How Do I Reduce Pain and Exhaustion When Using My Wheelchair?

Anonymous asks, quote:

This is probably a weird question, but like… I’ve only been using my wheelchair for about a month or so, and it works well inside my house and around stores, but outside on sidewalks/crossing roads etc., it is exhausting to push, never stays in a straight line, and I’m dripping in sweat and my arms ache by the time I get to where I’m going. Is there a way to make this less difficult? I just want to be able to go places without my friends having to drive me.

end quote.

Make Sure Your Chair Meets Your Needs

This first bit’s gonna sound weird so let me explain: most folks who use a wheelchair long‐term use a chair that was specifically meant for them.  My wheelchair was custom built for my body and is designed to meet my specific needs. If you’re going to be using a chair long term, I would make sure you use one that is built with your needs in mind as opposed to a borrowed or rented chair.

Do Some Basic Maintenance

You would be amazed at how much hair and dirt get wrapped around the front axels of the chair and start to slow it down or pull one way or the other. Every few months, take your front wheels apart, remove any debris, and lubricate the bearings. This will make for a much smoother ride.

Make Sure Your Tires Have Enough Air

If you find your chair is difficult to push, it might be because your tires are low on air. Check the side of the tire for the recommended pressure and make sure you don’t let it get too low.

Exercise as Best You Can

In your question, you mentioned that you’ve only been using a chair for about a month. Odds are, your body is still getting used to the situation and it’s going to take time for it to adjust. You can help it along by doing things like lifting weights or going for a push around your neighborhood. This will help you build the muscle groups you need to operate the chair more effectively. You’ll be sore for the first few weeks, but eventually your body will get used to it and you’ll  start to grow stronger.

It’s Tough at First, but You Will Get Better at It

The important thing to remember is to never give up. Keep at it and you will get better at using your chair and traveling long distances. In fact, you’ll get so good that distance won’t even matter anymore. On an even surface, a person in a chair will always be able to travel farther than a person on foot. I can easily put in five or six miles without even thinking if there aren’t too many hills. Eventually, you’ll be able to as well.