What To Know About Wheelchair Arms Before You Buy Your New Chair

Some of the most important parts of a wheelchair are the arms. You may not realize it, but the arms play a big role in how comfortable and functional your chair will be in different situations. Here's a look at some of the options available, and how they might affect you.

Arm Height

One of the reasons to buy a chair in the right size for your body is so the arms are the right height. If the chair is too big, it might be roomy, but the arms will probably be too high unless you are very tall. The arms will also be farther apart than you need. This makes you tire easily when you have to keep your elbows elevated too high while you're in your chair. When you sit in the chair, your elbows should rest naturally on the arm pads. This increases comfort and keeps you balanced.


Wheelchairs have different kinds of armrests. Economy models might have hard plastic rests for the arms, while higher quality chairs have padded armrests. The padded option is much more comfortable when you sit in your chair for long periods of time. You may also need to buy specialized armrests for your chair if you need to keep your arm extended due to a stroke or injury. These are long, soft arm braces that attach to your wheelchair arm. They support your entire arm and hand so they stay in place when you have no control over their movement.

Another accessory to consider is an armrest cover. Armrests are usually black. If you spend time outdoors in the sun, they absorb heat and get hot quickly. You can enclose the arms with light colored covers that absorb sweat and keeps the arms cooler.

Arm Style

The most important consideration is the arm style. If you plan to use the chair while you work at a desk or dine at the table, you want a chair with desk-length arms. These arms are shorter than the length of the chair, and this allows the wheelchair to slip under a table or desk far enough for you to rest your elbows on them. Full-length arms are the same length as the wheelchair. They bump up against the table, so you have to sit farther away. This makes it uncomfortable if you want to sit at a table to play cards or work on a computer.

Since full-length arms attach to the front of the wheelchair frame, they're usually fixed in place. Desk-length arms are constructed differently so they lift up and out of the way. With the arms out of the way, it makes it easier for you to get in the chair if you need to slide into it. Some of the desk-length arms lift up at the front and swing back. Once you're in your chair, you can grab the front and pull it down. With other models, you can lift up both the front and back, so you can remove the arms completely.

If you plan to spend a lot of time in your wheelchair, you'll be glad you made the effort to find the perfect arms that increase your comfort and fit your lifestyle. Once you've bought the chair, you can change the arm pads to your liking, but you can't change the arm style since it's part of the frame.

For more information about choosing wheelchair parts, contact a company like Southwest Medical & Rehab.