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Spinal Cord Injury: Safe Transfers To or From a Wheelchair - Topic Overview

After your spinal cord injury (SCI), you may need a wheelchair. Moving from your wheelchair to other locations is known as a transfer. If you have enough upper body strength, you may be able to do this yourself.

Your injury and strength will determine what type of transfer you do. But there are general things that are important to know when transferring.

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  • Make sure there is as little distance as possible between the transfer surfaces. If the distance is too great, use a transfer board. A transfer board can bridge the gap between the two transfer surfaces, making it easier.
  • Try to make the two transfer surfaces as close in height as possible.
  • Make sure the transfer surfaces are stable. Lock your wheelchair. And be sure that the other surface won't move.
  • Be aware of objects your skin can scrape against during the transfer. This scraping can cause pressure sores.
  • If you have a catheter, be aware of objects that it can catch on.
  • If possible, remove objects that may interfere with your transfer. This could include arm or leg rests.
  • If you will be walking on a floor, be sure you have no-skid shoes and there are no throw rugs or other objects in the way.
  • If you worry about being able to transfer yourself, ask for help. Explain to the person helping you exactly what you need him or her to do.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 15, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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