What’s the Best Way to Push My Chair to Avoid Damaging My Thumbs?

Aug 17, 2018

Anonymous asks, quote:

Do you have any tips for not obliterating my basal thumb joint when self‐propelling? I try to avoid gripping the rims, but my chair isn’t ideal for my body size and positioning and it makes gripping the rim inevitable to get any sort of momentum. After a long day of pushing, I can barely hold a knife and fork. The entire pad of my thumb and the joint is absolutely killing me.

end quote.

The first thing you need to do is get yourself a good pair of gloves. I recommend these from Amazon. They offer a lot of good grip and will protect your thumb from rubbing against the wheels.

Ideally, you’re chair should be fitted to meet your needs, but it sounds like that’s not an option for you right now. In the meantime, I would practice two things: pushing with the heel of your hands, and letting the chair do the work.

Push with the Heel of your Hands

Most wheelchair users either grip the wheel by the rim, the tire, or both. What I want you to work on is pushing the heel of your (gloved) hand into the tire without trying to grab a hold of the rim. When you push, your thumbs should be lying parallel to and on top of the tire.

When stopping your chair, grip the tire and rim completely, keeping your thumbs on top so they don’t rub.

Let the Chair Do the Work

The next time you’re practicing pushing your chair, listen to the sound it makes. Do you hear a slight sound when you pull your arms back to push? That means you’re gripping the rim when you push and not letting the chair do the work for you.

When you push your chair, your arms should go as far forward as possible and then come off the wheels completely. Too often, wheelchair users slide their hands back and forth on the rims as they push, creating a telltale “swishing” noise. Keeping your hands on the rims increases the risk of injury and slows you down. Try to avoid it if you can.