Studies have shown that manual wheelchair users push an average of 2,000 to 3,000 times a day. That takes a toll on the upper extremities, especially hands and wrists. The good news is there are a variety of pushrim options that offer superior propulsion through ergonomic design, increasing pushing power and reducing the stress on hands and wrists. In addition, these pushrims help keep your hands clean by eliminating the need for “tire grabbing” while pushing. Here is a list of some pushrim options.
GEKKO by CarboLife
CarboLife offers a variety of pushrims to accommodate different hand sizes as well as coated handrims for limited hand function. CarboLife handrims are shaped like a rounded upside-down triangle. Of note are the GEKKO handrims that feature a strong replaceable rubber strip integrated into the profile of the top of the rim. This enables easy traction for pushing and at the same time, the smooth sides provide no-burn braking on hills. Also, CarboLife rims are fully sealed. The average pushrim has one or more small holes drilled into the rim to vent expanding heat that occurs during manufacturing, and they are also an aggravation for the user because they let in sand and water, which not only makes an aggravating noise, but messes up floors and carpets when the goop drips out.
Jim Munson, 50, in his 33rd year as a T10 complete para, is a rehab sales specialist for Invacare who recently started using GEKKO handrims. “In the first week of using GEKKOs, I noticed a significant decrease in my hand and thumb pain,” says Munson, from Brighton, Michigan. “I attribute this to the wider profile and rubber traction strip that gives plenty of torque going up ramps and hills and eliminates having to grab my tires, which also keeps my hands clean. The sides give me a large efficient braking surface going downhill with no heat buildup. And it’s great not having drill holes — no more getting sand or water in the rims or the annoying rattling slushing that goes with it.”
Available through CarboLife and on select models of Kuschall USA wheelchairs, suggested retail is $462 per pair.
RibGrips have set a new standard for pushrims for wheelers with limited hand function. Brandon Handle, co-founder of RibGrips, in his 20th year as a C5-6 quad, explains that three people worked for five years to perfect the design. The key is coating the rim with ergonomic ribs, which are soft discs made of a latex-free rubber/plastic blend that offers superior grip for pushing and stopping, even when wet. They are available in four colors — blue, red, pink and black.
Chris Cook, 55, in his 37th year as a C6 quad, has been using RibGrips for a little over a year. “I don’t have full hand grip, so I always used to wear gloves to push plastic coated handrims,” says Cook, from Walnut Creek, California. “RibGrips have such great traction that I no longer need gloves to push. They are also great at slowing and stopping when using a series of quick on/off ‘tap tap tap’ motions — something that is a bit of a learning curve. They have such great traction I can push straight up my driveway — which is about the same angle as an ADA ramp. With my old rims, I would have to traverse back and forth to make it.”
Suggested retail is $259.99 per pair.
Spinergy TC Stainless Steel Handrim
TC stands for Tactical Control. TC pushrims are made from lightweight stainless steel with an embossed texture for better grip when pushing. Spinergy claims that the TC stainless steel is extremely tough and scratch resistant and doesn’t burn when going down hills. The surface is also easy to clean and doesn’t mark your skin like aluminum rims do when the anodizing starts to wear. And Spinergy now plugs the small vent holes in their rims.
Spinergy sales manager Ryan Baker, 45, is in his 26th year as a T6 para and has been using TC handrims for the past two and a half years. “The rims have a knurled texture that gives better pushing traction so you don’t have to grab the handrim and the tire,” says Baker, from Carlsbad, California. “Also, they generate almost zero friction heat when slowing, going downhill. After two and a half years of hard use, they still look good as new, with none of the typical scratches, scarring and burrs that I got with aluminum pushrims. And they don’t leave black marks on my hands the way aluminum rims do when the anodizing starts to wear.”
Suggested retail is $399 per pair.
The FlexRim uses a urethane material, rather than metal tabs, to secure the pushrim to the rim, and the urethane material provides extra traction for pushing. The material also flexes, enabling the chair to compress an extra inch or so when squeezing through tight doorways.
Nick LiBassi, 46, in his 21st year as a T10 para, has been using FlexRims for four years. “They make pushing more efficient because of the traction you get on the flex strip,” says LiBassi, from Rochelle Park, New Jersey. “And even in wet weather the flex strip provides a solid grip. I used traditional pushrims for 16-17 years and I believe that it caused carpel tunnel and tennis elbow to the point where I was considering surgical intervention. When I talked with another wheelchair user about FlexRims, I decided to give them a try. Within three or four weeks of using the FlexRims, I noticed a reduction in pain — both in my wrists and elbows. Today, I can say that I have virtually no problem with either carpel tunnel or tennis elbow.”
Suggested retail is $1,270 per pair.
Surge by Out-Front
The Surge is an oval shaped handrim that comes in two sizes and features a Gription Strip, a rubber strip that goes around the top surface of the handrim. The Gription Strip provides easy grip when going uphill, and the smooth oval side surface provides no-burn braking and control when descending hills.
Thea Rosa, 50, in her 13th year as T12 incomplete para, has been using Surge pushrims for a year. “I love the feel, it is more natural in your hand. The soft gel-like grip on top of the wheel provides better grip for pushing,” says Rosa, from Sacramento, Calif. “And I have more control over the wheels for slowing down and stopping on hills.”
Suggested retail is $315 per pair.
• CarboLife, www.carbolife.de/en/products/handrims
• Kuschall, www.kuschallusa.com
• RibGrips, www.ribgrips.com
• Spinergy, www.spinergy.com/content/wheelchair
• Surge by Out-Front, www.out-front.com/surge_overview.php