How do I choose the best pushrim for my personal needs?

How to - tips and guides 20.09.2023

Many wheelchair users have experienced discomfort and difficulty in operating an active wheelchair due to poorly selected wheelchairs or components. Since the wheelchair is a part of your body the choice of the right components is crucial for a comfortable life and free movement.
In this article we will focus on pushrims and how to choose the right one for you.

What is a pushrim?

A pushrim is defined as an additional rim mounted on the wheel. The pushrim allows you to move the wheels using your hands. The pushrims must be attached at an appropriate distance from the wheel. The width of the space between the rim and the pushrim depends on the size of the thumb muscles, which are unique for everyone.

A properly selected pushrim is a way to relieve the upper limbs

Users of manual wheelchairs are at risk of putting excessive strain on their arms, hands and wrists as an active user in average push their chair two to three-thousand times daily. That is why an appropriate selection of shape, material and surface is so important. The right pushrim can significantly improve the comfort of movement and above all, reduce the risk of needing additional rehabilitation of your upper limbs resulting from improperly selected equipment.

What should you consider when choosing a pushrim for yourself?

1. Where you will use pushrims?

When selecting pushrims, you should consider which environment and what situation they will be used in. If you plan to ride off-road, you should choose a pushrim that can be mounted at a distance from the ground further than the standard distance which means that, even on bumpy terrain, the pushrim will not get caught on stones and roots. You are therefore ensured a safer and more comfortable off-road experience.

Pushrims intended for sports purposes are in a separate category. In contact sports such as wheelchair rugby or wheelchair basketball, it is necessary to select strong, impact- and crush-resistant pushrims. Here, steel pushrims covered with special PVC or pushrims integrated with the wheels are used.

2. Things to consider regarding choice of material and weight of the pushrim.

Equally important for active wheelchair users is the weight of the pushrim. After all, the wheelchair folds and unfolds up to a dozen times daily, for example when getting in and out of the car. Therefore, for everyday mobility, you should look for the lightest possible wheelchair and components.

When choosing aluminium or steel pushrims, users choose aluminium pushrims because they are light, however, you should be aware that aluminium pushrims may dirty your hands during use because aluminium oxide reacts with the acidic PH of the skin.
Steel pushrims are heavier which makes them less practical when repeatedly unfolding and folding the wheelchair. Steel is also more susceptible to weather conditions. On hot days, pushrims made of steel heat up, but on cold days they become very frigid. To prevent this, you can use rubber pads that will eliminate the effects of the temperature. Additionally, when braking, steel may feel like it burns your hands. Pushrims made of steel are also more resistant to impacts and scratches than aluminium pushrims. That is why they are used in wheelchairs for contact sports, as stated previously.

Steel and aluminium pushrims are classic solutions, however, you can also find magnesium and titanium pushrims on the market. The users find titanium pushrims interesting because they are very light and durable at the same time. Thanks to the industrial look they ae also perceived as fashionable. And also the grip is good, when they are dry and when they are wet. But to have all these advantages in one pushrim you have to pay more than for aluminium or steel pushrim. And at the beginning they make hands little bit dirty. Magnesium is very light material (over 30% lighter than aluminium), but it it is not resistant to corrosion, so has to be covered with powder painting or other coating.

3. User’s grip

One of the most important aspects in the selection of pushrims is the grip of the wheelchair user. Grip strength is directly related to which section of the spinal cord is damaged. Damage to the higher parts of the spinal cord results not only in loss of sensation in the lower limbs but also in limited mobility of the upper limbs (tetraplegia). Including those with impaired grip. People with tetraplegia prefer to have a larger surface area for more hand contact with the pushrim, this makes it easier to drive the wheelchair and thus reduces the impact on the upper limbs. We can find pushrims of various shapes on the market, such as Omobic Optimum and Omobic Optimum Z, and adjust them accordingly to your preferences.

The solution used in handrims for users with reduced grip is the use of a special coating that ensures excellent hand grip. This makes the wheelchair more manoeuvrable and easier to drive. The type of coating that increases adhesion can be found in the form of an anti-slip insert (see Omobic Nova), or the entire surface of the pushrim can be covered with it, as in the case of Optimum F.

Omobic Optimum F pushrim for weak hands side top

An alternative to the silicone surface of the pushrim are rubber covers, which can be removed or replaced at any time.
To sum up – choosing a wheelchair for a disabled person is an important moment. This should be a decision made by specialists and physiotherapists together with the customer, because they will spend most of their life using it. Therefore, it is important to customize the wheelchair and all of its components to the patient’s needs, providing them with unlimited freedom of movement and comfort of life.

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