Standing Wheelchairs for Paraplegics & Quadriplegics
The thought of living with a quadriplegic diagnosis may be daunting. There are many things to consider when it comes to your mobility.
A standing wheelchair for paraplegics or quadriplegics is a motorized chair that is powered by one or two batteries, with the intended purpose of traveling through all ranges of motion from the seated position to standing and back to prone, allowing a better posture in the standing position and the correction of symptoms like high blood pressure, caused by an individuals disability.
The Modern Wheelchair
The wheelchair is a complex piece of equipment that has been extensively engineered and studied. Most individuals with spinal cord injuries become wheelchair experts because doing so increases their chances of getting a wheelchair that truly meets their needs.
A power wheelchair is appropriate if you are unable to propel a manual wheelchair or if you need to reduce the strain on your shoulders and arms, avoid pressure sores, and so you can continue to perform transfers safely. The choice of power chair will depend on many factors, including the kind of surface conditions the chair will be driven over, the need to negotiate thresholds and curbs, and clearance widths in your usual environment.
Seating and positioning are a critical part of your wheelchair and have an important role in your comfort, function, safety, and health. Your seating system should be prescribed and designed specifically to your medical, functional, and personal preference needs, including protecting your skin from too much pressure.
Recline and tilt-in-space technologies relieve pressure, manage posture, provide comfort and help with personal care activities. Recline, which changes the angle between the seat and backrest, helps to stretch hip flexors and makes attending to catheters, toileting, and transfers more convenient for caregivers.
The addition of tilt-in-space, which tilts the seat and backrest together, keeps the hip and knee angles constant when tilting back. This reduces the possibility of shear when in the recline position. People who cannot independently shift weight or transfer should have a tilt-in-space and recline system on their wheelchair.
Can a Paraplegic or Quadriplegic Stand?
Is this a simple yes or no answer?
A standing position feature is an available option on most high-level powered wheelchairs and both mainstream, as well as custom devices, are available. Both the user and wheelchair companies thrive from constant improvements involving technology and mechanics to add to the quality of life, ultimately. But for the user, this not only begs the question of the dependability of the product but what the body may or may not be capable of.
After a spinal cord injury, people often have to use a wheelchair, but sitting too much can result in secondary complications. Being able to stand regularly with a stand-up wheelchair or standing frame can benefit your health. It may seem impossible when you’re living with paralysis, but you may have options for standing after a spinal cord injury.
Clinical experience suggests that wheelchair users often experience painful, problematic, and costly secondary complications due to resting in the sitting position long term. Standing, even with the help of a stand-up wheelchair or standing frame, is an effective way to counterbalance this medical concern and many of the negative effects of constant sitting.
Enhance Your Quality of Life
You deserve a wheelchair that enables interaction. Even for those with severe disabilities, standing wheelchairs enhance the life benefits of standing and sometimes allow users to achieve passive standing and regular mobility. A standing feature also enables standing to enhance functional activities and long-term health.
Standing wheelchairs add a significant amount of vertical access. The physical health benefits compound with the mental health benefits for the wheelchair user with the ease of muscle spasms, improved circulation, improved bowel function, and various standing options that come with using standing wheelchairs. This also allows wheelchair users to access kitchen cabinetry, light switches, microwaves, mirrors, sinks, hangers, thermostats, medicine cabinets, and many other surfaces to enhance their abilities to perform activities of daily living (ADLs), especially when using a motorized wheelchair with power-operated wheels rather than a manually operated wheelchair.
Benefits of Standing Wheelchairs
Standing wheelchairs allow for moving about while in a standing position, and standing can become an integral and functional part of the day for those with moderate to severe disabilities including post-polio syndrome, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injuries, long bone fractures, and more. The user can perform a variety of ADLs while in the standing position, combining functional and medical benefits. Standing wheelchairs can be assumed as needed, both for indoors and outdoors activities. Standing chairs can aid in productivity and integration at work, school, church, or enhance independence for example when shopping for groceries.
Being able to perform standing from one’s wheelchair also minimizes transfers, thereby enhancing safety, conserving energy, and reducing dependency.
