheelchairs out of the equation, you’ll still have a wide range of standard wheelchairs used for patients with different immobilities.
Most of these wheelchairs can be either self-propelled (with both arms) or pushed by a caregiver.
The regular features of the standard wheelchair across all of its types include:
- Two large rear wheels used to propel, and two smaller back wheels or casters to swivel the chair
- Requires both arms for self-propelling except for the powered chairs
- Includes push handles for the caregiver
- Available in different designs, sizes, and shapes
Different Types of Standard Wheelchair
Based on the automation of the operation, there are two types of wheelchairs — manual and powered.
The powered wheelchairs require less strength and provide independence to the users. But they’re not prescribed since they don’t promote low-level physical activity. Manual wheelchairs encourage muscle movement and are used for different disabilities where damages can be reversed.
These are used by people with lower-limb immobilities but still have good upper extremities. Based on weight and size, you get lightweight, ultralightweight, and bariatric wheelchairs.
Other types of wheelchairs include pediatric wheelchairs and some purpose-oriented wheelchairs, including sports wheelchairs, all-terrain wheelchairs, etc. You’ll also find non-adjustable and adjustable wheelchairs in some categories.
Advantages of Using Standard Wheelchairs
The advantages of using standard wheelchairs are:
- Cost-effective and requires little maintenance
- Can be configured to individual needs of a wide range of disabilities
- Transportable and easy to store
- Easily maneuverable
- Powered option with automatic features available
Disadvantages of Standard Wheelchairs
In this case, the drawback of these regular chairs is that the powered or manual wheelchair users can’t use them with half of their bodies paralyzed or with one arm.
Hemiplegic Wheelchair Vs. Standard Wheelchair: Which One’s Right for You
Standard and hemiplegic wheelchairs have many components in common, including axles, leg rests, armrests, and more. But they’re different in purpose.
The needs of hemiplegic patients (or ones suffering from similar conditions) aren’t met by the standard manual or power wheelchairs. It’s because current manual wheelchairs require both arms for the operation, which is unlikely for such patients. The powered chairs don’t promote physical activity or muscle movement, hence not prescribed by the doctors.
As a result, many modern approaches implement improvements in the existing standard designs. The key challenge while designing a hemiplegic wheelchair has been to use one arm to produce the power of two arms. But that’s been overcome by instituting mechanical advantage and utilizing some stored energy.
On the contrary, people who suffer from mild to moderate mobility issues can use the standard wheelchairs as a mobility aid. Unlike hemiplegic wheelchairs, they can be used by both arms and let people engage in daily activities more easily.
Assistive technologies are going through continuous advancements. Future studies such as this “Wheelchair for Hemiplegic Patients” aim to make people with mobility issues live more independently. Regarding disabilities like hemiplegia, the improvements to conventional wheelchairs matter heavily.
Hemiplegic wheelchairs are a new addition to the field that allows stroke patients or people with paralyzed half to use the assistive technology independently. Otherwise, the standard conventional wheelchairs should be sufficient to improve the quality of life for people with immobilities.
Whichever wheelchair you choose, remember to take care of the comfort factors such as a good seat height, seat cushion factors, correct arm height, and sturdiness that can support body weight and ensure pelvic stability.
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