Types of wheelchair for MND
Motor neurone disease (MND) is a progressive neurological condition that can cause, among other symptoms, muscle wasting and fatigue. This can lead to mobility problems, including difficultly walking. As the condition progresses, most people with MND will need to use a wheelchair.
Each person will be individually assessed for the type of wheelchair they need. A wheelchair for someone with MND should be able to meet their current and future needs as the condition progresses. This will usually mean selecting a high specification wheelchair with a range of functions and postural supports.
It may be that these functions and supports aren’t fully used when the wheelchair is provided, but over the course of disease progression they become essential for the continued use of the wheelchair. Ordering a chair in this way prevents the need to keep changing the wheelchair and ordering parts, which can result in being a step behind someone’s needs.
Someone with MND may be assessed as needing more than one type of wheelchair.
Watch the video below to find out more about selecting the right wheelchair for someone with MND.
There are two general types of manual wheelchair that are used to accommodate the needs of people with MND when they are beginning to have mobility problems. One is a folding, portable wheelchair, while the other usually offers more support with a tilt-in-space mechanism.
A folding, portable wheelchair can be useful and convenient when someone is starting to need help with their mobility. This type of chair is often easy to use and can be folded up to transport in a car boot. It is essential that the wheelchair provides adequate postural support.
A highly supportive manual wheelchair is most often used by those who need more postural support than can be offered by a standard wheelchair, but where a powered wheelchair is neither wanted or appropriate to clinical need. A highly supportive manual wheelchair will be larger than a standard manual wheelchair and will not fold easily into a car boot, especially if it includes a tilt-in-space mechanism.
Tilt-in-space is a mechanism that will tilt the whole seat backwards. If someone experiences weakness in the trunk, shoulders and neck, it can make it more difficult to maintain an upright posture against gravitational forces. The tilt-in-space feature can be used to overcome the effects of gravity and help prevent someone sliding down the wheelchair, and can also relieve the effects of fatigue.
These wheelchairs provide the user with more independence for their own mobility if they are unable to self-propel a manual wheelchair. They are usually driven using a hand-operated joystick controller but a wheelchair therapist or rehabilitation engineer will assess for the most suitable control system. A powered wheelchair may also include a powered tilt-in-space mechanism.
There are many different types of powered wheelchairs, which may be suitable for indoor only, indoor/outdoor and outdoor only. The NHS will only provide indoor only or indoor/outdoor wheelchairs. We advocate Electrically Powered Indoor Outdoor Chairs (EPIOC) for people with MND, as they have more scope to be effective in the future. An indoor-only wheelchair may need to be changed in the future, if it doesn’t include features such as a tilt-in-space mechanism.
The MND Association has worked with three wheelchair manufacturers to create three models of Powered Neuro Wheelchair.
It is not always possible to lift a powered wheelchair into a car due to the weight of the wheelchair, its motor and battery, but a boot hoist might be an option if an existing car is big enough. A wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) is an alternative option.
See our information on Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles.