Monitoring daily propulsion movement a crucial development for wheelchair users dealing with shoulder pain. Major advances in the past year have come from devices and technology so those in wheelchairs can track and monitor their day-to-day propulsion activity, Max Mobility CEO, Dr Mark Richter, told F2L, prior to his visit to Australia for the ATSA Expo in Sydney.  “These provide feedback to users so they are as active as they want, or should be, to stay healthy but aren’t over-using their shoulders, which over time, leads to shoulder pain from the repetitive stress injuries of pushing their wheelchairs.”

 He said this monitoring, in combination with other means or power assist devices, can be very effective preventative measures that ultimately help to alleviate existing shoulder pain or significantly reduce the likelihood of it developing.

Among the new technologies is a recent update to the Apple Watch operating system that employs a specially designed software algorithm designed for wheelchair users that allows users to effectively count pushes, instead of steps, on a daily basis. “While it is accurate in tracking this metric and helps to provide a better calculation of the calories burned from activity, it is primarily designed for users to reach their fitness goals.” He said other wireless enabled wearable devices like Fitbit, while they don’t have wheelchair specific metrics tracking, can accomplish the same goal by allowing for a baseline of activity level to be set and day-to-day comparisons made.  Another is the PushTracker, the first activity monitor specifically designed for manual wheelchair users, used in combination with the SmartDrive wheelchair power assist. “As well as being effective in eliminating or preventing shoulder pain it counts daily pushes but also does what the others fail to do, that is promote effective propulsion technique. It also provides feedback through its free smartphone app to keep the number of daily pushes below the level that can put users at high risk for repetitive stress injury.” 

 Richter said the biggest issues confronting the younger population usually relates to strength and endurance, which can be a consequence of shoulder pain or fatigue. This group needs to be aware of the repetitive stress injury potential, have an understanding of the preventative measures that can be taken early like proper push technique and wheelchair set-up, as well as the technology available. “This maximises mobility without compromising the preservation of their shoulders for now and in the future.”