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What are the Medical Conditions that Require Wheelchair Use?

September 26, 2022
individual is sitting on the wheelchair

The use of a wheelchair is getting more and more common over time, thanks to its improving versatility. Enhanced comfort, improved efficiency, and added convenience has allowed wheelchair use for several forms of disabilities. These may include:

  • Neuromuscular Disabilities: Relevant to nerves & muscles
  • Orthopedic disabilities: Relevant to bones & muscles

In today’s tech-driven world, power wheelchairs come with a number of optional accessories for added comfort and excellent ease of usage. In addition to the cushions & accessories, several variants of manual & power wheelchairs offer easy maneuvering, tilting & turning, sitting & standing, and reclining options for remarkable functioning.

These truly versatile features make wheelchairs and electric mobility scooters a desirable option for a range of limited mobility conditions. We’ve discussed the primary ailments, impairments, and neuromuscular conditions that require the use of a wheelchair.

Here’s the list of diseases we explained followed by the details of each:

1. Amputations

2. Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

3. Muscular Dystrophy

4. Parkinson’s Disease

5. Scoliosis

6. Spinal Cord Injuries

7. Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

8. Diabetes

1. Amputations

Among the most common limited mobility conditions is amputation. In this condition, a part of a limb or the entire limb is removed surgically, owing to its lack of functioning due to a physical injury, severe infection, tumor, cancer, or decreased blood circulation. In case, one undergoes the amputation of a leg, foot, or toes, a wheelchair turns necessary to maintain their mobility.

There are different solutions to allow or maintain mobility for an amputee, based on their case, condition, and surgery. A wheelchair, however, works as a primary and (in most cases) permanent solution.

2. Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a complex medical condition that results in a quick mobility disorder. In this condition, the immune system attacks the entire central nervous system (CNS), starts devouring the nerve covering, and disrupts the nerve impulse.

The symptoms involve walking & balancing difficulties, double vision, frequent & long-term muscle spasms, and fatigue. The use of an electric wheelchair becomes essential once the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis turn severe.

3. Muscular Dystrophy

Muscular Dystrophy refers to the decreased production of proteins that are essential for muscles. The disorder occurs as a gradual yet constant weakening of a muscle, owing to a range of medical conditions.

The complications occur in childhood most often. Different therapies are implemented to hinder the progress of muscular dystrophy. A permanent treatment, however, is yet to be discovered.

Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy concerns one’s mobility & movement, and causes difficulty in standing, maintaining balance, and walking. The patients of this type of severe Muscular Dystrophy use power wheelchairs with reclining & options.

4. Parkinson’s Disease

A brain disorder, albeit progressive & typically impacts adults above 50, that causes muscle impairment owing to “unintended movement” of muscles is referred to as Parkinson’s Disease.

Patients of Parkinson’s disease may feel mild symptoms of the condition in the beginning, involving slight tremors and difficulties with the basic functioning of hands & legs. The symptoms tend to worsen over time and complicate muscle issues such as stiffness, constant & severe tremors, difficulty balancing, walking impairment, and more.

If one’s leg muscles are affected due to the condition, a wheelchair is sure to help them regain their mobility. For Parkinson’s disease, usually a standing or reclining wheelchair is medically advised to maintain good blood circulation throughout the body.

5. Scoliosis

A “sideways curvature” of the spine often occurs during adolescence and may result from any other neuromuscular condition such as Muscular Dystrophy. Scoliosis causes minimal functionality issues in the beginning, but if the condition is left untreated, it might turn severe resulting in permanent spine deformity.

The most common treatment, albeit not a permanent one, is scoliosis surgery, followed by a long-term recovery. Whether an individual with scoliosis is undergoing treatment or not, a wheelchair is important for comfort and ease of mobility in the long run.

6. Spinal Cord Injuries

A physical injury leading to the deformity or impairment of a part of the spine certainly requires the use of a wheelchair. The impairment may also occur in the entirety of the spinal cord or the central nervous system (CNS) of the body.

Such a case usually results in severe conditions including Paraplegia and Quadriplegia. The former refers to the complete impairment or paralysis of the lower body including legs and feet. The latter refers to the loss of body function below the neck. In both conditions, a standing electric wheelchair with specialized smart controls helps a lot in maintaining effective mobility.

7. Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

A physical injury to the head that directly impacts one’s brain most often results in a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). A physical injury of such a magnitude may occur due to a blow, penetration of a bullet, or a jolt. The mild symptoms include lack of cognitive functionalities, sleeping difficulties (insomnia), nausea & vomiting, constant headache, and difficulty balancing.

Individuals with TBI may permanently lose the ability to walk, stand, or balance themselves. This is where a wheelchair is suggested with specialized controls such as easy & quick tilting, efficient reclining, and standing features.

8. Diabetes

Diabetes itself isn’t considered a mobility impairment condition. But the patient remains at risk of several other diseases that may occur due to diabetes.

In addition, the severity of diabetes itself causes nerve damage owing to the high concentration of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Such a condition, called diabetic neuropathy, primarily impacts the nerves in the toes, followed by the feet and legs.

In case of severe diabetes that leads to foot ulcer or amputation, the patient would require a manual wheelchair for effective mobility. Depending on one’s personal preference, the patient may also use an electric wheelchair for ease of functioning.

Final Thoughts

Technology has made it easier for everyone to enjoy independent mobility, despite the severity of one’s condition.

From wheelchairs to power scooters to other walking aids, everyone has a right to use the appropriate assistive equipment and experience endless mobility. We should also promote wheelchair use for the disabled due to the fact that this equipment allows the differently-abled to function normally in society.

So, whether it’s about decreasing one’s dependency on others or enjoying independent mobility, choosing the right wheelchair according to the condition matters the most. After all, the right assistive equipment could make the world an easier place to live for everybody.

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