Even when you have limited mobility, it’s important to be self-reliant for easy accessibility – especially if you have an active lifestyle. That’s why you need to have reliable wheelchair hand rims to propel and steer the chair without difficulty.
Hand rims are a simple yet integral part of a wheelchair. You’ll find various hand rims available on the market – each with a distinct effect on convenience and performance.
However, it can be pretty overwhelming if you don’t know which type of hand rims are better for your particular needs. This guide can help you understand the features so you can make a better choice.
The Importance of Wheelchair Hand Rims
Wheelchairs are widely used today, especially with around 650 million people – or about ten percent of the world’s population – living with a disability. In the United States alone, a wheelchair is used by approximately 3.6 million people that are over the age of 15. And every year, there are around 2 million new wheelchair users in the country.
Manual wheelchairs have minimal mechanical efficiency, where the expended energy is not directly proportional to the wheelchair’s movement.
As a result, muscle soreness, fatigue, and strain injuries in the upper body are typical among users of manual wheelchairs. So if you propel your chair incorrectly or use substandard wheelchair hand rims, you’ll experience injury and pain in your upper body – particularly in your shoulders, arms, and wrists. It can even result in carpal tunnel syndrome when the median nerve of your wrist is damaged from the constant and repetitive manual propulsion.
Different Aspects of Wheelchair Hand Rims
Since you will be engaging the hand rims constantly during use, they should be given proper attention. The hand rims must match your daily activity needs to reduce upper body injuries without compromising propulsion efficiency.
If you have upper or lower back injuries, you should consider them when choosing hand rim features to help lessen the pain and reduce the possibility of further injury. The following section will go over the different hand rim features and aspects to help you understand how to tailor it according to your needs.
1. Shape and Size
The hand rim size and shape can affect the way you grip it and the position of your hand when propelling the chair. Traditionally, hand rims are rounded in shape. But since its size is small, it can compel you to a pinch grip – resulting in severe wrist and hand motion range.
This extreme, repetitive hand and wrist motion range causes carpal tunnel syndrome as it increases the pressure to the carpal tunnel over time. You may grab both the hand rim and tire together as a workaround – opening the hand more and reducing the pinch grip. However, both the hand rims and tires are not tailored for this manner of usage.
If you want more grip surface area and comfortable wrist position, you should choose hand rims with an ergonomic or oval shape. With a bigger surface area, you won’t have to do any pinch grasp. Most ergonomic hand rims are intuitive to use and are proven to reduce hand and wrist injuries.
The space between the hand rim and wheel may vary. Adjusting the spacing can help ensure a more secure grip and better hand positioning for optimum contact. The overall width can also be tailored to make it more appropriate depending on your environment setting.
The diameter of hand rims ranges from 20mm to 50mm, and it has a direct impact on where and how you grip the hand rim. Kids and teenagers with small hands will have a better grip on smaller diameters, while adults with limited grasping ability may be better off with larger diameters.
Typical manual wheelchairs use anodized aluminum as it provides a balance between functionality and weight. However, some prefer stainless steel hand rims for better durability and reduced heat transfer. Other materials used are titanium, wood, plastic, and vinyl.
Choose Hand Rims Carefully for Better Mobility
To maximize efficiency and energy transfer, you should pay attention to all the aspects mentioned above. Wheelchair hand rims may seem a minor component, but they significantly affect propelling and better mobility. Give importance to these specifics so you can better match the features you need.