I was at OT today and saw something really upsetting. A guy was pushing an old woman in a wheelchair and came upon a little curb. Not a full curb, just a little one. So the guy didn’t re-adjust the wheelchair or try to lift it, he probably didn’t think that he needed to. The wheelchair tipped forward when it hit the curb and the woman almost fell out. I haven’t written anything about using wheelchairs because I’ve been EXTREMELY lucky and didn’t need one after a couple of months. I really don’t know how long I used one, I can’t remember. So I haven’t thought about wheelchairs in quite a long time. Well I thought about wheelchairs today.
If you’re pushing someone around in a wheelchair, there are certain principles that you should know. When I was in PT school, we spent a few weeks on just using wheelchairs. We learned how to do wheelies and were tested on that. We learned how to use a wheelchair on stairs – yes, stairs – going both up and down. We got so good at popping wheelies in our wheelchairs that I remember during that unit walking into the lab and people would be studying in a wheelchair in a wheelie position. The purpose in learning that was to learn where it’s easiest to maneuver a wheelchair. I did a post on the center of gravity. This is the balance point of the body. You have to know this stuff in order to know how to best position your body in the wheelchair and when moving to different positions and stuff. Well, on the actual wheelchair there are moment arms, kinda sorta similar to the center of gravity. On things that rotate around other things, you have moments. An empty wheelchair’s moment arm is like…..right at the front of the back wheels on the ground. There is equal force causing it to rotate back and rotate forward….so it stays still. So when you do a wheelie in a wheelchair the moment moves backwards on the wheels and it’s easier to push. So what the guy today should have done is lean the wheelchair back so that the moment arm moved back and it would’ve been very easy to push the w/c up the curb. Here, this explains moments.