Logo for the Journal of Rehab R and D

Volume 45 Number 9, 2008
   Pages 1269 — 1280

Abstract - Comparison of wheelchair wheels in terms of vibration and spasticity in people with spinal cord injury

Sigrid N. W. Vorrink, MSc;1 Lucas H. V. Van der Woude, PhD;1 Allon Messenberg;2 Peter A. Cripton, PhD;2-3 Barbara Hughes, MD;4 Bonita J. Sawatzky, PhD3*

1Faculty of Human Movement Sciences, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Departments of 2Mechanical Engineering, 3Orthopaedics, and 4Rehabilitation Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British
Columbia, Canada

Abstract — A wheelchair undergoes vibrations while traveling over obstacles and uneven surfaces, resulting in whole body vibration of the person sitting in the wheelchair. According to clinicians, people with spinal cord injury (SCI) report that vibration evokes spasticity. The relatively new Spinergy wheelchair wheels (Spinergy, Inc; San Diego, California) are claimed to absorb more road shock then conventional steel-spoked wheelchair wheels. If this claim is true, this wheel might also reduce spasticity in people with SCI. We hypothesized that Spinergy wheels would absorb vibration, reduce perceived spasticity, and improve comfort in individuals with SCI more than standard steel-spoked wheels. To test this hypothesis, 22 nondisabled subjects performed a passive ramp test so that we could more closely examine the dampening characteristics of the Spinergy versus traditional wheels. Furthermore, 13 subjects with SCI performed an obstacle test with both wheel types. Vibrations were measured with accelerometers, and spasticity and comfort were assessed with subject-reported visual analog scales. The results of the study showed that, within the current experimental setup, the Spinergy wheels neither reduced vibration or perceived spasticity nor improved comfort in people with SCI more than the conventional steel-spoked wheels.

Key words: obstacles, rehabilitation, spasticity, spinal cord injury, Spinergy, steel-spoked, vibration, visual analog scale, wheelchair wheels, whole-body vibration.

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