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Thread: Transition from Manual to Powerchair

  1. #1

    Transition from Manual to Powerchair

    I don't post much but I do lurk here often

    I've used an ultralight, manual chair for a long time and recently went for a seating eval because I was having issues maintaining trunk balance. My seating and chair were adjusted. At the eval the PT and and DME recommended a powerchair and asked why I wasn't using one. Has anyone here made the transition from a manual wheelchair to a powerchair? If so, what have you found to be pro's and cons? I am able to think of the following: Need a van or accessible public transit, is slightly bigger than my manual chair and the loss of exercise benefit provided by the manual chair.

    Thank you so much in advance for any input!

  2. #2
    After 32 years of "exercise" in a manual chair, the last 16 of which were in an ultra light, there are a number of reasons to switch sooner rather than later to a powerchair. What no doc will tell you until its too late is that your shoulders have been doing double duty carrying the weight of your entire body both in propulsion and transfers. This means in English that your shoulder joints will wear our in your 50's like an able bodied persons hips wear out when they are 70-80. You get "over-use" injury as well, something called impingement due to the chronic use of shoulders uses to propel and transfer. It requires surgery to correct. Not fun. Lastly pain causes poor sleep. Poor sleep translates into many other areas...

    I ended up going from a Quickie2 HP titanium 15" wide to a Quickie P222SE but with an Amysystems power tilt added to keep the seat to floor height low enough to drive and fit under tables/desk at work. YES, this was a major transition. I had to sell my Ford Escort GT 2 door car that got 30mpg. I found a used van on craigslist that had an easy lock built into it so I do not have to swing my full body weight onto my shoulders 8-10 times a day getting into and out of a car. To my surprise, my car insurance went down due to the additional safety features in the van. (My car was 15 years old).An EZ lock allows the chair to snap to the floor of the van without requiring a transfer.

    Lastly exercise: I exercise MORE now that I don’t hurt so much. Propulsion of a manual chair causes the same muscles to be used over and over again. Using a powerchair with removable arm rests I go swimming instead. I rake leaves, I stack cord wood, and I dance. My exercise has changed. I MUST do it, but I rely on various activities to get it in, not just one. Going to a seating and eval clinic and getting properly fitted has greatly increased my stamina and reduced my pain. I work full time. I keep my manual for short hauls. I do more long hauls now due to power chair. A fold down back allows for air travel (cargo hold).

    Quickie p222SE was the shortest chair on the diagonal measurement for going around corners (90 degree turns) in narrow hallways and also the narrowest chair in width. I had custom 75 degree TAPERED in foot hangers to keep that diagonal measurement SHORT. The adjustable CG on this chair allows you to considerably shorten up the base length also. I am a paraplegic. Hope this helps.

  3. #3
    Have you considered getting a ZX-1 soon to be offered by Spinergy. You back over the ZX-1 w your manual chair, activate the ZX-1 which converts your manual to pwr. You can quickly drop the ZX-1 and revert to manual as needed. If you want the advantages of pwr in the community you can use this w a minivan or a full sized van. Try a youtube search for the ZX-1 or by searching Beach Mobility.

  4. #4
    PS I demoed many chairs out there and found due to my external environment and New England Weather, I needed a rear wheel drive chair. I tried them all. I could not do a mid-wheel drive chair in my case because it was not powerful enough to keep me from getting stuck outside in a boggy spring time yard, snow and jumping a curb. Others though do prefer a mid-wheel drive. You have to demo these for a few days to see what your life-long commitment will be!

  5. #5
    I used forearm crutches for many years and a manual chair maybe 3 to 4 times a year. I started falling and breaking bones. My orthopaedic surgeon insisted I go to a chair before I broke something that would make me bedridden for the rest of my life so I got a power chair. I now go many places I never could before because I could only walk about a 1/4 of a mile. Now there is almost no limit to how far I can go and wish I had done this 20 years ago. The drawback is I use a van now which doesn't bother me at all. My shoulders don't hurt any more nor do my wrists. I don't think you will regret making the change.

    Good luck.
    ''Life's tough... it's even tougher if you're stupid!'' -- John Wayne

  6. #6
    PS. the above add on design is great but you need a rigid frame (not a cross brace) I believe for this to be mechanically compatible with your chair, otherwise this is a good idea. Still for posture, you may require a seating change (cushion, backrest, angles, footrest position, i.e a seat clinic regardless of your choise of propulsion is still what you need for your Ergonomics-IE you must be "fitted" to the wheelchair.

  7. #7
    Transitioning to a power chair montra...... I "get" to use a powerchair!

    Nobody is taking your manual chair away, you can still use it. The powerchair will open up all kinds of opportunities for you.

  8. #8
    What's your level Jodie? What do you do to strengthen your shoulders and arms? How long in a chair.

    I hate how dme's and "therapists" want to put a person is a powerchair without so much as a second thought. WTH.

    I have one of the prototypes of the ZX-1. It's a good tradeoff in that I can use it when I need the power, get there, disconnect and
    be in my manual.

  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Aiken, SC USA


    I tranitioned to a power chair two years ago after shouldeer surgery. There are times when I use my manual--certain restaurants, public places. When I drive it's from a power chair.

    I use the VA and was told the Administration is re-thinking how long to leave a Vet in a manual chair. The Vets are experiencing shoulder problems due to using their arms as legs longer than they should. When the VA issues a power chair you also receive a manual as a backup.

    Iris Bloom
    You C.A.N.
    Conquer Adversity Now

  10. #10
    After wheeling for more than 57 years, I have gone through the cycle - manual, power assist, and now a full power chair. From my experience, I believe a ZX-1 ought to be a standard issue with a person's first correctly fitted manual wheelchair. This would enable people to spare their shoulders of the early deterioration that usually results from beating them up in really demanding situations.

    Manual chairs are the most compact and nimble, easily transported, and are unequaled indoors and in tight places. Power chairs are great outdoors and for those really demanding long distance and difficult terrain treks. Additionally, these chairs have several controller and seating options, as well as seat elevators and stander options.

    The detachable ZX-1 power assist provides the best of both the manual and the power alternatives. There are other power assist devices available, but they have some shortcomings. There are other CC threads here that deal with e-motions, and extender systems that give the pros and cons.

    The most important advice I can give give you is to not wait until the damage forces the change. Dealing with shoulder pain can be hell.
    You will find a guide to preserving shoulder function @

    See my personal webpage @

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