Hemiplegia is a condition where one side of a person’s body gets paralyzed. The most common cause of hemiplegia is stroke but there are other conditions that may result in one-sided paralysis of a person’s body. Some of the common causes of hemiplegia include –
- Cerebral Palsy
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Spinal Cord Injury
- Traumatic or Acquired Brain Injury
Whatever the cause of the condition, when a person gets paralyzed the biggest question that arises is how will they move around and manage their daily lives. A lot of people with hemiplegia choose manual wheelchairs for their mobility. But, the typical manual wheelchair is designed to be propelled with both hands. When a person is paralyzed on one side they will surely not find it easy to propel their wheelchair. This is where the concept of a Hemiplegic Wheelchair comes into the picture.
What is a Hemiplegic Wheelchair?
Before we discuss hemiplegic wheelchairs we need to understand the unique need of a hemiplegic person. As one side (left or right) of the body gets paralyzed in hemiplegia, the person can practically use one hand and one leg of the same side. So, a hemiplegic wheelchair is more about the propulsion technique using one hand and a leg than the design of a wheelchair.
There are just a few alterations done to a wheelchair to make it easier for a hemiplegic person. The most common alteration is the reduction in seat height. The seat height for a hemiplegic person is reduced by around 2 inches from the average seat height for a paraplegic person of the same height. The reduced height of the seat allows the working leg of the hemiplegic person to reach the ground easily to propel the wheelchair.
Buying a Hemiplegic Wheelchair? Considerations to Keep in Mind
If you are a hemiplegic person you need to consider many things before buying a wheelchair to help you move around. Allow us to discuss some of the common features that help you feel more confident and independent in your manual wheelchair.
1. Light Weight Frame
Wheelchair propulsion in a hemiplegic style is not a very easy task. It takes much more effort than propelling a wheelchair with both hands so it is really important for you to have a wheelchair that is lightweight and easy to propel. You will basically find two types of wheelchair frames – rigid frames and folding frames. Rigid-frame wheelchairs are always lighter in weight and they are easy to propel. The folding frame wheelchairs are heavier due to their design and are also tough to propel. As the frame is not rigid it takes more effort to keep the folding frame wheelchair in a straight line.
2. Material of the Wheelchair Frame
You should always prefer high-end materials like carbon fiber and titanium for your wheelchair. One of the most talked-about features of these high-end materials is that they are lightweight. And, that’s not the only good thing about these high-end materials. They are also good for vibration damping i.e. these materials do not let the vibrations and bumps of the road transfer to your body. It can be a very important factor for someone who has to deal with neuropathic pain.
3. Position of the Rear Axle
As a hemiplegic person, you will want to move your wheelchair horizontally and vertically without external help. Your movement can be supported well with the right placement of the rear axle. Experts suggest the rear axle be as forward as it can be without compromising the center of gravity of the user. If you are getting your wheelchair custom-made, you should discuss this thing with your manufacturer to make propulsion a little more comfortable and fast.
Unique Wheelchair Accessories for Hemiplegia
Now that we have discussed the customization needs for hemiplegia propulsion we can talk about some unique accessories that can make things easier.
1. One Arm Drive
This is a wheelchair accessory that allows wheelchair propulsion with just one hand and no legs. The mechanism is simple yet effective. Two hand rims are placed on the dominant side of the wheelchair. Each hand rim controls each of the wheels. When the user grasps both the hand rims together and pushes them the wheelchair moves forward in a straight line. When they have to turn the wheelchair, they can do so by pushing one of the hand rims. This addition to a wheelchair can help a paraplegic person propel their wheelchair with just one hand.
2. Unilateral Wheel Lock
As the name suggests, a unilateral wheel lock is an accessory that can be installed in a wheelchair to help the user lock both wheels using just one lock. While some manufacturers may give this customization option there’s no worry if your manufacturer doesn’t give the option. It is an accessory that can be installed anytime with ease. You can get this installed on your wheelchair with the lock system on your dominant-hand side.
3. Wheel Lock Extension
Locking and unlocking the rear wheel of a wheelchair is not a tough task but it can become tricky when a person is paralyzed on one side. It will be difficult for the dominant hand to reach the wheel lock on the other side. A wheel lock extension is a very simple device that extends the size of the lock so that a hemiplegic person can reach the non-dominant side with their dominant hand. This is not a costly accessory and can be considered over a unilateral wheel lock if budget is an issue.
4. Arm Trough or Tray
An arm trough or tray is an accessory that can be installed on the hand-rest of the paralyzed or weaker side to keep it safe. A paralyzed hand can slip from the hand rest or the paralyzed side may droop adversely affecting the balance of the body. So, it is important to have an accessory to keep you safe by giving extra support to the paralyzed side.
A hemiplegic wheelchair is a manual wheelchair used by a hemiplegic person i.e. a person who has sided paralyzed body. There are a few alterations that can make wheelchair propulsion for hemiplegic persons easier. A power chair with controls on the dominant side is also a good alternative.
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"Tips on Buying a Hemiplegic Wheelchair for Stroke Patients." Wecapable.com. Web. June 8, 2023. <https://wecapable.com/tips-on-buying-a-hemiplegic-wheelchair-for-stroke-patients/>
Wecapable.com, "Tips on Buying a Hemiplegic Wheelchair for Stroke Patients." Accessed June 8, 2023. https://wecapable.com/tips-on-buying-a-hemiplegic-wheelchair-for-stroke-patients/
"Tips on Buying a Hemiplegic Wheelchair for Stroke Patients." (n.d.). Wecapable.com. Retrieved June 8, 2023 from https://wecapable.com/tips-on-buying-a-hemiplegic-wheelchair-for-stroke-patients/