When living your life becomes reliant on a wheelchair, there's plenty of changes you have to make. One such change? When you become even more dependent on what your hands can do. Not only do you use your hands to eat, change, and text, but now you also use your hands to get around. But as great as hands are for helping people who use wheelchairs move from place to place, they simply aren't the best tools for the task. At least, not without some help. Well, here's the definitive guide on the various consideration for wheelchair gloves that work for you, including a section specifically for people who use automatic wheelchairs.
Hand Challenges with a Wheelchair
Just because your mobility has been reduced doesn't mean you have to give up on maintaining your independence. You want to be able to enjoy going outside whenever you want, to spend time with loved ones, and even enjoy the sun if there's a park nearby. You are determined to enjoy the things that matter most, and not be hindered by mobility issues.
The trouble is, being a person who uses a wheelchair, your hands are subject to pain and injury. The repetitive motions of stopping, turning, and propelling forward compress the nerves in the hands and can cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).
Or the continued use of your hands on your wheelchair rims can cause blisters, especially when it comes to slowing your manual wheelchair down, or stabilizing your manual wheelchair when navigating a bumpy road or sidewalk.
And as a person who either uses a manual or automatic wheelchair, your hands are subjected to the outside elements. On rainy days, it's hard to get a grip on a manual wheelchair, as well as too cold to touch the metal rims of one.
The fact is, without the proper precautions and protection, maintaining the life you want to live while using a wheelchair can cause significant damage to your hands, and even stop you from carrying out your daily life. And maybe you're persistent enough that pain won't hinder you from doing what you want to do, but it can definitely make your favorite activities harder and far less enjoyable.
Why Wheelchair Gloves Are Important
Wheelchair gloves are the protection you need to maintain your independent lifestyle while remaining hand-pain-free. Suitable wheelchair gloves will keep your hands stable when you're pushing yourself forward, reducing the pressure placed on your nerves and joints. They'll also help you in maintaining proper form when operating your wheelchair, so your movements are more efficient while you use less of your strength.
This includes improving your grip, as wheelchair gloves are specifically engineered to help you get the best grip on your wheels.
You'll also find wheelchair gloves helpful even if you already suffer from hand issues. If you have calluses or blisters, the gloves will provide padding between your skin and the wheel so there will be less pain caused from your movements. And if you experience chronic hand pain, the compression of the gloves will help with reducing that pain.
Now, most of these benefits you may think can be achieved by wearing a pair of old batting gloves, or another similar product. But gloves not specifically made for use with wheelchairs simply will not do.
Because of a difference of material. Though other types of gloves are most likely better than wearing none, in no time at all they'll wear down and you'll have to find a pair from somewhere else. Plus, they won't have the same benefits as wheelchair gloves because they were manufactured for a different purpose. After all, you wouldn't wear boxing gloves on a baseball diamond for this exact reason.
What to Look For When Shopping Wheelchair Gloves
So you've decided you're sick of developing blisters and want to consider a pair or two of wheelchair gloves. Congratulations, you've made a very smart decision. But the question is now, what do you look for when shopping for these gloves?
The following is a comprehensive list of qualities you'll need to pay the most attention to. Knowing what to look for will ensure you purchase the perfect pair for your lifestyle. We've also broken it down by automatic and manual needs. Let's go!
When Looking for Manual Wheelchair Gloves
This is the most important quality of your gloves because if they're not comfortable, you just won't wear them. Think about how the material will feel against your skin, especially when you're in motion. When it comes to comfort, duration and use in all scenarios is key. You also want to ensure your gloves will be comfortable in all weather conditions, such as when it rains or gets cold in the winter.
Your wheelchair gloves have to be flexible so you get the full range of motion from your hands while wearing them. If they're too constrictive, you'll run into problems when trying to push yourself, turn around or operate an automatic wheelchair since you won't be able to get a proper grip.
Though the gloves should be flexible, they should also provide enough support to keep your hands stable when wearing them. This includes helping you maintain a consistent grip on your wheelchair rims. You also want the gloves to fit snugly on your hands so they're not chafing your skin and causing blisters during activity.
You'll want your wheelchair gloves to be able to hold up from repeated use. If your lifestyle involves intensive activities like sports, you'll want to give more weight to the gloves' durability to ensure they hold up during your activities without having to replace them over and over again.
Wheelchair gloves come in various styles, such as ones that cover your whole finger and others that only go up half the finger. If you need to keep your gloves on for a majority of your time out, then wheelchair gloves full finger would work for you, and even if you need to type on the phone regularly, your gloves should be able to respond to the touch phone. Ideally, you have gloves with touch screen compatibility so you're able to use your smartphone without taking them off.
You'll find most wheelchair gloves offer rubber or gel for the padding. One isn't inherently better than the other; your preference will be based on how it feels when you grip the wheel with the gloves on.
The material of your gloves will go hand-in-hand with their durability and comfort. When you're choosing the material of your gloves, think about all the other factors discussed so far – breathability, comfort, durability, functionality, etc. Materials like Lycra and neoprene are highly breathable, lightweight and flexible.
It's an underrated facet of wheelchair gloves, but you want to make sure you choose a pair that matches your everyday aesthetic as well as your personality. Such as if you're into sports and physical activity, a sporty pair will match you perfectly. Or, perhaps you're more into fashion and want to make sure your wheelchair gloves match your meticulously curated look; there are styles for that too.
When Shopping for Automatic Wheelchair Gloves
For those with limited hand control, there are specialized wheelchair gloves featuring upper-side zippers designed to make putting them on your hands as easy as possible, even without assistance.
This is especially important in cold weather conditions so you can get your hands covered as fast as possible when the temperature drops, or take them off when you enter somewhere warm.
From a functionality standpoint, you want to invest in a pair of gloves that has the lowest hand-in-glove time as you can get. This is where gloves with upper-side zippers can really help as they're super simple to take on and off in a moment's notice.
Like other types of gloves, you want your hands to be as comfortable as possible when wearing them. For people who use automatic wheelchairs, it's most important to get gloves that fit properly so they stay on your hands when you're going through your day-to-day.
The durability factor depends mostly on the climate of where you live. If you live somewhere that sees a lot of rainfall, you'll want to find a pair of gloves that hold up against the elements, such as ones made of neoprene. Or if you live in a cold climate, you'll look toward full-fingered wheelchair gloves that hold up through the snowy seasons.
Leather is a common option for most use cases for people who use automatic wheelchairs. if you're in a rainier climate, as mentioned before, neoprene will keep your hands dry and ensure the rain. Lycra, however, doesn't have the same durability and will be hard-pressed to stand up to one or more seasons.
Simply put, you want to choose a pair that feels good to wear, but that you also feel good wearing.
The wheelchair gloves solved a few problems. They've reduced your risk of blisters, calluses and medical problems with your hands such as carpal tunnel syndrome. But your wheelchair gloves have also provided another benefit: they've helped you continue living an independent lifestyle. You're not worried about your hands getting too cold when you leave the house, or the rattling of the wheelchair rims aggravating your hands. Or getting your hands wet on the rainy days when the backsplash from the wheels hits your hands. Searching for wheelchair gloves or other stylish healthwear apparel? Shop the Care+Wear collection.