For people with amputations of their lower limbs, high spinal cord injuries, Spina Bifida, Cerebral Palsy, or an event of paralysis, the use of a wheelchair may be an almost automatic decision. Wheelchairs were designed to help the user improve mobility. It allows one to be more independent. Without them, many would be confined to their houses or even their beds.
But what about cases that are more subtle?
People often assume that if you are in a wheelchair, you must be paralyzed and unable to use your legs. I use a wheelchair all the time so I tend to shock those poor, narrow-minded people when I can stand up.
No, this isn’t always the case and there are many reasons why someone should look into adding a wheelchair into their options for mobility choices.
Arthritis– This is an obvious one. Normally older people or athletes have problems with osteoarthritis, which causes the cartilage in your joints to deteriorate over time. When that wears away, it can leave a person with severe pain and less mobility. Then there are those that have Rheumatoid Arthritis, which is an autoimmune disorder. This disease knows no age limits. Your immune system sees your own tissues and organs as foreign so it mounts an attack against your joints. This disease can cause a systemic reaction and damage vital organs.
Most people with arthritis of any kind may use a cane or a walker for better mobility. If these options are no longer feasible because of pain or falls, a wheelchair may be a good option for you. If your arthritis issues are mostly in your lower limbs, a lightweight manual chair may be a great choice. If your arthritis issues involve your small joints, such as the ones in your hands, a power wheelchair may be just the chair you’re looking for. Keep in mind that power chairs are much heavier, more expensive, and operate on battery power.
Lung and Heart Disease
Someone with COPD or congestive heart failure may have a hard time catching their breath. Both of these diseases are disabling to varying degrees and a person can be totally out of breath after walking a few steps. To make it much easier on your heart and lungs, you may want to ask your doctor if a wheelchair is right for you. Transport wheelchairs or chairs with push handles are excellent choices, allowing someone to be able to assist you so that you are still able to do the things that you need to do.
Obesity is a medical condition that may have an adverse affect on your health. Someone who is obese may have a hard time getting around because of the extra weight bearing down on their joints. Too much weight can cause extreme pain and rapidly deteriorate the cartilage in the joints. In this case, there are many heavy duty wheelchair options available.
Stroke/Gait Problems/Neuromuscular Diseases/Movement Disorders/Epilepsy/Spasticity
A person with the above mentioned diseases may have some mobility but because of their illness it is not safe for them to travel on their own two feet. A manual or electric wheelchair may be the best option in this case. Falls for some of these people can be deadly so a wheelchair is a much safer option. Others in this category simply must use a wheelchair, especially if or when their disease progresses. People with MS, Huntington’s Disease, Lou Gehrig’s, Parkinsons, Myasthenia Gravis, polymyositis, Duchenne’s, etc. fall into this category.
Depending upon the severity of one’s illness, a lightweight manual chair may do or a power chair may be just what the doctor ordered for those who have issues with their hands.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Fatigue is definitely disabling and can cause great anxiety and depression in a person who just wants to live a “normal” lifestyle and do all the things that everyone else can do. Some people with CFS use wheelchairs because they may not be able to walk long distances and/or suffer with muscle and joint pain. If you cannot walk short or long distances without feeling like you want to nap on the sidewalk, a wheelchair may be a great option. A chair that folds is a great option because they are highly portable. Stick the chair in your car and get moving. When you need it, it’s there for you.
This condition is still not fully understood by the medical community but people who suffer with this condition often need wheelchairs because of extreme fatigue, chronic pain issues, or suffer from vertigo/dizziness. For some, the pain can be downright disabling and sometimes the use of a cane or a walker just won’t do. A rigid and lightweight chair could be just the chair you need. With rigid chairs, there are less moving parts that can break or wear down. I recommend a rigid chair for those who are going to use their wheelchairs more often.
There are several other reasons that one may use a wheelchair that are not listed here. The important things to remember are that if you are prone to falls, suffer from chronic pain issues in your lower limbs, or unable to walk for five minutes without feeling numb, tired, or just like you want to collapse, it may be time for you to consider a wheelchair. Thank goodness there are so many options for nearly everyone. I personally “drive” a Quickie with flashing castor wheels. For the more conservative, there are many options for you as well. You can find a wheelchair to fit almost any personality.
Try not to think of a wheelchair as a prison. It is a means of independence and for some, gaining a little more independence in their lives will be truly worth it.