Research suggests that in addition to the expense and lack of awareness, the major reasons for not using stationary standers for wheelchair users with Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI) are time constraints, lack of assistance, and/or lack of space for an extra device.
As mentioned previously, most clinicians are more than willing to work with you throughout the process (although this does not apply to some practices). For a custom-built motorized standing wheelchair especially there may be an out-of-pocket cost to you as the user. In this case, a relationship with your doctor will be critical in providing documentation for the prescription of your chair and of your needs. The benefits you may reap from achieving greater mobility and a standing position including increased perfusion throughout your lower extremities, increased bone density, improved digestion, better blood flow into the vital organs, enhanced respiration, improved mental health, access to spaces in your environment, the opened possibility to returning to a vocation, and the possibility of fewer medications needed.
Further Benefits of Standing Wheelchairs
Further benefits for a fully powered wheelchair include the increased chance of regular person-to-person and social interactions, the ability to stand for long periods of time with able-bodied people, and pressure relief by taking the heavy load off your joints.
With access to power sources and the ability to run your own maintenance on a stand-up motorized chair every few months, you should have a fully functional chair that enables interaction with others for a long time to come!
Numerous studies show there are many reasons you may be searching for a standing chair product made specifically for your diagnosis and it comes down to minimizing the symptoms you experience. So how do you make the best choice and what to look for?
When Michael W. first received his Redman Power Chair, it “allowed [him] to stand up for the first time in 28 years,” he told interviewers. In his years of using a standing wheelchair, he has traveled to twenty-one countries. Michael endures a C5 spinal cord injury and spent twenty-four years lying down or in a seated position, without standing.
Consulting your medical professional to achieve regular mobility, as well as a physical therapist and occupational therapist is crucial to receiving accurate medical information about your condition. There are many concerns involved in not being able to achieve a standing position with standing frames and some include orthostatic blood pressure regulation, spinal surgery and fusions, amputations, knee replacements, and many other conditions. These conditions do not necessarily mean standing is not an option for you. Most clinicians (physical therapy as a field in particular) are willing to work with your condition to correct any body positioning that is not fixed.
There are benefits to body positioning yourself with the help of instruction from your doctors. Depending on your condition the greatest benefit of a standing wheelchair may be any of the following: increased perfusion throughout your lower extremities especially reaping increased bone density, improved digestion through expanding the torso and allowing better blood flow into vital organs, improved mental health, and many more.
There are many companies that provide customizable standing wheelchairs. Redman power chair is a fully customizable, powered, standing wheelchair product offering accessories to allow amputees, muscular dystrophy patients (as well as other diagnoses) in need of custom padding to choose from the options that may increase the probability of body positioning for the user. In any case, collecting data for yourself will only benefit you and as Michael adds, “being able to stand up has changed my life in a lot of ways I am no longer at the bottom of the crowd, I am actually- when I stand up, the biggest guy in the room, again.”
Specifications of Standing Wheelchairs
Taking the time to measure and apply specifications for standing wheelchairs, a product of interest in your home (specifically bathroom and living quarters) is one of the most overlooked tasks. Measurements to take into account are turn radius, width, length, seat to floor measurement, seat depth, armrest height, backrest height, battery life, maximum speed, the weight of the product, and the warranty available.
Increased risk for common complications include:
- Blood Clots
- Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
- Bladder Incontinence
- Bowel Incontinence
- Pressure Sores
- Autonomic Dysreflexia (AD)
- Respiratory Issues
- Spastic Muscles
- Secondary Injuries
If any of these are issues for you, the best choice is to choose one of the powered standing wheelchairs with recognized codes for positioning and features such as tilt in space, recline, articulating legs, lower back and hip flexor stretch, heel cord stretch in the full recline position, custom dimensions, and proper specifications to access your home and environment. These types of chairs are typically referred to as CRT (complex rehab technology) chairs, and chairs with 2 or more of the functions are known as Group 3 CRT power wheelchairs.
To learn more, check out our related blog articles: