Managing Your Chronic Pain as a Wheelchair User

October 7, 2016 | 8:00 am | By Pants Up Easy

Chronic pain is an unfortunate fact of life that many wheelchair users deal with on a daily basis. Sometimes the pain is related to an injury and other times it is related to being in a wheelchair for extended periods of time. Thankfully, there are some pain management options available that can be very effective for wheelchair users.

1. Equipment

There is a large selection of equipment and devices that can help you manage your chronic pain as a wheelchair user. The first piece of equipment to consider is your wheelchair. Is it still a good fit for you? Are there adjustments that can be made to your wheelchair to relieve some of the pain you experience? For example, repositioning your feet can redistribute pressure and provide relief. If the foot rests on your wheelchair cannot be adjusted, that is a fix that may provide pain relief. You can also add cushions to different areas of your wheelchair to make it more comfortable and relieve some of the pressure points. You can add cushions for lumbar support and lateral side support. In addition, there are cushions you can sit on and other you can add to your arm rests. Customized seating is an option that is made to specifically address the pressure points that are unique to you. There are other types of equipment, such as transfer boards and Pants Up Easy, that can make tasks that require you to move your body easier and safer thus reducing the strain that can cause pain.

2. Positioning

Your position can have a big impact on your level of chronic pain. For example, something as simple as crossing your legs occasionally can relieve pressure that causes pain. Adjusting the height of your foot rests or the incline of your chair are both small changes that can make a big difference. You may have developed some bad habits over time in relation to your position. Intentionally changing your position will take some time and effort but it can have a positive impact on your level of chronic pain.

3. Physical and occupational therapy

As a wheelchair user, you are probably familiar with both physical and occupational therapy. Therapists routinely work with people who have sustained injuries to restore strength and develop new skills. It is possible that some of your chronic pain may be relieved through one or both types of therapy. You may be over using other parts of your body to compensate for your injury. Over or improper use can lead to injury and chronic pain. If this is the case, a physical therapist may be able to help. You may also be contributing to your chronic pain by completing daily tasks improperly. An occupational therapist can teach you ways to adapt tasks of daily living so that you can do them independently and without further injury.

3. Medical intervention

You may need to combine the previously mentioned methods of managing chronic pain with medical intervention. Talk with your doctor about the options you have based on your injury and pain level. Medical intervention may also give you the temporary relief you need to work through some of the injuries in physical therapy.  

This list is a starting place for learning about managing your chronic pain as a wheelchair user. The caregivers and medical professionals in your life likely have insight into additional options to help you manage your pain.

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