We all have that friend or child who has sat on the wheeled stool at the doctor’s office and didn’t stay sitting on it very long. We also have those coworkers who have sat in their office chairs and mysteriously disappeared behind their desk within seconds. So here’s the question: why do chairs with wheels exist if people are constantly falling off of them?
What functional purpose could they possibly serve?
First, let’s take a look at what types of chairs out there have wheels and the purposes in which they were designed for:
The classic, 5-wheeled office chair with the reclining and elevation features is probably the most common one. Some have arm-rests and some do not, and the majority lack a braking system. In order to safely get in and out of an office chair, the user has to have stellar balance and ability to correct loss of balance if it occurs.
The popular site for regular sitting stools is in a doctor’s office. They have a 4- or 5-wheel system depending on the lower frame and frequently come with a height-adjustable hydraulic system. The cushion spins a full 360 degrees, and of course this stool also lacks a braking system. Some stools now come with back supports.
- Extra-large, round 360 degree pivoting seat with a 14 in diameter seat surface
- Firm, 3.25 inch thick seat, made of cushioning foam that gradually softens, ensuring longevity.
- Pivoting castor wheels roll smoothly on all surface types without causing damage.
- Hydraulic gas lift makes height adjustment as simple as the pull of a lever.
- Height adjustable from 18 - 23.5 inches / Weight limit of 230 lbs
This specifically refers to the 3-in-1 commodes that have 4 wheels that glide over a toilet seat or into a walk-in shower (with no threshold). Unlike the other chairs listed, a commode comes with a braking system. However, the brakes are only accessible by the person pushing the commode which is often a nurse’s aide.
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Since a 3-in-1 commode serves the needs of a specific group, including aging adults, it comes with arm-rests and back-rests to provide secure trunk support while in sitting. Some commodes are height-adjustable with a knob system on the legs.
The last one we’ll look at are the front-wheeled walkers that come with a seat. The frame comes with two wheels on the front legs and glides on the back (sometimes users replace the glides to have 4 wheels total). Since walkers inevitably serve people who have trouble with walking, the braking system is accessible via the handles. The seat is there for rest breaks, but the walker is not meant to be propelled while in sitting.
- Features comfortable and convenient padded seat and backrest
- Quickly folds when not in use
- Rear leg tips act as brakes when pressed down
- Height adjustable handles are contoured for a comfortable grip
- Large swivel wheels added for maneuverability
What does a chair with wheels do for improving body mechanics and mobility? In a positive light, the wheels address the following items: reduced endurance, decreased upper body strength and weak quadriceps strength. Some individuals have to move to several points within one work space. Rather than having to stand up and sit down repeatedly to do so, it is a big energy saver just to propel the chair with feet and glide around the room. Individuals with weak upper body strength may find it an absolute waste of time picking up a non-wheeled chair or pushing it across a traction surface. Lastly, persons with reduced quadriceps strength (muscles making up the front of the thighs) have a lot of trouble standing up from a seated position repeatedly. A wheeled chair reduced the number of stands and saves energy for standing transfers when necessary.
In order to safely utilize a chair with wheels, let’s take a look at a list of Do’s and Don’ts:
DON’T sit on a chair with wheels if you have a history of vertigo or dizziness and the chair has no breaking system or external supports (back and arm-rests).
DON’T try propelling a standard stool across carpet since there will be nothing available to catch your fall.
DON’T attempt to stand up from a 3-in-1 commode if the braking system is off. Please access help or request that the aide that is helping you set the brake system before they leave you in the bathroom alone.
DON’T participate in office races with your chair unless you plan on keeping your feet on the ground.
DON’T “pop a wheelie” in your office chair. As much fun as it is to scare your coworkers, excessively leaning back in an office chair will always result with the user landing on the floor.
DON’T sit on a chair with wheels without supports if you have serious weakness in your torso. Conditions that could affect abdominal and back extensor muscles include stroke, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, ALS, Parkinson’s disease. More acute conditions include any recent surgeries completed in the abdominal cavity or any type of spinal surgery.
DON’T use a front-wheeled walker like a wheelchair. The seat is designed for rest breaks while the walker is not moving. Propelling the walker while in sitting could cause damage to the frame, but it also creates a top-heavy situation in which the user could fall over with the walker.
DO use a chair with wheels if you have good control over your sitting and standing balance.
DO feel like you can still use an office chair if you’re slightly nervous about balance. Just pick one that has back supports and arm-rests available.
DO use a chair with wheels if you need to conserve energy for a very busy work schedule that requires you to move from chair to chair.
DO use a chair with wheels if it over improves your functional mobility so that you can complete you necessary daily living tasks in a safe manner.
In conclusion, chairs with wheels aren’t for everyone. Office chairs and stools are appealing to a more agile crowd who spend the majority of their day moving from several points at a fast pace. There is no built-in safety system because it is expected that the users will be able to stay on them effectively and complete transfers on and off without any falls. Commodes and walkers are designed for the older population as well as those with chronic medical conditions. Such equipment innately comes with brakes since the risk for fall is much greater for the typical users.